Hunting The Snark: The Creative Purpose Trap

The more we search for our creative purpose the further away we are from it
Hunting The Snark: The Creative Purpose Trap
Jake McNeill
June 14, 2021
5 min read
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Lewis Carroll’s most famous work is Alice In Wonderland of course. 

But the bold and talented Mr Carroll had many other works that inspired fervent debate among fans and critics alike. 

None more so than his seemingly nonsensical poem, “The Hunting of the Snark.” 

It’s a story about the angst and anguish of a group of men who are hunting a strange creature called a “Snark” across the country.

Nobody has seen one before. But they know it exists. How? Because everybody talks about it. 

But it wasn’t true. It was an urban myth. 

The Snark didn’t exist. But the frustrated men didn’t know that. 

Their obsession to find the mythological Snark led them into dark despair and misery.

They thought they were failures.  

And, this is the purpose trap. 

The more we reach for our purpose the more we feel like failures for not having one!


“In an ideal world, nobody’s work would just be about the money. People could pursue excellence in what they do, take pride in achievement, and derive meaning knowing that their work improved the lives of others.” — Barry Swartz, New York Times Best selling author and Psychologist

We all want a creative purpose.

That intersection where our weirdness and creativity combine to create something that gives us deep pride and provides value to our audience.

The more we hunt for our purpose the worse we feel, as the more it reminds us that we don’t have a purpose. 

Modern philosopher, Alan Watts calls this the backwards law. For example, the more we pursue happiness the more miserable we feel. 

The problem with finding your purpose is it can’t be found.

Not because it doesn’t exist —it does….But it must be created!

How to create your purpose 

There’s a simple framework. We do this with 5 questions:

  1. Who are you?
  2. What do you do?
  3. Who do you do it for?
  4. What do they want or need?
  5. What do they get out of it?

Lets use 3 examples: A children’s author, a youtuber and a copy writer. 

1) Who you are is self explanatory — your name

2) What do you do? — what is the one thing you love doing that you are really good at? It might be writing, or making videos or copy writing.  

3) Who do you do it for? It might be children, or other youtubers, or you write copy for the music industry

4) What do they want or need? The children need stories to help them sleep, other youtubers need help to build their audience, and artists need copy to help sell their tour. 

5) What do they get out of it? The children sleep well.The youtubers become more successful. And the artists play to bigger audiences. 

The reason this works is only two questions are about you. The other three are about how you can serve others.

The key to creating meaning and purpose is to help others. It’s to serve your audience as only you can.

The science behind purpose

We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give — Winston Churchill

According to psychology today the neuroscience of helping others impacts us in three ways. 

Empathy is one of the most important aspects of connecting deeply with your audience or your tribe if you prefer. 

  • Empathy: There are structures in the brain that are dedicated to helping you see things from the perspectives of others, so these mental processes get some great exercise when you put yourself in the shoes of another person and try to give them what they need.

  • Mirror Neurons: Helping others is often a highly social activity, which creates a beautiful cycle of smiling. When you smile the whole world smiles with you because you are triggering their mirror neurons. Both the giver and the receiver can directly impact the other's brain in a positive way.

  • The Happiness Trifecta: Helping others triggers a release of oxytocin, which has the effect of boosting your mood and counteracts the effects of cortisol (the dreaded stress hormone). Interestingly, the higher your levels of oxytocin, the more you want to help others. When oxytocin is boosted, so are serotonin and dopamine!

So there you have it, in order to be happy you need to master your craft and help your tribe with what they want and need.

The only way to create deep connections with your audience is to have the empathy to understand their wants and needs, and the generosity to give it to them.

You do this by doing something you enjoy creating. 

Once you have down this you will have found your purpose. 


Stop trying to find your purpose. It doesn’t exist. You must create it.

Don’t overcomplicate it. Simplify it. Ask yourself the five questions. 

  1. Who are you
  2. What do you do
  3. What do you do it for?
  4. What do they want or need?
  5. What do they get out of it?

Remember the more the chase purpose the further away from it you will be.

Peace out


A bit about me

I help maverick artists and creatives hack into their true creative genius, crush the creative blocks that hold them back, and create their best work.

Every creative rebel’s worst enemy?

Creative mediocrity: Being bland. Staying in our lane. Creating in our comfort zone and following the crowds.

The Goal? To create authentic work that matters. Take creative risks, avoid creative burnout, and making a racket in saturated markets.

I’m a former multi-platinum artist manager who got burnt out and became an artist & creative blogger, coach, and consultant.

I’ve challenged myself to write 50 articles in 50 working days. 5 down, 45 to go.

Find out more information on my website or connect on my LinkedIn

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