The Force of a Personal Ethos

Knowing who you are and what moves you creates clarity of purpose
By Scott Mann, Rooftop Leadership Training
November 1, 2018 Updated: November 1, 2018

Who am I?

Why am I here?

These are the questions we seek answers to our entire life. These are the questions we ask ourselves while we lay awake at night. I don’t know that we ever truly find the answer, but we can get clearer each time we try.

And we need to try.

People are drawn to a clarity of purpose. People buy clarity. People invest in clarity. People follow clarity. If you want to move your associates to action and follow your vision in your company, if you want to inspire potential donors to write a check to your nonprofit, and if you want to sell that new product online you’ve got to be crystal clear about who you are and why you’re here. 

Humans are the most meaning-seeking creatures on earth. Never forget that. We must have a purpose. We must know our why. We revolve around status and perception. That’s how we’ve survived for hundreds of thousands of years. Our identity is critical. If we lose our meaning, if we lose our purpose, we lose our identity and, ultimately, we lose our life. We are creatures of purpose and without it, we cease to exist.

This is true for your customers, employees, and kids!

When I retired from the Army, I wrote myself a set of personal ethos. I wrote what I wanted in green, what I don’t want in red, and a little note to myself in blue. This is hanging in my closet and I read it every morning when I get up and get dressed. A second copy sits on my desk where I sit down and do my writing every day. 

In green, what I want: I want to continue to make a difference in a big way. I want to move people. I want to know inner peace and tranquility. I want financial freedom to do what I want when I want. I want to spend more time with my wife. I want to raise my boys to be happy, productive citizens. I want to help military families and wounded veterans. I want to help veterans succeed. I want to amplify the Special Forces narrative and put them back on the radar as legitimate policy options for building capacity in at-risk areas around the world, “man hunting” our way through national security problem-solving.

In red, what I don’t want: the inner churning in my gut that I’ve known for years working around the faceless bureaucracy. To work for jerks and self-absorbed leaders. Long periods of time away from my family. Going right into the department of defense meat grinder again. To be average. I don’t want to be a pawn for large contract companies. I don’t want to be forgotten or irrelevant. I don’t want to let my teammates down.

And then in big blue font wrote, “YOU ARE A CATALYST. THINK BIG AND DREAM BIGGER.”

Those are the ethos that have guided me for over five years. This brings clarity to who I work with and who I don’t. What I’ll stand for and what I won’t. This is who I am and why I’m here.

It’s empowering. It’s clear.

I want you to think of your own personal ethos. Go somewhere quiet. Write down who you work with, who you don’t. What you stand for. What you won’t. What you want. Write down what you don’t want. Write down one simple sentence to ground you, that defines and encapsulates your ethos.

And then share it with people when you get the opportunity. Watch what happens. Watch how people start to dismiss themselves from your life who do not belong there and watch how people—who you want as your ideal clients and thought partners—start to show up in your life, drawn to the clarity of the ethos that guides you.

Get clear on that personal ethos. Get clear on your life. I’ll see you on the rooftop. 

Scott Mann is a former Green Beret who specialized in unconventional, high-impact missions and relationship building. He is the founder of Rooftop Leadership and appears frequently on CNN, Bloomberg, Fox Business News, and many syndicated radio programs. For more information, visit