Soon after brothers Dave and Mike Radparvar and their friend Fabian Pfortmüller decided to found a company in the midst of one of the worst recessions in the history of the United States, they sat down to write a vision of what they wanted to accomplish. Not as a business, but personally. In the nearly ten years since, the Holstee Manifesto has been shared hundreds of millions of times, has inspired people around the world to start businesses, change careers, or simply live more mindfully, and has been translated into 14 languages. It has even been called the new 'Just Do It' (Nike's famous slogan) by the Washington Post.
But none of this was planned. The Holstee Manifesto wasn't written as a gimmick to emblazon on a product, and the company didn't start selling posters of it until after it had already started to gain popularity. Instead, the Holstee Manifesto is representative of the power of expressing your vision and purpose in a way that is authentic to you and relatable to your audience.
It's not just start-ups that buy into the power of words to chart a positive course. In the summer of 2017, Facebook announced that they were changing their mission statement to better reflect what they want to be, a first step towards changing their internal direction.
The test, of course, is follow through, but Jennell Evans, President, and CEO of Strategic Interactions, Inc., writes that "It's never too late for an organization to define its Vision and Mission." "Some," she says, will "even reinvent themselves," in the process. This is because expressing truths on paper is uniquely powerful. It forces introspection, self-evaluation, and broader reflection.
Bold mission statements and grandiose manifestos have become common, and may even feel stale, but the power of them as tools for directing the course of a company and shaping company culture is undeniable - if they're done right. First and foremost, Mike Radparvar says, that means writing it for yourself. "That might be obvious," Mike shared, "but it's really easy to write it with the hopes of it becoming a marketing tool of some sort." While that wouldn't be the end of the world (as Holstee experienced), writing with marketing in mind undermines the purpose of a manifesto and diminishes its potential impact on who it's supposed to be for: the people behind the brand.
Setting aside time for a "pure moment of authentic reflection," Mike suggests, is "where you'll get the most from [the process of writing a manifesto], your business will also get the most from it, and, in a weird roundabout way, you might profoundly impact other people." "It still blows my mind," he adds, "that something we wrote for ourselves touched such a nerve and impacted people so widely."
With Holstee's ten year anniversary coming up, it's sometimes overwhelming for the Holstee team to look back at how much a few sentences have shaped what they built. "It played a critical role," according to Mike, "when we were, as many companies do when they've hit certain milestones, asking 'are we off our path slightly?'" A simple statement of what they value, who they want to be, and what they want to bring into the world drove the early direction of Holstee and has served as a course-correcting guide ever since.
By expressing their truths, the Holstee founders discovered a path towards success. Not every manifesto goes viral, but every company can benefit from a poster on the wall or a page on their website (or both) that serves a guide and a call to action. In the chaos of building something new, a reminder of what you want in life, and in work, should never be far away.