“Why Do We Exist?”: Discovering Our Core Purpose

“Why Do We Exist?”: Discovering Our Core Purpose

I am a firm believer that we have a divine purpose, and we are not just here by accident. I never thought I would become Funeral Director, even though it has been a part of our family for generations. Actually most people assume this would be a likely path I would go down. Funny thing, I never saw it coming even though I enjoyed hospitality work from my earlier years with my first jobs being in restaurants  & hotels.

In 1989 I joined our family’s profession, I started at an entry-level position; washing cars, transferring those who have died into our care, driving the limousine, cleaning the funeral home, etc.  I did this for two years and I really enjoyed it but I had a different dream in me and I decided to pursue it.

I enlisted in the US Navy to become a Navy SEAL. This was one of the best experiences of my life AND one of the biggest disappointments all in the same breath. Needless to say I never became a Navy SEAL, I got close but couldn’t finish due to an injury. It took me years to let go of all my heartache of failing this goal. I recently saw the new movie, “Lone Survivor” – it is such a powerful film and it made me think over what my life would’ve been like had I become a SEAL. Standing where I am today, I feel like I can see clearly why I didn’t make it, I was meant for a different purpose: the purpose of helping families in their darkest hours.

Our company is about to embark on a journey to determine what our Core Purpose is as an organization. It’s going to be an interesting journey and I invite you to stay tuned.


Let me tell you a little bit about what a Core Purpose actually is:

A Core Purpose is our fundamental reason for being. A guideline that will influence every decision our company makes. It’s a pillar that supports our vision, creates clarity and keeps us focused on our mission.

If I was you I might be thinking “Wow, your company started in 1898 and you are just now defining your core purpose?”  Well, while our business is wrapped in a wonderful history, the people I work with are a very real part of our present and our future. Together, we’ve found reason to change the future of our profession and that means discovering together what our core purpose as an organization is. Our contemporary purpose is evolving and the way we see it, the purpose of yesterday’s funeral homes just aren’t meeting the needs of today’s families.

Beyond just my company having a core value, I believe I individually have a core purpose within my role as President & CEO. My purpose is to help create a healthy work environment where our organizational health is the top priority.

I cannot help but think about our work lives, we end up spending more time with our work families than we do with our own families. Day in and day out we can either, enjoy and support our coworkers or we can put up walls of fear. Have you ever worked at a place you hated? Have you ever felt better when you called in sick? If you’ve ever felt that way, I would guess it was because that work environment was been ruled by bad attitudes and bad behaviors. Who is to blame? Do we have to participate in a toxic work environment? No, we can shape our lives into what ever we want them to be.

Our management team has been going through the book, The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni, here’s one of the keys resonating with me right now:

“Within the context of making an organization healthy, alignment is about creating so much clarity that there is as little room as possible for confusion, disorder, and infighting to set in.”

With clarity comes accountability and, in a healthy work environ, accountability leads to vulnerability-based trust. This is what happens when members get to a point where they are completely comfortable being transparent and honest with one another. Where they can say and genuinely mean things like “Hey, I screwed up,” “Neil, I need help,” “Molly, your idea is WAY better than mine,” “Joe, I wish I could learn to do that as well as you do,” and even, “I’m sorry.”

At the heart of vulnerability lies the willingness of people to abandon their pride and their fear, to sacrifice their egos for the benefit of relationship and the collective good of their work family.

“How do we contribute to a better world?” (The Advantage)

The answer: Our Core Purpose.

So we’re going to find out what that purpose is and yes, we’ll share it with you once we’ve met together as a company and discovered together what our new purpose is. I’m so excited about this and I hope you are too!

 || what do YOU think?

So, my question to you is, for what core purpose do you exist?


If you’re a business owner or employee, what is the purpose of your organization?

Molly Keating
Molly Keating
Hello! I'm Molly and I run & manage the Blog here at O'Connor. I grew up in a mortuary with a mortician for a father who's deep respect for the profession inspired me to give working at a mortuary a try. Work at O'Connor has brought together two of my deep passions, writing & grief awareness. In 2016 I earned Certification in the field of Thanatology, the study of Death, Dying and Bereavement. I am honored to be able to speak on these taboo topics with knowledge, compassion, and a unique perspective. I want to sincerely thank you for following & reading the blog, I hope that this is a healing place for you.


  1. Michael Thomas says:

    Nice work Neil. My heart aches everyday I am away from the theatre, but I too believe I have been lead here. The joy I find here is different from the joy I find on stage, but any joy you find in life I believe is worth pursuing. I can’t wait to dive even further into this topic.

  2. Shayna Mallik says:

    First off I am so sorry for my late response. I really enjoyed reading your blog. I feel that I was brought to this company for the purpose of being able to help families and friends in a difficult time. I am so blessed to be a part of this family and company. We do so much for our families we are serving and I am so proud to part of this amazing team and family.


    • neil says:

      Hi Shayna –

      Thank you for your reply! I truly enjoy your positive and caring spirt that you bring to our company and community every single day. You are a joy to be with and I am grateful that you understand the meaning of team and community.

  3. Anne Anderson Collins says:

    HI Neil,
    I, too strongly believe in a divine purpose. Not just one thing either. Just as we interact daily with many people on many levels, so we can have meaningful encounters throughout each and every day. There is a scripture which says “a three-fold cord is not easily broken”. The opposite of that is when one stands alone, the cord is weak. And if it is hanging over a proverbial cliff, it is better to have a cohesive team up top, all pulling together, having thrown over a strong cord in the first place. We need common goals, goals with substance and purpose, and the entire team, intertwined for strength in order to save the day, the situation, the floundering family who needs us.

    • neil says:

      Hi Anne –

      That is a beautiful quote! I am glad we share the same common goals and purpose. You have been a big influence in my life, our friendship is so dear to me! I am so grateful that I am in your life. XOXO

  4. Michael Anderson says:

    I just wanted to say “thank you”. This was a very thoughtful, well-written article and I am excited to watch you lead your organization to identify its core purpose. We are on a similar journey ourselves and I am confident both organizations will emerge better and stronger as a result. Thanks for taking the time to write it.

    • neil says:

      Hi Michael –
      You are welcome, and thank you for all the support and friendship you have given me. You have been a key influence to me and our firm, I am grateful to YOU!

  5. Becky Finch Lomaka says:

    Hi Neil,
    Your blog truly reflects the direction we are heading as a company. What a wild and crazy ride we are on. We are moving forward as a company where many others get stuck – we dare to dream and truly believe we can change the world for the better! What an exciting time this is for all of us; I am so blessed to be a part of this amazing group of people. I thank you for your inspirational leadership and drive and for daring to dream big!! The sky is the limit and I am excited to see what the future holds.

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