Tom McDermott

Tom spent more than 20 years bouncing around the world consulting and teaching in the technology industry before he figured out what he was born to do. Tom is a teacher, first and foremost. What he now teaches is how to find and fulfill your purpose. Something he figured out for himself 10 years ago, and has since developed a process that has helped many others over the years. Now Tom is bringing his vision online, where he hopes to help millions bring their purpose to life. Tom is the founder, concept developer and ambassador of Ignite.

Why does the world need a work revolution? (In other words: the way we’re working isn’t working. Why not?)
Simple answer: I believe that more than 95% of the world is in the wrong role/position — one where they’re not ideally suited — they’re simply not doing what they were born to do.

While we say every child/person is gifted, we don’t take any time to help them find their gift. Do we believe everyone is gifted or not? Do we believe everyone has a purpose or not? If so, shouldn’t this be where we start? Shouldn’t we be trying to help every child and person find their unique gift?

We spend an enormous amount of time and money helping young athletes and performing artists identify and develop their talent; providing them with all kinds of coaching and mentoring, and we shuttle them around town, country and world for competitions, in hopes they make it professionally. But, for every other child, we say “Get a good education so you can get a good job.”

This is where the problem starts. We were led to believe that education would help us find a great career, but that’s not what our education system does. And yet, we have not replaced it with a better solution. Sadly, the vast majority of society still “relies on” and “hopes” that the education system will guide them into a great career. Well, that’s not gonna happen! It’s not what our education system does and will never do. It actually does the exact opposite of what we hope it does. Instead of helping each and every one of us figure out where we can do our greatest work, it rounds us all out and makes us average so we can compete.

But I’m not suggesting we fix education — I think the industrial education system will eventually die a slow death. I believe we need other creative solutions to this enormous problem, and Ignite is just one of many solutions we need!

How are you or your organization reinventing work in some way (big or small)?
We believe that we first have to redefine success for us individually. We believe that success should be defined by the degree to which you are being true to yourself — who you are. In other words, if you are sharing your unique gift with the world, you will be successful and happy. If you’re not sharing your gift, then you’re not fulfilling your purpose and responsibility. That means you’re wasting a precious resource and taking another’s position. And this is how we get out of sync, individually and collectively.

We believe that every child/person is here for a reason and that we actually need their gift. I truly believe that the health and survival of humanity is actually dependent on the combined efforts of our individual talent and strengths. And we’re struggling around the world because far too many of us are not doing what we were born to do. So we have to fix that first.

And we’ve developed an online solution to help people Bring Their Purpose to Life.

We believe that this will ultimately create far more success and happiness, individually and collectively for humanity.

Why do you do what you do?
I believe that our failure to find our individual gift and purpose, and to help others find theirs, is the underlying root cause as to why we’re failing to solve problems large and small. I truly believe that the education problem and the poverty problem, locally and globally, along with the energy problem, disease, famine and even war, are getting worse because we simply have far too many people in the wrong positions, clearly incapable of solving these problems. All you have to do is look at Washington for evidence of that.

I truly want to help solve serious challenges, locally and globally. And I believe the best way to do that is to help as many people as I can, find their gift and fulfill their purpose.

What kind of art (any kind) do you like and why? Any recommendations we should know about?
I love watching people when they’re in their zone — when they’re truly sharing their gift. This is art to me. Whether it’s a dancer, singer, songwriter, painter, athlete, speaker, storyteller, writer, leader, teacher, waiter, waitress, bartender or chef. We all know it when we see it — they light up and impact the world around them, when they’re sharing their gift. I love watching it unfold and wish we could all see more of it.

Recommendation? You’ll know it when you see it. Sadly though, it’s not as often as it should be. Wouldn’t it be nice if we saw it in everyone we meet and work with?

What is one specific thing your company does that makes your culture unique and/or different?
We drink our own champagne and ensure that everyone is in the right role, and that includes me. Although this is my idea, my baby and I’m the founder, I am not the CEO. Nor do I define myself by my title or role. When people ask me what I do, I don’t say that “I’m the founder of Ignite” or that “I’m the Chief Ignition Officer” for Ignite — that’s for investors and partners; instead, I tell people “I teach”. And if they ask, I tell them “I teach people how to find and fulfill their purpose.” This is who I am and this is what I will be doing until the day I die. This is my life’s work — this is my purpose.

And I don’t need work/life balance, because my work and life are one in the same, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What is one discipline/industry totally different from your own that has inspired you? How does it impact your work?
Sports, but not the way it does for most… I’m not in awe of athletes; they don’t have any more talent than a great waitress or teacher — they simply have a different talent and a different gift. However, it was my exposure to world-class athletic programs around the world that looks for “talent”, “develops talent” and puts players into specific positions, based on a “combination of their natural attributes,” that made me wonder why we do that for athletes and artists, but not for other professions…

I realized that great coaches figured this out a long time ago! They put people into positions where they can best leverage their natural attributes. Period. And I realized we need to use this model for every profession if we truly want people to do great work — if we truly want to help people do their best work.

What’s one tangible and concrete technique other organizations should use if they want to create a more human and/or meaningful place to work?
They first need to define their organizational purpose. Why do they exist? If it’s simply to make money, I can’t help them. However if they know their purpose and/or genuinely want to define it, then we (collectively) can help them find people whose gift and purpose is naturally aligned. This is what true, lasting, sustainable engagement looks like.

What is one surprising thing we should know about you?
I only went to one year of college.

What does your preferred work environment look like?

  • One that enables me to work with a diverse group of people
  • One that is fun, challenging and always flexible
  • One that is consistent with my personal beliefs and values, and lets me create opportunities that benefit others
  • One that lets me continually satisfy my curiosity

What do you do for fun?

  • Help people find their gift and fulfill their purpose
  • Travel and simply spend time with friends/family

Where in the world are you?
Scottsdale, AZ

How can people connect with you?

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