May 27, 2024

14 min read

Power of Purpose - The Relevance of An Authentic Mission Statement

Nobody likes mission statements...

No one takes them seriously anyway..

Mission statements are almost passe.

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There seems to be this consensus understanding that mission statements are these cliche-ridden things that you come up with because you have to.

Most people associate them with university admission processes or press releases or some such contrived thing. 

There’s a lot of cynicism surrounding mission statements - they are seen as trite and disingenuous.

We do them because we have to. That’s the general idea. 

Does this mean that mission statements as a whole are flawed? Not at all! It’s just that the way most people understand mission statements leaves a lot to be desired. 

It’s not so much a question of mission statements being wrong as a concept - it’s that most people get the whole thing wrong - super wrong!

The Why Is Super Important

We’re mental creatures.

Our bodies, minds and energy flow is all connected and works as one cohesive unit. We function at our best when there is full-on harmony and lubrication amongst all our “layers”. 

Where are you going with this man?

We’ll tie it back - promise!

The context behind our actions often matters more than the content of the action itself. 

There is an old Eastern tale that highlights this truth beautifully. 

An old man walking down a deserted road outside a village happens upon a bunch of men sitting in a straight line and breaking huge rocks with pickaxes and chisels. 

He asks the first man “what are you doing there?”

The guy looks at the old man with an exasperated look and barks “can’t you see i’m breaking a damn rock? I’m going to be doing this all damn day! Now will you please leave me the heck alone!”

The old man then asks the man next to him, doing the same thing “and what are you doing?”

The guy responds in a resigned manner - “I’m doing what I have to do to make a living”

The old man walks a little further down the path and sees another young man doing the same thing but with a song on his lips and an infectious glow on his face. This guy was absolutely engrossed in what he was doing. 

The old man asks him the same question “young man - what are you doing?”

The guy looks at him and replies joyously - “I’m building the greatest temple the world has ever seen!”

You see, the young men were breaking rocks for a monolithic temple that was being built. It was to be a spectacle in stone. All of them were doing the same thing. But it was only the third guy that actually understood the significance of what he was building. 

This allowed him to contextualise the laborious and seemingly mundane task of breaking rocks in a way that made it pleasurable and joyful. 

The other two didn’t quite have the same perspective. 

They couldn’t see what they were doing as anything more than drudgery. 

They’d lost track of the big picture. 

This is how a lot of us look at the things we do - we do them mechanically. We don’t really understand the greater context that allows us to make sense of why we do those things. It also doesn’t help that a lot of us are stuck doing things that we don’t care about. 

That’s a whole other tragedy that we’re not going to speak about here. 

A lot of companies and people set out with a purpose to create something they care about but get lost somewhere along the way. They get waylaid by the day-to-day affairs and administrative drudgery involved in bringing their visions to life. 

Here’s where a mission statement can really help. 

Setting The Big-Picture Vision 

The unfortunate truth is that most employees are not able to recall their company’s mission statement. 

This is why there’s so much cynicism about mission statements to begin with  (see, we said we’d tie it back). 

The general idea is that they are not genuine - i.e. they are just words that lack depth. Power. 

Again, we don’t think that mission statements as an idea are flawed or redundant. 

In fact, we’re trying to make the case that they’re anything but. 

So, what are people getting wrong with their mission statements?

The way we look at it, a powerful mission statement should be able to complete the following sentence - We Exist to <Insert Mission Statement>

Here’s a really cool example. This is what Airbnb’s mission statement looks like within this framework. 

We exist to help create a world where you can belong anywhere.
-  Airbnb’s mission statement

Why does it work?

It works because it helps distil the core vision of the company into a memorable and condensed format. By doing this, it acts as a sort of orienting mechanism for the company and all its employees - a north star, if you will. 

See, running a company is no joke. Having a vision is super important but there are a million other things to take care of in the process of bringing the vision to life - 

In the process of getting a business up on its feet, the people involved typically run through millions of tasks and events - meetings, pitches, conferences, lunches, trade shows, interviews, coding sprints, commutes, emails - you name it! Not to mention the endless hours of just plugging away on your computer, seemingly into the void. 

None of this stuff is glamorous. It’s work. A lot of it!

In the middle of all of this, it’s easy to start thinking of things like visions and missions as “airy fairy”. 

It’s what you gotta do for PR but it doesn’t really get things anywhere- doesn’t actually move the needle. 


That’s where an authentic and powerful mission statement - clear, no-nonsense and functional - stands out. 

Sure there’s a lot of work involved. There’s no business without the grind. And no mission statement, or branding exercise is going to replace the grind.

But the fact is, a good mission statement can help you get through the grind without losing perspective. It helps keep your head over the water so to speak - and not drown in all the millions of little tasks that you need to get done. 

As we saw earlier with the Airbnb example, if you have a simple why for doing what you’re doing, then it’s magical how much easier it is to keep your head up and sail through those million things that you need to get done in order to make it happen. 


It’s hard to come up with a powerful why if you don’t have a vision. 

What’s a vision?

A vision is basically like a desire on a large scale. It’s an orienting mechanism. It’s the answer to the question “where are we headed?”

A company is essentially a bunch of individuals working together towards a vision. 

The vision can be an overarching one - an idea for how you see the world - how you’d like to reshape it. 

Or, it can be something a lot more tangible and time-bound - like, where you want to be in 3, 5 or 10 years. 

If the mission is a north star, going by the previous analogy, then the vision is like a roadmap. 

The No BS Mission Statement

So, what does a no BS mission statement look like?

The question kind of answers itself here - it shouldn’t have BS. It should be honest, clear and straightforward, But that’s not saying anything is it?

