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Find Your Purpose Before Life Kicks You In The Teeth

Lake reflections

Funny how life has a way of changing a person. Looking back, I realize that we can be truly different people as we progress through life. The wisdom that comes with age or the experiences we face dramatically change our personalities, our beliefs, and the manner in which we engage with others.  A combination of those has made me realize that you must find your purpose before life kicks you in the teeth, and forces you to find it.

It wasn’t that long ago that I was boasting about being named to various “top XX” lists, having my book with Danny Brown ranked among the top 100 business books of the year by Neilsen Bookscan , opening new businesses or keynoting one of many industry conferences.

Then life kicked me in the teeth; I lost my son to depression.

While I still operate my businesses, I’ve stopped travelling to promote the book or myself. I’ve stopped marketing myself to my peers. I’ve stopped networking to keep my name prominent in a vanity-laced industry. I’m no longer advertising myself to event producers, and even stopped working on my next book.

Without that self-promotion to my peers, inclusion on “best of” or “top XX” lists have diminished and invitations to keynote conferences are fewer. Yet, at the same time, business has improved and – all things considered – I’m a happier person (well, a better person).  That change has given me a different perspective on my work and my life … and that’s translated to even better work for clients.


Today, while quietly serving my clients, any free time I have isn’t spent networking but is focused instead on raising mental health awareness in schools. I still keynote conferences but the audience is made up of students and parents in schools or clinicians at medical conferences, not other marketers.

Unlike the conferences I’ve frequented for the past 10+ years, no one tweets and no one posts selfies at the after parties…it’s about the work, not the people delivering the work.

“I’m honoured to be named to the <top-social-media-influencer-list-of-the-day>” is the obligatory statement I, like so many others, often posted when being listed in various best-of lists. The reality is that I (again, like so many others) was really being listed for my ability to market myself rather than the work I accomplished for clients. In most cases, those list producers had no clue what results I had driven for my business or clients.

Today, I have other things to be proud of. I’m truly honoured to be named to the board of directors of the Halton Suicide Prevention Coalition. I’m truly honoured to have been working in the background helping school counselors connect with more students silently suffering with mental health issues. I’m truly honoured to have had the opportunity to silently and privately counsel other parents who have lost their kids to depression.  I’m truly honoured and grateful to have the confidence of a larger base of clients who care not about how popular I am but how well I perform my job.

Inverse Correlation 

I’ve also discovered that the rate of response to articles posted here or on my other social channels has changed dramatically since I stopped the overt self-promotion. Marketers who also belonged to our self-promotion society, were quick to respond to/share/Like most things I posted, regardless of how inane the content may have been. When I stopped trying to be the most famous marketer in the world, most dropped away. Again, the lack of “famous engagement” did not have a negative effect on my business or output. In fact, the opposite may be true.

My ability to market myself, I’ve discovered, had little-to-nothing to do with the good work I did for clients or the reason they chose to work with me.

With each accomplishment, I no longer have the instant reaction to post an announcement to social media in order to document my personal success. Life caught up to me; while losing my son is something I may never truly recover from, finding my personal purpose has made me a better person, a better steward to my business, and a better servant to my clients. I have gained a perspective I wish I had 10 years ago.

Find your true purpose before life kicks you in the teeth

Sam Fiorella - Sensei Marketing

I wanted this last post of 2015 to be an indication of what’s to come. We’ll continue to share insights on the latest trends in customer experience, influence marketing, and business but we’ll focus a little more on the “insights” part of that statement with a good measure of social responsibility.

Asking marketers to not market themselves is like asking a human to not drink water or breathe air. It’s what we do; it’s in our blood. However, the adage “marketers ruin everything” rings truer for me today than ever before.

We throw ourselves into this mutual admiration society in hopes of bolstering our egos and/or artificially building a persona that will win accolades or referrals.  We want our 15-minutes of fame. Social media is creating a new breed of marketers that are self-focused and that’s reflected in the vanity metrics most push as a measure of campaign success.

