In 2008 Annemarie de Jong, now owner and CEO of Better Future, jumped ship. With 15 years of experience in leadership and working at De Baak, we’re curious what inspired her to become the business activist she is today.
What story, what experience, or which person has been an inspiration to you?
Early on, I think my mum was an inspiration to me. Before she met my dad and had me, she lived and worked in Israel in 1967, during the Six Day War. She went there because she really felt like she could do a lot and expand her knowledge. She wanted to learn something about herself and also do something for other people. She consciously took into account that you should do something for those who don’t have access to everything. She is my first source of inspiration.
Working in India, South America, and Africa helped me realise that everyone just wants the same things. We’re all longing for connection; for acknowledgement; to be heard. The way kids play across the world is a classic example of this. They all play hide and seek. If you give them a ball, they’ll play soccer. The only thing that makes us fundamentally different is what we have access to. When we first look at each other, we see differences. But the more you get to know someone, the more alike we are in terms of needs and what we have to give.
How would you describe your personal purpose?
My mission has always been to make people better. I come from a family of medical doctors and always wanted to become a doctor myself. Thanks to the numerus fixus for Med School in the Netherlands, I became a company doctor instead. I’ve always been fascinated by how you can touch people through their core values, to discover their core strengths and how they can leverage them to build a better version of the best version of themselves. To contribute to a better world. I do believe that everybody really wants to make a difference but doesn’t always know where or how to start.
My realisation moment happened when I’d already been working with leadership and change for many years but had become bored of working with the 1%. Those who have access to everything. I knew that wasn’t the case for everybody. I figured that if I wanted to develop myself and contribute to something bigger, I had to step out of my bubble. When I met Dave in 2008 a lot of things fell into place. I fell in love with Better Future and jumped ship from my safe working environment into this entrepreneurial adventure.
How can people and organisations remain accountable to their purpose?
Purpose is not something you create. It’s not an analytical thing. It’s hard work. It’s something emotional; something you must feel connected to on a personal level. It comes from within. Realising that is the first step.
Your mission or purpose has to be rooted within your core values. It should become part of everything that you do and everything that you are. It’s like training for a marathon: you need to keep running. You have to build up your physical strength and condition.
A company can’t just adopt purpose as a tagline and consider it a job well done. You have to deliver every day. I think being accountable to your purpose also means being transparent and honest about where you’ve gone wrong. Showing your flaws.
What advice do you give entrepreneurs and others who want to find and activate their purpose?
Follow your gut, your heart, and your bigger mission. Don’t let all the books and articles distract or discourage you. The word ‘purpose’ tends to inflate the more you say it. Instead activate your mission and stay true to it. Continuously remind yourself that you’re on an adventure; you’ll never exactly know what the outcome is until you dive into something. If I had done a lot of thinking, I would never have gone on this journey.