Getting Back to Why

I shared a fabulous TED talk given by Simon Sinek in one of my meetings earlier this week and I wanted to make sure that you had a chance to hear it too.

Purpose is inextricably linked to fulfillment. Lose sight of the first and you’ll lose out on the second.

Make your work to be keeping in your purpose” – Leonardo da Vinci

The Highest Time of Living

Merry Autumn by Paul Lawrence Dunbar

 It’s all a farce,—these tales they tell 
        About the breezes sighing, 
    And moans astir o’er field and dell, 
        Because the year is dying.

    Such principles are most absurd,— 
        I care not who first taught ’em; 
    There’s nothing known to beast or bird 
        To make a solemn autumn.

    In solemn times, when grief holds sway 
        With countenance distressing, 
    You’ll note the more of black and gray 
        Will then be used in dressing.

    Now purple tints are all around; 
        The sky is blue and mellow; 
    And e’en the grasses turn the ground 
        From modest green to yellow.

    The seed burs all with laughter crack 
        On featherweed and jimson; 
    And leaves that should be dressed in black 
        Are all decked out in crimson.

    A butterfly goes winging by; 
        A singing bird comes after; 
    And Nature, all from earth to sky, 
        Is bubbling o’er with laughter.

    The ripples wimple on the rills, 
        Like sparkling little lasses; 
    The sunlight runs along the hills, 
        And laughs among the grasses.

    The earth is just so full of fun 
        It really can’t contain it; 
    And streams of mirth so freely run 
        The heavens seem to rain it.

    Don’t talk to me of solemn days 
        In autumn’s time of splendor, 
    Because the sun shows fewer rays, 
        And these grow slant and slender.

    Why, it’s the climax of the year,— 
        The highest time of living!— 
    Till naturally its bursting cheer 
        Just melts into thanksgiving.

I’ve met a number of inspiring people who in the autumn of their years felt not diminished but in the highest time of living. They achieved this not by physical prowess, but through a steadily blossoming capacity for radiant expression.

Radiance is the afterglow of earnest service. You cannot enjoy the highest time of living if the preceding years revolve around the turntable of self-concern for the simple reason that you won’t be prepared.

Fulfillment is not the by-product of personal achievement and I think most would concur that personal achievement is necessary, but not sufficient to a satisfying life. True fulfillment is the natural outcome when you dedicate your life to assisting others to their fulfillment.

Refiner’s Fire

If you’re anything like me you’ve cherished the opportunity to be in the company of those people who by means of their very presence compel refinement. You’ve no doubt encountered such people, that is, those who carry about them an inspiriting atmosphere which acts as a refiner’s fire as you draw near unto them.

The strange thing about such people is that they can be some of the most uncomfortable people to be around. They challenge your assumptions, test your limits, bring pressure on your weaknesses and love you unconditionally while constantly urging you to be a better person. Rather than fluff pillows around you, they let the pressure build on that which is no longer fitting in your expression and they realize that they cannot do the work that you need to do for yourself.

When faced with the refiner’s fire you have two basic options: 1) give thanks for it and move swiftly to the center of the flame by releasing that which no longer belongs or 2) react against it, put up shields to deflect its purifying heat, then run and hide. When you walk boldly into the flame the temporary discomfort is replaced by a deep sense of peace that only comes when you do the right thing because it is the right thing to do. When you take cover from the refiner’s fire, the temporary relief from the discomfort is soon replaced by the sisters of mediocrity: agitation, emptiness and numbness.

In my experience the greater part of men choose the latter strategy, preferring a life of fleeting comfort to a life of ongoing refinement and lasting fulfillment. It is a sad spectacle to watch someone trade a moment of relief for a lifetime of misery, but it happens with disturbing regularity. I’ve watched friends, family, employees and even people I respected as leaders give in to this temptation.

The saddest cases are those in which the person knew better, knew the stakes and still elected to throw away the opportunity to refine. You never know who will choose to accept the call, who will luxuriate in the purifying heat of the fire and who will reject it. Those who respond will surprise you as much as those who do not.

There will, as there have been throughout most of recorded history, be those who not only shield their hearts from the fire but who then seek to snuff the flame or eradicate its source. Such people are not to be feared, but pitied and forgiven, for as it was once said “they know not what they do.”

As you begin to fan this flame in your own being by virtue of your acceptance of the call to refinement, you will have the privilege, honor and responsibility of influencing the world around you in ways that you may have always wished for but never really thought would be possible. This is an invisible influence with quite visible, tangible effects. It is the central means by which you replenish the earth and help others to their fulfillment.

Duty-First

The things that will destroy America are prosperity-at-any-price, peace-at-any-price, safety-first instead of duty-first, the love of soft living, and the get-rich-quick theory of life.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Call it a midwestern bias, but to my mind the most important quality of the American spirit is the notion of “duty-first.” Moreover, the degree to which an individual embraces “duty-first” in his living is perhaps one of the greatest predictors of long-term success in his public and private life.

