Archives For Purpose

Energy

September 7, 2014 — Leave a comment
Energy

Energy.  As I’ve gotten older I’ve learned that other than time, energy is the most important thing we manage.  Generating, managing and increasing our capacity for energy.

And the thing is, if you’ve got no energy then you can’t make the most of the time you have.

There are things that sap your energy and things that give you energy.  Dealing with the unimportant and spending time with difficult people…draining!  Hard work, however, actually helps create happiness and energy.  Not only have I found that to be true in my own life, but there’s actual research to back it up.

The thing is, most of us guys don’t think about how we expend our energy.  We just spend it on whatever catches our eye first or most powerfully.

And there’s so much to do!  Developing our relationship with our wives, playing with our kids (one more time daddy!), building a career, networking professionally, developing relationships with those we want to have deeper friendships with and getting in some hobbies and much-desired down time. Oh, and then you have to remember to grow yourself, do the lawn, help around the house, plan a family vacation, etc.  (And even the etc. seems big sometimes…)

The reality is that there isn’t enough to go around.  It’s an equal reality that most of us don’t manage or work on increasing our energy capacity either, though.

Consider this – do you think about what kind of activities leave you refreshed and energized?  What about the stuff that you mindlessly do that doesn’t actually refresh you at all?  (Yes, I mean TV.)  Do you notice how your eating habits affect the energy you have?  Ever wondered about that mid-afternoon coma that you slip into every day?  Maybe that has something to do with what you ate up until that point…

Or how about sleep?  Life satisfaction?  If you’re not happy with your life and the direction of it, do you have a plan?  An accountability partner?  If you don’t think having a plan matters much, try reading this post by Eric Barker.

Thing is, if we’re to have any chance of leading our families well and leaving powerful legacies it’s gonna take a heck of a lot of energy.

Strength from painTime can’t be increased.  You have what you’ve been given.  Period.  But energy can be increased.  And I think it all comes down to thinking like an athlete training their body.  Increased capacity always – let me highlight this – always comes via pain.  And what is energy but increased strength of spirit, mind and body?

Train your muscles and they get sore.  Push your mind to grow and it can hurt.  Stretch your spirit to bare more than it ever has and I promise you’ll feel it.

But then you wake up one day and find that you can do more than you could before.  I think it’s a mindset.  It’s a mindset that not only embraces pain but yearns for it as an indication you’re alive.

How often do you wake up and say “Today…I raise the bar. No zero entry pool – I’m jumping in deep.”  (And then really go for it?)

We want to leave a legacy.  To lead our families.  For our kids to grow up and become men and women we’re proud to know.  We want our team at work or in the community to push hard and do great things.

Significance of any kind requires focused, intense energy.  Don’t just charge in thinking you can change only your determination and end up with different results.

Begin by building the right foundations.  Actively think about your energy.  Know your current limits, manage within those current limits realistically (based on priorities) and learn to embrace the pain of increasing your energy capacity.  If ever there was a time where “no pain, no gain” was a good thing to say it’s now.

It begins right now with you and me thinking about how we can increase our capacity for energy.  If we start, those we lead will follow.  In fact, they’re already following.  The question is where are you leading them – to increasing or decreasing strength and energy?

Insecurity is something we all deal with.  On some level, it is one of the core causes of all our oddities and quirks.  I’d even argue that the most confident, bold person you know still has a bit of insecurity lurking in their heart in some amount.  And unchecked, it can destroy the environments we are a part of.

insecurity

As dads, we see insecurity pop up in our kids as they begin to venture out of the shelter of our homes and into the real world.  When they find some exposure to the world that doesn’t think they’re amazing for being born, they can easily fall prey to attacks of insecurity.

Our jobs as fathers is to help our kids face that world and be able to have a confidence in themselves that is both based on something real and solid enough to weather the storm coming at them.

