The Power of Purpose – Dr. Hewasa Lorin, Vice Principal

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“Mr. President, I’m helping put a man on the moon,” said the janitor when asked what he was doing. The janitor knew his role had a purpose towards the success of something bigger.

The Power of Purpose
When Mark Zuckerberg, the co-founder of Facebook, gave his commencement speech for Harvard’s Class of 2017, his message to the graduates was to create a world where everyone has a sense of purpose. He said with technology and automation coming in rapidly, the meaning of purpose is changing with many people feeling disconnected and depressed, where the need is not just to create new jobs but to create a renewed sense of purpose to be truly happy.  
I don’t see why anyone would disagree with this, because having a sense of purpose is the truth of why we do what we do or even don’t do everyday. I think to take a look back at our lives, or a jump forward, is one way of measuring if we are able to fully live that sense of purpose.
Zuckerberg mentioned a story which corroborates the true meaning of accountability and having a sense of purpose.
“When John F Kennedy visited the NASA space center, he saw a janitor carrying a broom and he walked over and asked what he was doing. The janitor responded: “Mr. President, I’m helping put a man on the moon.”” The janitor knew he was part of a larger system, and that his role was integral to the success of something bigger – the man on the moon. He knew his purpose.
In the context of Nagaland, I think for some it makes complete sense, but for some others it might not at all. And it is that section of population who cannot relate, either because they really do feel like they are doing nothing at all – because of a number of reasons – they’re unemployed, they’re drop-outs or they can’t relate because they live on a hand to mouth existence, are frustrated with the whole system, feel a lack of equal opportunities, or are unsure if they’re in the right profession or aren’t exactly passionate about what they are doing.
To an observer, this already says a lot about the state of affairs in our State. If we were to trace back the reasons for having reached our current state, I think the magnitude of the problems would be overwhelming. It begins from the policies we already have in place to the way they are executed, where most times even the rule of law does not serve any purpose, and the checks and balances we desperately need to ensure efficiency. Then there are the tribal idiosyncrasies practiced in Nagaland, the power of brawn, might and money which we have just not been able to move away from.
How do we deal with this? Apart from some individuals breaking through the iron barriers, I believe it is so important to have leaders, managers, supervisors, visionaries who can bring everyone together to inspire, encourage, empower, and give hope to others that there is a sense of renewed purpose in why we do what we do everyday. It’s not that we don’t have any, it’s just that we need more, in every single industry; where we are all working together, supporting each other and not going against each other. Just starting from the grassroot is not enough, it is through the right advice, the right guidance and the right knowledge and information that actually reaches the grassroot that empowers everyone to start hoping and aspiring for something better.
And, not to undermine anyone here, but I don’t think it’s possible for everyone to perform that role either. Our social dynamics is complex in Nagaland. I believe that it is those who have the insight, intellect, ability and are also in a position of influence, are the ones who can create a greater sense of purpose for others too. But this also does not mean that the rest of us can’t and must sit and wait for our sense of purpose to be served on a platter either. But that these could be the first steps towards building a support system to be enablers for each other.
It is never easy that’s for sure. Adversities and challenges prevail everywhere. What Sheryl Sandberg wrote is very poignant – “The sad truth is that adversity is not evenly distributed among us; marginalized and disenfranchised groups have more to battle and more to grieve.” I think what she says is pretty accurate. But what’s equally important to remember is that what’s in our control is how we decide to respond to it – our attitude, our perseverance.
We can learn and we can grow. When we are growing we have a greater sense of self- worth. This is where I believe, education comes in, and not only of the formal kind. It is the kind of education that we learn from life’s experiences. The kind that can reason, critique and allow one to make sound judgements and the best choices. Mark Zuckerberg may have dropped out from Harvard, but the fact is that formal education systems across the world vary so that by the time we have reached a certain stage, some can thrive even on their own. It doesn’t mean that every student can drop out and be a Mark Zuckerberg. What’s essential are support systems too.
In Nagaland right now, the existence of different industries – commerce, education, and government functionaries, organisations, NGO’s and more are shaping the future direction of our State. We need all of these to be support systems for each other – working together and acknowledging each other’s ideas when credit is due or swapping them for someone else’s. Learning and growing together towards a common goal is so important to building that support system, so that we all feel a renewed sense of purpose; just like the janitor who helped put a man on the moon.   

Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. The views expressed here do not reflect the opinion of the institution. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. The editors are Dr Hewasa Lorin, Anjan K Behera, Tatongkala Pongen, Nungchim Christopher, and Kvulo Lorin. Portrait photographer: Rhilo Mero. For feedback or comments please email:

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