No matter where you are on the spectrum which spans duty-first and self-first, you can take steps now to ensure that your life serves to magnify and perpetuate all that is wonderful and true of your country. The formula is quite simple: do something today that you need to do but don’t want to do.

Once that becomes secondhand, take the next step: relinquish the temptation to judge that which you have to do. Judgment compromises your ability to do the right thing because it is the right thing to do, furthermore, it impairs your ability to discharge your primary duty: the ability to seek after and investigate the truth.

Duty is the price of living righteously, fulfillment is its wages.

 

 

Souls of Deep Thinkers

The Ocean’s Song by Victor Hugo

We walked amongst the ruins famed in story 
Of Rozel-Tower, 
And saw the boundless waters stretch in glory 
And heave in power. 

O Ocean vast! We heard thy song with wonder, 
Whilst waves marked time. 
“Appear, O Truth!” thou sang’st with tone of thunder, 
“And shine sublime!”

The world’s enslaved and hunted down by beagles, 
To despots sold. 
Souls of deep thinkers, soar like mighty eagles! 
The Right uphold. 

“Be born! arise! o’er the earth and wild waves bounding, 
Peoples and suns! 
Let darkness vanish; tocsins be resounding, 
And flash, ye guns!” 

And you who love no pomps of fog or glamour, 
Who fear no shocks, 
Brave foam and lightning, hurricane and clamour,– 
“Exiles: the rocks!”

My greatest professional desire is to create a safe haven wherein deep thinkers can be at peace and receive nourishment as they set about to fulfill their commission. At present these efforts are centered in relation to the field of medicine, as most who go into this field are compelled first and foremost by the spirit of service.

Thinking deeply requires that you go against the tide of human self-concern. To think deeply you must set aside petty concerns for comfort, both material and emotional, and concentrate your efforts in relation to the discovery and differentiation of truth. This is no small task, for the moment you consecrate yourself to this purpose, you become a threat to the fallen state and a beacon to all who desire to leave this world in better condition than they found it.

This morning I say to you: “Be born! Arise!” and dare to let the truth be known. Have no fear, for an ounce of truth weighs more than all of unreality. And rest assured, you are not alone.

Are you ready?

Morning dawns are you ready? by Gregg Hake

Mist rising from lake below
Air rich with summery scents
Infusing earth’s crescendo
Heart is filled with what presents.

All things made new
Not one refrain
Doth nature feign
I heed her cue.

My world today unfolds
A new song, a new day
Infused with fresh bouquet
This charge my life upholds.

Expressing Outward

When most people talk about their hobbies, they say things to the effect that: “It’s what I like to do,” “It makes me happy” or “It’s my passion.” Those who don’t have hobbies tend to feel a little guilty or ashamed that they don’t and for good reason (though maybe not the one you might expect!).

At the core of you is a radiant focus of being. It is called by many names, but whether you believe in God or gods is beside the point, the fact is that life pulses from within outward, from the invisible to the visible. Most people’s identity is lodged in the outer, visible levels of being. This approach is problematic in that it fails to take into account the source of life itself and satisfies itself with the reflection or put otherwise, the shadow of the inner reality.

If you’ve ever been called “shallow,” you probably deserved it. In fact, most people live their whole lives in the shallow end of the pool of life. Take hobbies, for instance. Most people search for hobbies thinking that they’re looking for something to take their mind off of work or some other less pleasant aspect of their daily routine. They look for what they “like” to do, what gets their juices flowing and they generally find rest and regeneration while engaging in their hobbies.

I’d like to suggest another way to look at hobbies. A hobby is an aperture through which you can express your inner, hidden qualities of being, outwardly. In this sense you do not derive pleasure from your hobbies, you experience pleasure because it moves through you, from within outward.

Hobbies are useful in that they allow you to open the door to inspiration and pleasure in ways that can be difficult to accomplish through the more familiar routines and activities in life. They unlock your creative expression and if you’re smart about it, you can parlay the openings made possible by your hobbies into the other more well-worn areas of your living. In this sense, they allow you to breathe new life into your field of circumstance.

Adding a new hobby is like adding a new instrument to your band or orchestra. It can of course be played independently, but the true value of it comes as it synchronizes and harmonizes with the other tools for self-expression presently at your command. The more tools you have at your command and the more competent you become at using them, the more likely it is that you will find avenues of expression for the radiant focus of life within you.

That said, you must be careful of the consumptive mentality that is so prevalent in our modern western society. More does not always equate to better. In fact, I’ve found that unless you maximize the use of what you have available presently, there is little reason to add more. It is sad to see unhappy people sitting on a pile of plenty who feel that if they could only get the next thing, the new hobby, a little more personal time, etc., then they would know happiness.

Happiness is the by-product of fully actualized true purpose. No matter how effective you are at satisfying your outer concerns for comfort, recognition, achievement, etc., you will not know peace, happiness or fulfillment if you fail to let your mind, body and heart be the channel through which the inner you – the real you – be expressed from within outward.