Do you know what your life purpose is? Are you living it?
My youngest daughter had a birthday party last week. It went really well – thanks to my wife. I acted busy to cover my extreme shyness. I don’t like crowds but when it’s “Showtime” I can turn it on. I’ve heard that these kinds of people are called “ambiverts.” This wasn’t Showtime so I took my time making sure the pizza and cake were cut just right.
At the end of the party, I was talking to a very nice man who had done some wonderful caricatures – you know, those drawings where the person’s features are exaggerated. He told me that he had seen my bio and mentioned that I had an “impressive career.” That was my cue to explain that I couldn’t hold a job. I said this with humor and sincerity.
Part of my problem has been that I thought I had discovered my life purpose at the age of 6. I convinced myself that I wanted to be a lawyer. With those magical powers I planned to correct the world’s injustice. It would have been parental malpractice for my parents to talk me out of such a noble middle class dream back then.
I did the lawyer thing. I have a policy of living with as few regrets as possible so I’ll leave it there for now. I was fortunate to have some great education opportunities open up for me. I traveled in the lanes that were available to people who could play the game or were brilliant. You can decide where I fit.
There are other lanes open now. In fact, the traditional path to the American Dream looks pretty crazy right now. You can choose to “invest” in the education bubble, incur ridiculous amounts of student loan debt, and, if you’re one of the lucky ones, become a worker pretending you have a career. Another way to go is…
The life of an entrepreneur, at least the way I’m living it, has not been easy. I don’t recommend abruptly quitting a high-paying job. My family and I have very little financial security. We’ve put everything we’ve had, and then some, into the business.
While we scramble for ways to scale it up, we get to tell our kids “no” to things like eating out and expensive sports camps. We do get to spend a lot of time with them and to have important conversations. I’ll just have to wait and see where they come out on the resentment/gratitude scale.
Despite the challenges, I believe that the life of an entrepreneur can be spiritual and transformative if you remain aware. It’s kind of like how the most difficult people in your life can also be your most profound teachers.
Somebody Should Have Told Me
I wish I had had someone to mentor me in what it took to be successful. I’m still grateful that my mind and body are healthy enough to move on this path in my mid-50’s. I still think I could have learned some of these lessons a little faster with the right guidance. It now pains me to see so many younger people going numb or living with the emotional (and often physical) pain of living without meaning or joy. One day I’ll talk about the distinction I that think needs to be made between “joy” (our natural state) and “happiness” (our “should” state).
The American Dream was to supposed to mean that life would “be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement regardless of social or circumstances of birth” (James Truslow Adams in 1931).
That hasn’t worked out for a lot of the people I know. People from my generation were mostly groomed to be workers in an economy that is rapidly vanishing. Some people rebelled and made art with their lives – as solopreneurs, as social entrepreneurs, and even in corporations.
I’m a husband, a father of daughters, a co-founder of a school for girls in India, and the co-owner of a fitness business that works with women. This next part is for any woman who knows someone like this…
Do You Know This Person?
You did what you were supposed to do. You paid attention in school and worked on your social and academic skills. You were told you could have it all if you just followed the road they laid out for you.
Then life intruded. You sit at a table with a mound of bills in one hand and your paycheck in the other. Like every month, you have the sinking feeling that THIS check won’t cover THESE bills. Those stupid student loans!
But you get up every day and show up to your 9-to-5. It’s boring and some of the people are jerks but you feel fortunate to even have a job. So you swallow your pride and hide your dreams.
Worse than the boredom and the annoying people is the fear. Fear that you’ll never meet your dream partner. Fear that you’ll lose your job. Fear that you’ll stay on this treadmill and never do the things that inspire and ignite you.
You didn’t go to an elite school. Your family wasn’t wealthy. Your parents didn’t give you that network that would plug you into job opportunities. You weren’t the tenth employee of Facebook.
You’d love to take a chance on finding your dream job or starting your own business but you still feel the recession. You know in your mind that you’re still young but your heart tells you you’ll soon be too old to follow your dream. What happened to that personal style that you developed in high school and really rocked with in college?
There’s something inside of you that wants to make a difference. But how can you figure out what kind of a difference you can make? The daily grind keeps question as a dull ache with no relief in sight. Wanting to have children doesn’t make this any easier.
Sometimes you think it’s about making as much money as you can and buying that car, those shoes, and the nice apartment. Is that all you’re supposed to want? Those things are what your friends talk about all the time. Is there something wrong with you if you want something else? It’s not just your friends’ opinions that concern you. Your family has expectations that you feel pressured to meet.
Your fear and confusion are not your fault. The pressures of modern life have caused us to forget that we are conscious beings with the gift of Free Will. You’ve been lied to. It’s not all about competing and doing whatever it takes.
External factors, whether they are your family or your current finances do not have to keep you from fulfillment.
Take action on your wisdom instead of other’s expectations. Attract abundance by standing in your emotional and spiritual truth.
Are you waiting for the right time, enough money, enough experience? It’ll never happen. Talk to your parents or spend time in a senior citizen’s home if you don’t believe me. We all leave this earth. What will your friends and family remember about how you lived your life? Will it be a story worth telling?
One of the things I love about my two youngest kids is that they have their own sense of style. I fight a constant battle with myself because while I love that they have such a strong sense of themselves, I know this society will try to beat it out of them. In my clearer moments, I tell myself that being overprotective is just as bad as being abusive. At my best, I pray to God that He will protect them and allow their God-given wisdom to guide them.
I want you to recapture your style, too. Let’s start with a couple of exercises I got from Barbara Sher (not personally, but I wish!).
1. Choose a color that you like. It doesn’t have to be your favorite color. Find something with that color in it and have it in front of you. It can be a picture, a crayon, a piece of clothing, etc.
You’re going to role-play that color. If you’re “orange,” who are you? How do you feel as orange? What do you like to do? What other colors do you like to associate with? I am orange and I…
When you pick your color and express who you are as that color, you are declaring yourself and making a statement as to your style. You’re taking off the uniform that other people have made you put on and you’re making a personal statement. Get in touch if you want more on this.
2. Find someone you love and trust, and who loves you. Get something to write with and set aside five minutes. Ask that person to tell you everything they like about you. They aren’t allowed to be vague and you aren’t allowed to interrupt. You might also want to switch roles. Being both a good praiser and praisee has its benefits.
Too many children are lavishly praised for every little accomplishment. When we become adults, praise is withheld and “honest” self-evaluations are only allowed to include criticism, otherwise we are viewed as being vain. Go ahead and see how it feels to give and receive honest, deep praise.
Since you’ve read this far, I feel comfortable asking to you to Retweet this and otherwise pass it on.
Live with purpose and irony!
P.S. – If you need some help with any of this, call me or send me an email. We’ll talk. It’ll help. I promise.