Apr 19

What’s Your Sentence?

Heinz Landau
Heinz Landau is a seasoned business leader who has gained valuable working and leadership experience on three different continents.

Daniel Pink, one of my favourite authors, has recently released a new book titled “Drive – The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” in which he makes a strong, science-based case for rethinking motivation. In “Drive”, he reveals the three elements of true motivation:

Autonomy – the desire to direct our own lives

Mastery – the urge to get better and better at something that matters

Purpose – the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves


When trying to find purpose to navigate your life and to discover your true motivation, Dan recommends to ask a big, powerful and inspiring question: “What’s your sentence?”

In his book, Dan tells a little story:

“In 1962, Clare Boothe Luce, one of the first woman to serve in the U.S. Congress, offered some advice to President John F. Kennedy. “A great man”, she told him. “is one sentence.” Abraham Lincoln’s sentence was: “He preserved the union and freed the slaves.” Franklin Roosevelt’s was: “He  lifted us out of a great depression and helped us win a world war.”  Luce feared that Kennedy’s attention was so splintered among different priorities that his sentence risked becoming a muddled paragraph.”

One way to orient your life toward greater purpose is to think about what is your sentence.

One way to orient your life toward greater purpose is to think about what is your sentence.

In order to make that sentence come alive and to create motivation that lasts, Dan recommends to ask yourself a small question every night when you go to bed: “Were you better today than you were yesterday?”

Dan makes it clear that we should not expect to answer yes every day. But if you ask that question tonight and the answer is no, you are more likely to get up tomorrow and hustle to ensure that it’s a yes by bedtime. Success at anything, be it professional or personal, takes intention, diligence and discipline. Improvement is mainly incremental. Each day is part of the journey. And it is through self-reflection that we will know where we stand and how to chart our course.


Watch this video to hear Dan Pink’s story of the two questions:


Two questions that can change your life from Daniel Pink on Vimeo.


William C. Taylor, co-founder of Fast Company magazine has taken Dan’s idea even one step further in his Harvard Business Review blog “What’s Your Company’s Sentence?” He states that most companies don’t have that deep and driving sense of purpose. Therefore, he suggests to extend the one sentence challenge to companies.

I am just preparing an off-site meeting for the Center of Group Strategy and Corporate Development that I am heading at our company. Inspired by Daniel Pink’s video, I will prepare a small workshop where I will ask my teammembers to come up with their answer to the question “What’s your sentence?” And then, we will try to come up with our one sentence for our team, for our Center of Group Strategy and Corporate Development.

I have spent already some thoughts about my sentence. And that’s what I came up with for myself:

“He is a caring leader who makes a positive impact on people’s life.”

So, what’s your sentence? What’s your team’s sentence? And what is your company’s sentence? Food for thought!

This entry was posted on Monday, April 19th, 2010 at 01:33 and is filed under Leadership. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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