Tuesday, January 19, 2010

What's your five-year mission, Sulu?

The USS Enterprise's mission statement was so heavy, they had to call in William Shatner to recite it.

Get a life. Or a purpose. Or a room. Or a mattress.

And once you do, then what? Why, it's time for you to write a personal mission statement!

When it comes to personal mission statements, or maybe just mission statements in general, you're probably in one of two camps:
1. "Hooray, I now have direction and meaning in life!"

2. "Boo, mission statements are for losers!"
It's true that some people are overly serious about having a personal mission statement, taking decades to write it, only to find that when they're finally finished, they have no home, friends, or gainful employment.

PR guru Sarah Evans stands by hers which, she says, took her five years to compose:
“I run unabashedly free through this one life, without fear. I embrace the unexpected. I believe in abundance. I live.”
It also doesn't help that most corporate mission statements reek of corporate jargon, platitudes, and empty promises and only exist because they were the least offensive choice on the list of possibilities.

There are exceptions, like Disney's no-bullshit mission statement: "To make people happy."

By the same token, not having a mission in life seems kind of empty, like if the USS Enterprise was just supposed to "fly around space and look for crap." Sure, it could be done, but that doesn't mean it ought to be.

Who among us, really, couldn't use more help in making life decisions, getting motivated, and keeping our chins up? Can I have a show of chins?

PR class mission statement '10

It's with that spirit that my students write a mission statement for our PR class each year. Of course, it also has something to do with learning how to put together a PR proposal and/or advertising plansbook, but it's mostly for the fun and camaraderie of it all.

Here's how it works:

Each student composes one mission statement for themselves and their group's magazine (the big project this semester), then takes a shot at writing one for the PR class. I shortlist the candidates to five or six and the rest of the class votes on them.

Every year, we get some surprises, like last year when Jenette's was, "To kill Kenton Larsen." OK, I made that up, but it was something like that, and so well delivered that we all died laughing and made her say it three times.

Today was a similarly fun experience with class one's own Eman the Wingman writing the first mission statement that you can't just say, but must also act out.

The mission statement: "To propagate, not contaminate."

The actions: when you say, "to propagate," you sweep out your arm, as if addressing a large gathering of friends, Romans, and countrymen; when you say, "not contaminate," you sweep your arm in front of you in "the serious actor" pose: elbow pointing down, fist at the chin, and solemn frown.

Maybe you had to be there.

The PR class mission statement hall of fame

"To learn Kenton's ways so that we may one day take his place."
- Ray Brickwood (class of '08)

"You can't spell party without PR."
- Will Cooke (class of '09)

"Share some laughs, share some beers, share some work (just kidding, that's plagiarism!). Share some tears, shake some hands, walk away the better for it all."
- Thor Blondal (class of '10)

"To propagate, not contaminate."
- Eman the Wingman (class of '11)

Find your purpose

If you want to find your purpose, check out FranklinCovey's Personal Mission Statement Builder, and listen to Avenue Q's "Purpose:"

Gotta go find my purpose!


I've just been emailed the best mission statement I've ever heard:

“To do the shit I need to do so I can go to bed on time.”

The first mission statement that's truly applicable to everyone!


  1. I'm proud to have been present when Will Cooke came up with his. And you have to hear it said in that distinctive Will Cooke voice, otherwise it's just not the same.

  2. I remember it like it was yesterday!

  3. Thanks for the shout out Kenton/Dan! great blog post, i read them often but can't comment on my blackberry.

  4. I'm inspired by all of the spectacular mission statements.

    I'm really big on getting to be on time, so I shall adopt the last one as my personal creed.

    My creed wasn't so much to 'Go where no man has gone before' as much as it was to watch reruns of men going where I've seen them go before...


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