Purpose Plays in Peoria

Brandon Peele
Mar 30 · 6 min read

Since joining the Imperative team, I’ve learned something really important about purpose. It plays in Peoria. If you’re unfamiliar with the saying, “Will it play in Peoria?”, it is a question asked about whether or not something considered new or “coastal” will resonate with the majority of Americans.

In the last few months I’ve worked with people from across the country, from Kansas, Florida, Texas, Idaho, California, Minnesota, folks in the military, fast food, retail, education, healthcare and construction. I’ve found that there is a way to engage anybody, from any age, background, gender or sexual orientation with their purpose and without asking them to believe anything new or give up anything in their lives.

Now we have a movement!

Naval officers from across the country talking about their purpose with each other in March of 2019.

Purpose absolutely plays in Peoria, but I didn’t think it was possible.

In fact, I used to believe that the soul journey, the purpose path, was only for special people, the brave, the courageous, those who were willing to risk a safe and secure life for an unknown future of passion, legacy, creativity and aliveness. It’s a pretty black and white perspective, a purpose-flavored morality, e.g. purpose and risk are good, safety and no purpose are bad.

For a tiny group of folks, this view can be helpful. If you’re in a life transition, a purpose crisis, the view that safety and security and the old ways are “not working for you”, can be a really useful belief to move you into a deeper soul exploration. But the thing is, 95% of people aren’t in a life transition.

Most folks have lives that work for the most part. The have careers, families, hobbies, etc. and aren’t interested in upsetting the apple cart. Of course they wouldn’t say no to more fulfillment, alignment and excitement in their lives, but they aren’t in a place of burning down their beliefs or risking their livelihoods for soul truth. And yet, with 64% of Americans unfulfilled at work (Imperative, 2016), and there being only a 1% chance of being fulfilled in life if you’re not fulfilled at work (Imperative, 2019), this is a big problem.

Source: Peer Coaching Whitepaper (Imperative, 2019)

This is definitely an economic problem, as purpose and fulfillment are correlated with higher levels of productivity, tenure, morale, leadership effectiveness, income, wealth, resilience, etc. (ScienceOfPurpose.org)

But for me, this is a humanitarian problem as well. WTF are we doing anything for if the net effect is that 78% of Americans are paycheck to paycheck (CareerBuilder, 2017) and ⅔ of Americans are unfulfilled in life, coping with their anxiety, resentment and resignation through screens, chemicals and consumer experiences. This feels like feudalism, communism, A Brave New World. This doesn’t feel like the best of times. Rather it feels like the worst of times with the best of drugs.

I didn’t come here for that. And I suspect that’s true for you too. I came here to be alive, to have an adventure, to make impact, to love wildly, to create, to discover for myself the deeper mysteries of being a human.

For me solving the purpose at work problem is the front line of the movement, priority #1. When we fix this piece, we’ll activate a legion of brave hearts, leaders who are free to self-express, create and solve our most pressing problems. Of equal importance is who we get to be when we are not working. Imagine how the quality of our marriages and home lives will change when we get who we really are and feel empowered to activate our purpose in every area of our life?

So you might be asking, how exactly does purpose play in P-town? I’m sure there are many paths that are or could be effective, but what I’ve seen work best for regular Americans is to do a 15-minute purpose assessment, and start talking about their purpose with someone else. And this is essentially what we do at Imperative.

Our clients (Campbell’s, Bank of America, In ’n’ Out Burger, PwC, etc.) bring us in to solve important business and talent goals, e.g. employee onboarding, career development, manager and leadership development, etc. We work with them to identify the problem and deploy a 3-month solution to that problem, via our purpose assessment and a series of 9 peer coaching conversations, that empower each employee to discover, give voice to, and start aligning their current role with their purpose.

No shaman necessary. No dark night of the soul. Just a series of conversations.

This approach leverages what’s already happening in the workplace, as 68% of employees rely on each other for career development advice and 80% of employees learn as much or more from their peers than from their managers (Imperative, 2019). All we’re doing is intentionally structuring that conversation and rooting it in what really matters to folks — their purpose and the opportunities to bring it to work.

Once the 3-month pilot is over, the proof points are clear, and we start solving other important talent and culture goals for them, like leadership development, diversity and inclusion, self-advocacy, resilience, etc. all of which are sourced in each employee’s purpose and activated through conversations.

The simplicity of this approach continues to blow me away. I’ve devoted the last 8 years of my life to soul work, working with masters, writing books, leading programs, engaging with sacred medicine. I had it that purpose and soul were hard. They don’t have to be. After sharing the Imperative assessment with leaders in the field, they’ve come back with markedly similar reactions about the accuracy and ease of this approach. This is not to diminish or discount any other approach to purpose or soul discovery modality, but I believe we now have the QWERTY keyboard, the Model T the version of purpose.

So how do you engage with the Model T version of purpose? There are 3 ways:

  1. If you work for a company with over 500 employees, reach out to me (brandon at imperative dot com) and we’ll figure out the best way to activate purpose and fulfillment in your company.
  2. If you don’t work for a big company, I’ll be launching the 2nd edition of my book, Planet on Purpose, later this year, that will include a similar approach, leveraging short purpose exercises and a series of straight forward conversations to do with a friend or coworker. Stay tuned:)
  3. If you are part of an industry organization that brings in keynote speakers, reach out to me and we’ll create something powerful for your community.

With purpose and in solidarity,


Brandon serves companies who care deeply about employee performance, development and retention. Imperative’s research-driven approach and purpose and peer-coaching SaaS platform allows clients to effectively scale their talent development efforts.

Prior to joining Imperative, Brandon served leaders and teams from organizations such as Johnson & Johnson, Morgan Stanley and Google. He is also a best-selling author and delivers engaging keynotes for audiences around the world.

Learn more here: http://Imperative.com | http://BrandonPeele.com

Brandon Peele

Written by

My imperative is to activate purpose in service of a flourishing economy and society. http://BrandonPeele.com | http://imperative.com

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