Here’s an attempt at a more useful breakdown of what a good mission statement entails. 

1. Nailing the Why and the How

A typical formula would be something like Mission Statement = purported benefit + delivery - i.e the why and the how

Purported benefit would be the company’s raison d’ etre - it’s reason to be - the problem it's solving. The benefit it hopes to provide to the world. 

Delivery is the means through which that benefit will be provided - i.e the how

Here’s an example - 

Google’s mission statement is:

To organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful

This is a great example of a no BS mission statement - it ticks both the boxes - the purported benefit, or the why, is to make the world’s information universally accessible and useful. 

The delivery or the how, is “to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”.

That’s a great example of a simple statement neatly answering the questions “why do we exist? What are we here to do? How are we going to do it?”

2. Keeping It Simple

You might be doing an amazing job explaining your why and how, but if your mission statement isn’t memorable, repeatable and inspirational, it’s not really doing its job well. 

Verbosity isn’t what it’s about with these things. 

It’s a lot more about how much of the essential power of your purpose can you capture in as few words as possible - like a mantra, energises you and puts some perspective into you when the going gets tough. 

A good way to think about this is to imagine the mission statement on a tee-shirt. 

If it isn’t badass or succinct enough to look good on a tee-shirt, then it’s probably not going to cut it. 

Let’s look at another example:  

To create an entertainment experience that thrills, delights and fascinates our consumers; To create a workplace that allows for people from all backgrounds to thrive and feel included. To create a business that systematically achieves long-term financial success without compromising on the health of the environment

See, now this is a terrible mission statement. The goals it enumerates are not bad by any stretch - they are great ideas to be motivated by. 

But the way it’s structured is haphazard, wordy and un-memorable. It’s going to look terrible if it’s printed on a tee-shirt - assuming you could even get it to fit on a tee shirt. 

But you could take this too far, you could make a mission statement that’s too generic and too simple - 

Say, something like this - 

To make a positive impact in the world.

That would be another terrible mission statement. 

It pretty much doesn’t say anything about the how. Even the why is generic and uninspiring. It doesn’t have any real power or authenticity to it. 

So, the idea is to keep it real and keep it simple - not too wordy, not too corporate, not too sleazy, not too vague. 

3. Keeping it real

This one’s a biggie. 

And, also kind of obvious. 

You can’t lie in your mission statement. Your mission statement isn’t going to be any good if it doesn’t articulate your core mission. 

And also, this goes without saying, but it’s definitely not going to work if your core mission isn’t all that inspiring to begin with. 

Your mission statement needs to reflect the essence of your business in a way that is real, raw and punchy. 

A great example of this is Nike’s manifesto (featured below).

This is a great example of keeping it real. 


This is why Nike is one of the best known brands in the whole wide world. 

Here’s a video of Steve Jobs talking about what makes Nike one of the best marketed brands in the world in spite of them selling an out and out commodity - shoes!


In the video, Jobs does an amazing job of highlighting why this is the case - he says it’s because Nike actually doesn’t market themselves as a shoe company - they market themselves as guys who revere athletes, athletics and athletic achievements. 

This only works because they really do. At its core, this is what Nike is about!

That’s what we’re trying to get across here - authenticity goes a really long way.

And by extension, an authentic mission statement goes a really long way in - 

Getting everyone - working on the various levels of an organisation -  on the same page

Conveying the raw essence or core of an organisation to the world, at large.

Some of Our Favourite Mission Statements

We thought we’d wrap up by going through some of our favourite mission statements. 

These are all great examples of hard-hitting, clear, no-BS mission statements that do a great job of capturing the core ethos of the respective organisations. 

  • 1 Tesla - "To Accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy."
    This one gets the point across very efficiently - it states a massive global problem, drawing our attention to it. And then, it proceeds to position the company as the leading solution provider.
  • 2 Google - "To organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful."
    Again, this one nails the basics and really manages to convey the core idea behind the company in a short and sweet manner.
  • 3 Sweetgreen - "To inspire healthier communities by connecting people to real food."
    Very evocative - evokes strong emotions and uses this to communicate the organisation’s values and vision. Simple, no-nonsense and incredibly effective.
  • 4 Patagonia - "Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis."
    Not as minimalistic as the previous two - this one’s a multi-part statement. But it works so well because it manages to communicate two core values that are integral to the company - product quality and sustainability. The authenticity shines through.
  • 5 ONiO - "We exist to create a sustainable, battery-free future for electronics."
    This mission statement beautifully encapsulates ONiO’s commitment to innovation and sustainability. It emphasizes a future where electronics are powered by clean energy, highlighting the company’s dedication to environmental responsibility and technological advancement.

Wrapping Up

More than a marketing exercise - which is increasingly how mission statements are viewed - a good mission statement shows how clearly an organisation is able to articulate it’s core reason-to-be. 

If a founder struggles to express the core mission of his/her company in a terse and punchy manner, it indicates something a lot worse than just poor communication or sloppy branding. It indicates a fundamental lack of clarity around what the company wants to be or do. 

An authentic, clear and powerful mission statement is a powerful tool that can serve multiple purposes - it can communicate your company’s identity to the world while also aligning your team around your core values. This makes it possible for the daily grind of your team members to be centred around a larger cause. 

So, go ahead and take the time to craft a compelling mission statement that truly reflects the essence of your company - it’s going to be so worth it!


About the author

Abishek Swaminathen

Senior Content Manager

Abishek is ONiO’s senior content manager. A medical doctor by profession, he stumbled onto a writing career almost by accident, as it were. Words have enthralled Abishek since the day he first held a book and at ONiO, he channels his inner wordsmith towards providing our subscribers with regular doses of fun and informative content.

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