Being a great marketer does not preclude one from being a humble being. Great marketers don’t need to be self-serving or vain. Being a great marketer can be achieved by doing everything but thinking of oneself. It’s achieved by being focused on your community and your clients and by doing good work for each.

So do yourself a favour:  Find your true purpose in life before life kicks you in the teeth.

Sam Fiorella
Feed Your Community, Not Your Ego


Join the Conversation

DathBrun 5pts

I only just found your book and was looking into who you were and I read this post.  I just entered the realms of Influencer Marketing. Anyway, your post has stopped me short.  I don't know you at all but I do offer my sympathy for your terrible loss. I take on board your cautionary post. It was brave of you to share and I wish you every success in your business and the work you are doing in suicide prevention. Thanks for sharing what must have been a difficult post. I like many who have read and will read this will benefit greatly from it. 

AnnHawkins 5pts

Hi Sam

I loved the work that you and @Danny Brown did, both individually and together, because even as part of the media circus you were both outstanding. You didn't get to be at the top of that game by being the best bullshitters, you got there by doing good work and by treating people like human beings, not "eyeballs" or "revenue streams". The mantra you state at the end of this post was always there in your work. 
I am truly sorry for the loss of your son and the experience that has made you take stock but seeing what both you and Danny are doing now is genuinely inspiring. 
Thank you for writing this post and for sharing your thoughts. That ability to touch people and cause them to stop and think is a great gift and I'm grateful to you. 

samfiorella moderator 5pts

@AnnHawkins thanks for the kind words, Ann. That means a lot.  

I was worried about posting this article. In part because I didn't want to sound like petulant child complaining and in part because it's an insight into my person thoughts and that's  often not what people reading a corporate blog want to read (or so I think). I trust that providing some personal insights will also provide insights into our business and philosophy. 

gfiedel 5pts

Sam, first, we don't know each other and I don't want to overstep in any way, but I would like to say that I'm sorry for your unspeakable loss and that you have had to experience it. It's a terrible thing.

This article is hitting me with a perfect end-of-year re-reminder that the marketing moves I might chase have not much to do with my own purpose, the purpose that rightly belongs to our clients and the work we do.

I am not a "marketer" per se, but I find myself in the world of marketing and alongside marketers all day long through social and I do market. While I love what I learn and I know that much of that side of running a business is unavoidable, it's not the end-goal. It's not what drives me to write either even though that writing is easily  put into the marketing box.

And btw, I'm thinking "Roshi" rather than "Sensei".  

Thanks to Danny Brown for steering me here.

samfiorella moderator 5pts

@gfiedel Thank you for taking the time to respond. I'm thankful that my experience has resonated with you. 

Danny Brown
Danny Brown 5pts

Hey there Sam,

Honest and raw post, mate, and one that many marketers (and business people) should see something of themselves in.

It's often said that tragedy or major life events are the catalyst for the change we need to make in our lives (or make us realize time is finite).

What has happened to you and your family in the last 12-18 months is something no-one can ever hope to understand, unless they've been through it themselves.

What is clear to see is that it's focused you on what you know is truly important, and that will impact you and those around you in the days, months and years ahead.

Those that understand that impact will be here with you. Those that don't... well, some things are meant to drift apart anyhoo.

Here's to you.

samfiorella moderator 5pts

@Danny Brown Thanks, mate.  I should have learned this from your lead long ago but, well, I hesitate to let you know that you've been a positive influence on me. Marketer's ego and all. 

Sean McGinnis
Sean McGinnis 5pts

Amen brother. Amen. 

Love you and miss you. 

samfiorella moderator 5pts

@Sean McGinnis I suspect you miss me because: 
a) I run in the opposite direction when I see you coming
b) You've moved half way across the world
c)  You too have had your head down focused on doing good work instead of self-promotion. 

I look up to you. And not just because you're freakishly tall. 


  1. […] My good friend Sam Fiorella wrote about this recently, in an extremely personal and raw post about the loss of his teenage son Lucas to depression. […]

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