Codifying my personal mission AKA how I spend my time, money and more
A brief question on the current war in Europe led me to consider life’s bigger questions.
How do I help the people of Ukraine? Like so many of us, I have pondered such over the last few weeks. Where can I have the greatest impact? Which organisations should I donate to?
It took me a while to find the answer.
In doing so, I found much more than guidance simply on how to address the matter at hand — from how to spend the hours my new daughter is asleep, to where I want to focus my energy in the coming years.
The big picture
First, I took a step back. What is my purpose? Why am I here and what do I hope to achieve? They’re big, lofty questions that I’m fortunate to have considered a few years back when I took over as CEO of Mastered (in contemplating our company’s mission and vision I also found my own). Time and time again I come back to one statement.
“To help get power to those who don’t have it.”
Unpicking this is one for another piece — but, long story short, I understand that power (from money, privilege, education, cultural capital etc) equates to influence, ability to impact and change things, and that all-too-often it’s in the hands of the same people, who prioritise the same things in the same way. Over the course of my life, I’m interested in doing things that shift these paradigms, and seeing what a future where those people, communities, companies, etc who haven’t had a stab in power hold more sway.
Of course this statement is so broad it can’t actually help me make decisions, nor can it ever be achieved. But, it is a north star, a guideline that helped me take stock of what I’m doing and why. Next, I needed to get into more detail.
What I’ve done in the last decade
I’ve had a lot of time to think over the last month — babies sleep, rather a lot, and there’s only so much you can “do” while breastfeeding. So over days and nights, I looked at where I’ve spent my time, money, and what kept my attention, over the last two decades.
As a journalist and editor, I focused on fashion (at university) craft (as a freelancer), current affairs and psychology (at The Guardian and Psychologies). My career has always been in the creative industries — journalism, publishing, then a start-up (first craft, then fashion, now into games, film and tech). And since launching Mastered I’ve taken particular interest in everything from building culture (for ourselves) to what it means to be a good leader (for us and for clients). In terms of hobbies, I make stuff — teenage me made clothes, 20-something me knitted, and 37-year-old me is dabbling in painting. When it comes to charity, I donate to various ones monthly (Shelter, Centre Point, Oxfam, Amnesty), but my longest-term support goes to the Big Issue. And the projects I’ve lent my support to over the last year or so include the incredible Craftivist Collective, Girls Like Us, 4bySix, Mosaik, Reverse2Rise and Leo’s Box.
As I pondered more, I realised that where I’ve (mostly) spent my time, money and attention tends to (generally) cover four areas — homelessness, creativity, work and women. Again, big, broad topics, and I’m sure more will evolve as I consider this more. But, I’d managed to bring my focus down to projects that relate to giving power to those without homes, women, creative people and the workplace.
Drilling down into my why
Considering what these mean to me has given me a lot of satisfaction over the last few weeks. Self-reflection has helped me understand what I care about, and why. For example, I’ve come to understand I want to support people into homes not simply because having a roof over your head gives the kind of protection required by the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, but because a stable home allows us the mental freedom to start fulfilling needs higher up the pyramid — all so essential to us gaining agency and power. I’ve realised that work is so fascinating to me because I am curious about how to achieve the utopian version of it — impactful, deeply fulfilling and lucrative, for myself and for others. I’m passionate about giving women more power because this earth has never known a time when women hold as much power as men, and I do believe that would be a significantly better world for us all. These are just statements stretching the surface, and themes I’ll explore over the coming months.
I’ve realised that on-mission ‘things’ that intersect more than one of these areas engage me the most. Mastered is a great example — we’ve always been about supporting people into work in the creative industries. It’s clearly why I’m drawn to certain things — from 4bySix (art to support Buses4Homeless) to Girls Like Us (a female founder supporting young women into careers). Why I found myself in the company of certain founders at a retreat a couple of years ago (Tom of Tribe XR — VR DJ training, Michael of Creator Up — video production at scale, Daniel and Ewan of Smashcut — an online film education platform). Why the things I yearn to do on maternity leave include a short course at Black Blossoms (school to decolonise, deconstruct and democratise art), see the new Louise Bourgeois show at the Hayward Gallery and the Fashioning Masculinities show at the V&A. And why I’m so excited for the new Ms Marvel show on Disney+ (the comic was created by a properly diverse group of editors, writer and illustrator, about a Muslim girl getting to grips with her new powers).
It’s also helped me see my blind spots. For example, I’ve always been drawn to projects involving women — but in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, the BLM movement I realised that as a white, middle class woman affording me tons of power, I was doing nothing proactively to give power to women of colour. I’ve attempted to be more actively anti-racist, but know there is so much more I can, and must, do. The same goes for trans women — there is too much more I can do here, a good steer for where I need to focus my attention next. And, this self reflection has enabled me to spot opportunities to get excited about — my task for the coming weeks is to seek out more projects/books/news related to homelessness and creativity, and work and creativity — especially those that are run by or support women of colour / trans women — so I can learn more about the spaces I’m so clearly engaged with.
More than time, money and attention
When it comes to my original question on Ukraine, it now became much clearer to me where I should direct my attention. Donating to charities that help rebuild homes (eg DePaul Ukraine and Ukrainian Women’s Fund) was an easy first step. Now I’m keeping an eye on sites such as Angel for Fashion and Spend With Ukraine (kudos to Lauren Cochran for this piece on how to support Ukrainian fashion industry), Creatives for Ukraine, and Filmmakers for Ukraine).
I’ve realised this focus — on homelessness, creativity, work and women, and on activities that give power to those who don’t traditionally have it — doesn’t just help me understand where to focus my time, money and attention. It’s guiding me towards where I focus on emotion and energy too. These too are things that are not infinite, something I’ve become hyper aware of since my daughter has been born. I can get easily stressed but too many things, so am I giving my emotion to things that matter to me in the good light of day, or letting the moment overwhelm me? I’d like to do more of the former this year. I’m always delighted to say yes to, well, almost anything, but am I spending energy on things that I care about, or things that ultimately won’t help my wider life mission.
A guideline, not a rule
In codifying my personal mission, I hope to be more intentional about what I engage with over the next few months and beyond. It’s already helping me make decisions more easily (am I in the right job? Yes. Are my monthly charitable donations right? Probably not. Do I spend enough time reading about subjects I actually give a shit about rather than doom scrolling on Reddit? Definitely not.) I’d never want this to become too strict — after all, how will I discover new things to be passionate about? — but for now, as I wrestle with a new chapter in my life, these themes feel really helpful.
You can also find me at @perri_lewis on Instagram, Perri Lewis on LinkedIn.