Today, I met with my friend Joel Mueller to talk about my vision for the future of podcasting. And, I shared my idea for a new audiobook I’m working on called Powered by Purpose – Getting Things Done For Goodness Sake!
People, Love, Loyalty
People and causes; love and loyalty. I believe those are the ingredients of a life of purpose. If we look past our selfish desires, we find people we love and causes that inspire our loyalty. That’s what makes life worth living and keeps us from paths leading to a dead end. When I think of love and loyalty, soldiers come to mind. I’ve watched lots of documentaries of men at war, and whether fighting in World War II, Korea, Viet Nam, Iraq, or anywhere else, men in the trenches often say they joined to fight for our country and freedom (noble causes), but in the heat of battle, they fight, bleed, and die for the guy next to them in the foxholes.
A Noble Cause
The people we live for are usually under our roofs, but we may expand the circle of purpose to include individuals and groups that share our commitment to a noble cause. We may, like Bono, devote ourselves to relieve suffering or stop the spread of disease, or we may invest our time, energy, and money in building houses for the poor, caring for prisoners or the elderly, sharing the Good News about Christ, helping someone who’s hungry or hurting, or any of hundreds of other noble efforts.
A Napkin Can be Powered by Purpose
I’ve heard people say that we should be able to write our life’s purpose on the back of a business card, but I think life’s a bit more complicated than that. Most of us have many different responsibilities, so our purpose in life will reflect those complexities. If we’re going to live for something or someone bigger than ourselves, we can look at three areas of life:
Purpose Can Start With Your Family
A major part of my purpose is to provide for Connie and our kids—not just financially, but in every way that a good husband and father provides. Some of us may be tempted to dream big dreams for our lives—and I’m all for that—but the biggest dreams shouldn’t bypass our most cherished relationships. At the end of my life, my dreams won’t be nearly as important as the quality of relationships I’ve had with Connie, JR, Brandon, and Carissa. I may want a new Lexus and other expensive toys, and I can afford them—but not if I want to provide money for a college education for my kids, a nice wedding for Carissa, and some great vacations that make memories for a lifetime. Putting my family first means saying “no” to some things I’d really enjoy for a while, but that’s okay with me because my family is an enduring treasure. And, yes, Carissa and Brandon, nothing would make me happier than to be there with you and watch you walk the line at any college graduation.
Sometimes Career is What Matters Most
I’d like to say that I’ve always had this perspective, but that would be a lie. For years, I put my career first, spending my resources of time, money, and affections on building the biggest business I could build. I was driven to be a success, but in the back of my mind, I felt guilty and ashamed that I wasn’t the husband and father I knew I could be. I came to a point that I finally saw the emptiness of my pursuits and the damage I was inflicting on those I loved. During that painful season, I faced reality and made the choice to value my family more than my own career. My only regret in that decision is that it took a while for me to “get it.”
Consider Where Your Power Comes From
Those things that bring us the most joy and stimulate our passions are almost certainly part of our purpose in life. For example, a friend of mine is in a management position in his company, but he told me, “You know, I can manage schedules and work loads just fine, but what I really enjoy—what really revs my engines—is when I can build confidence and skills into people’s lives. I love to see other people succeed!” He just described an important element in his life’s purpose.
Purpose Beyond Your Own Neighborhood
Many of us are completely satisfied with providing for our families and using our abilities in fulfilling ways at work or in our communities, but we are wise to at least consider one more step: We can dream about touching countless lives if we step out of the normal way of doing life and go for even more. Certainly, most of us are not entrepreneurs. Many of us are quite content making a difference in our own spheres of life, but some of us long for a bigger impact.
William Wilberforce was Powered by Purpose
William Wilberforce was a homely little man who served in Britain’s House of Parliament. After he became a Christian, he reflected on God’s intention for his life. Soon, he was convinced of his purpose. He wrote perhaps the shortest and most challenging purpose statement I’ve ever read: “God Almighty has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the Slave Trade and the Reformation of Manners [turning people from vice to virtue].” England was the world’s greatest sea power, and much of its commerce was built on the backs of slave labor. For this reason, powerful forces in government and industry opposed Wilberforce’s efforts to free the slaves. He was sometimes physically beaten and often verbally ridiculed, but he was resolute in his purpose. Just days before he died, news reached him that a bill had passed to outlaw the slave trade. His purpose was fulfilled.