There is a fantastic talk by Adam Leipzig called “How to Know Your Life Purpose in 5 Minutes”

The “how” of this can be summarized as being able to answer the following questions:

  1. Who are you
  2. What do you do? Or what do you think you are qualified to teach others?
  3. Who do you do it for?
  4. What do those people want or need?
  5. How do those people change or transform as a result of what you give them?

The first trick is that only the last three really matter, because they are about other people and not you. By focusing outwards, you focus on how what you do affects other people, on the value that you provide to others. This is your purpose, the impact you have on others.

The second trick is that when people ask you what you do, you answer based on the 5th point above. What is the impact that you have? This is your elevator pitch. And in many cases it will be enigmatic and intriguing enough that people will want to engage and find out more. It will make you rise above the crowd of standard answers.

For technical writers however, this little life-hack reveals something else. It’s very similar to the process of and identifying your audience and drilling down into your topic to discover what really needs to be communicated. What does this tool really do? What is achieved by this process? How will this new information let people do? It’s all about focusing outward towards the reader and finding out how they will be (or expect to be) changed by the thing you are writing about. It’s not about you or your writing, and it’s not about the tool or the process being documented, and it’s certainly not about the creators of the thing. It’s about how the reader will be changed by it. That is what you do, you change people’s lives.