Honestly, it is a bit sad watching how some people go about this with their kids.  Generic praise like “You’re so amazing” and “You are just the greatest little fella.”  While there isn’t anything wrong with saying these things, there also is much right about it either.  In other words, if you don’t give your kids some concrete feedback on why they are amazing that is based on truth you’re creating a fragile shell that won’t last outside of your home.

Another version of this is what I call overreaching praise.  It’s where parents don’t know what to praise in their kids so they reach for everything.  “Wow, you put your pants on better than anyone I’ve ever seen!”  Of course, this is a over-dramatized example, but you’ve heard it before.

If you work with other humans in any capacity (which we all do), you’ve witnessed insecurity at different levels in most everyone.  Whether it plays out as an overly aggressive person or a reserved, reluctant approach, insecurity not only holds that person back but the whole team suffers.  Insecurity is contagious.  It is frustrating.  It is hard on everyone.

The hardest part of this is that our natural tendency is to attack insecurity with either harshness or cliches.

Get over it!  Just do it!  Quit worrying about what other people think.  You just need to start working and stop over-thinking things.  Ugh!  Why don’t you get it?

You can do it!  You can do anything you set your mind to!  If you believe it you can achieve it!

Natural reactions, of course, are often wrong.  And they push insecurity further into the person by either confirming they are incompetent or creating internal skepticism of your obviously weak and foundation-less “motivation.”

So what to do?

Acceptance.  Acceptance is the real cure for insecurity. This is why people join with groups that are unhealthy. Stay in relationships that drag them down.

Acceptance is: letting people be who they are and loving them anyway.  Being able to appreciate someone as a unique and beautiful creation and that part of their beauty is their cracks.

Acceptance is not: letting people remain in their faults or believe they don’t need to work on them.  Enabling people in their bad habits and issues.

Feeling acceptance from someone gives us a pathway to accept ourselves. Not to think we don’t have weaknesses. Not to think we have it all right or are without gaps in our abilities. But to accept that being the complete package isn’t being perfect or “all together” but instead being in process and joyful in the journey.

Being o.k. with having flaws is one of the most appealing characteristics a person can have.  My wife and I have discussed many times what makes a woman attractive.  I have maintained before and will continue to do so here – hands down it’s confidence.  Not the cocky, look-at-me kind of confidence (which isn’t confidence anyway).  But the quiet, humble confidence that comes from having faced your demons, found the good in yourself and resolutely determined to lean into that discovery.

If we want to build a generation of people that can weather the storms of this world with grace and power, we have to arm them with something real to believe in.  The beginning of that is real acceptance.  Have you learned to accept yourself?  Really?  If so, I’ll bet you’re pretty good at accepting those around you.

OK, so it has been a little silent here for a while. At first I just got busy…then I just got lazy…and now I’ve learned a really valuable lesson.

Don't be lazy

The reality is that I was busy and I did need a break. But reality has a way of being hard to pin down. Wasn’t it also a reality that building this blog was part of my goals? Isn’t digging into the lessons I’m learning by writing about them urgently important both for me and my boys?

Like the management guru Peter Drucker said, “What gets measured gets managed.” I tweaked that a bit and found that in life at home and at work,

What isn’t scheduled isn’t consistently done.

I failed to live my life and instead got caught up in letting life happen to me.  How many times have you let that happen?  Projects that seem to languish.  Strategies that sit stale.  Amazing ideas that wither up and die on an idea board.  Words that are meant to be said.  Games meant to be played.  Tickle fights dreamed about.

Vince Lombardi once stood in front of a group of seasoned veteran football players and held up a football.  “Gentlemen, this is a football.”  Coach Lombardi was well known for his fanaticism on the basics.  Blocking and tackling.  Master the basics and you’ll win.  It’s time for a little more Lombardi in my life.

