“A Category is Not a Purpose”

“A category is not a purpose.” 


There’s a lot in Priya Parker’s The Art of Gathering, but that simple sentiment keeps showing up everywhere I look. The quicker we see the distinction between category and purpose, the better we can focus our efforts, spend our time, and clean up our calendars. 


Common gathering categories include client meetings, conference calls, networking events, birthday parties, friendly get-togethers, etc. The purpose of each category is the reason we show up in the first place. Yes, we have client meetings to meet with clients, but if that were the purpose we would just shake hands and walk away. There’s got to be a why, and it only starts with mutual expectations. To go above and beyond – well, that’s where Parker comes in. Gathering is an art form, she’s the master.


If we’re the gatherer, we’re the curator. When gatherings suck, it’s usually because the gatherer focused on the process and not the outcome. When gatherings work, it’s because something impacted us between when we arrived and when we left. Good curators plan for outcomes and implement the processes that get us there.


When we consider the power we have over just that short list of common categories, we can start to see the amount of good we can create with those we regularly gather and gather with. Meetings, as an example, can be to transfer information, plan a task, or a million other things. A good curator plans for what we’ll do and what feeling they want us to walk away with. Again, category and purpose go hand in hand, and they are everywhere.


I wasn’t expecting to take as much from this book as I did. If this topic interests you, I highly recommend it. Here’s to moving gatherings forward with less stumble and more stride.

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