Here is another P – perspective. Last week I was in Spain, training with the Novo Nordisk pro cycling team. They chewed my legs off in the beautiful Alicante province, taking on legendary climbs like Col du Rates, as if gravity did not apply to them. Like all athletes, they strive for personal bests, and on some days that is enough to win. But this team is unique, they are all type 1 diabetic. They race to educate and to inspire a global fan base that you can still take on your dreams with such a life-changing condition. I was completely inspired.
Whilst Team Novo Nordisk knows its audience and has a purpose that is greater than winning. I saw a powerful metaphor for barriers that we all perceive. You don’t need a medical diagnosis to think that you can’t do something, barriers are all around us, real and imaginary.
Thinking about my own ‘purpose in lycra’, there was a stage in my career when it was all about trying to break records and scrape a living from doing so. But, as I near my 40’s, I’ve used my profile to continue to push the limits of ultra-endurance, whilst putting a spotlight on important topics. For example, if you have time to watch Maiden Race on YouTube, the documentary about a 2000km British gravel race, we could have made this all about racing and winning. Instead, we showcased the importance of sustainability, equality and breaking down barriers for people.
Thinking about ‘purpose in a suit’, I’ve been a part of Eos Advisory for four years, investing in predominantly Scottish innovation that’s tackling issues including climate change, quality of life, and food and water security. I have worked in private equity for much longer, which absolutely has its place in business growth. But it is the entrepreneurs and innovators who so often answer the big questions of our time, and as I’m not a scientist able to found one of these important companies, the next best thing I can do is put a spotlight on them, invest in them and help nurture their growth.
Clearly, I can’t do this on my own, and neither did I cycle around the world by myself. But in terms of purpose, it’s exciting work. I often think that investors might only have ten per cent of their portfolios in early-stage innovation, but these are the businesses that dominate their enthusiasm and their conversations with friends. That is because we all want to have purpose in our lives. Making money is vacuous without it.
I’ve returned from Spain re-energised for the year ahead. And, for a team living with a diagnosis that could have stopped them in their tracks, they will tell you that whilst they aren’t the biggest or most successful team, that they have something that is the envy of the peloton, purpose beyond winning and massive impact globally.
Something to aspire to.
Mark Beaumont is a partner at St Andrews-based investment firm Eos Advisory, a record-breaking athlete, author and broadcaster.