So I’ve begun compiling my list of basics.  What are the things that must be in my life and get done every day for me to get where I want to be? This isn’t a comprehensive list, but here is a part of mine:

  • Daily download with my wife
  • Dinner & play time with the kids
  • Personal development (reading, meditation, courses, etc.)
  • Writing
  • Workout
  • Planning the next day/week

Blocking and tackling in my world. There is more and some of this can look different from week to week. But these things are daily. Not options to think about or get done if I can. These get planned to the exclusion of other things. You may note that my daily work isn’t in this list. That’s intentional. Maybe you can relate, but I’ve found that daily activities of my work just sort of happen. I don’t have to remember to close deals, create new opportunities, create account growth strategies and keep tabs on projects in production.

I may not post every day, but I will be writing every day. And if I can find the strength to keep this up, little by little I’ll build a life that was worth living.

Do you ever get caught in the trap of letting life happen to you? What do you do about it and what is your basics list?

Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.

Shannon L. Alder

I love the story by Mark Twain about Tom Sawyer convincing other people to whitewash a fence for him and pay him for the privilege.  How in the world was he able to get them to do that?  No matter how many times I’ve tried, I can’t get my friends to cut my lawn for me.  Show me the dad that knows people well enough to have this kind of leverage with his family and I’ll show you a man who has enormous power both at home and at work.

Convincing others to join your movement
Photo Credit: Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Experience for me is more like this: My wife and I were talking one night, just doing the daily download we try to make a habit, and she began telling me about her frustrations with motherhood.  She wanted to get things done but the kids just seemed bent on preventing her from accomplishing anything.  As she shared this with me my mind immediately went into command and control mode.  There was a problem and I could solve it!  The next day I spent a few minutes creating a structure for her day and strategies during each period for how she would keep the kids from preventing her progress.  There were room times, book reading times, group cleaning sessions and carefully coordinated opportunities for play.  It was perfect!

That night I told her that I’d worked on her issue and had a solution.  We walked through my plan and I explained all the many sides of the approach.  I told her how to train the kids to dutifully comply with the new schedule.  I was eloquent, smart and passionate.  Then I saw her expression…

 

Bored Wife
Photo Credit: HBO

So how can we go from a great idea we have to getting our families and teams to own them? Leaders who get steam behind their ideas have learned to S.T.O.P.  Over the next few weeks I’m going to dive deeper into each of these and see if we can’t flesh some of this out.

  1. See with their eyes.  The key to all buy-in is in learning to ask good questions.  In the beginning you’ve got to ask questions that get you involved in their worlds.  Dad, this means making sure you instill habitual conversation points with your kids and your wife. Leaders, this means having intentional lines of communication with those on your teams.  When you come alongside your families and team members you see what they value and can better implement change that matters.
  2. Talk with their words.  Any communicator knows that words have power.  But do you know which words have power to the person you’re talking to at any given moment?  Dad, you’ve experienced that moment when you explain something to your kids with words that are over their head.  Eyes glaze over, mouths slightly open…and the moment’s gone.  Inside the walls of your home or the office, you have to know how people speak to each other in order to maximize your connection.  And that means spending time with them.
  3. Ownership – give it away.  Dad, when your kids are feverishly attempting to get something done – who came up with the idea 99% of the time?  Yup…they did.  Obviously, the reason people go above and beyond the requirements of their job to accomplish a goal or complete a project is because they find value in it.  Look closely enough and you’ll more than likely find that they either initiated the project or help shape the goal.  So when you identify the problem to be solved or the opportunity to be realized, ask for help in designing the solution.  Offer up something for their minds to latch onto.  Break their existing perspective on something indirectly so they can begin processing this new idea.  Then engage them in a quest to mutually discover what the “new normal” should be based on the expanded view of the world.
  4. Push the credit to others and own the blame.  Most leaders don’t get massive buy-in the first time they try.  Like any relationship this depends on trust.  But if you learn to freely give away credit and take responsibility when things don’t go right, each time you go after buy-in you’ll get a cumulative effect from previous experiences.  

So if you’ve either failed to gain momentum in a previous effort or are about to start something that needs other people to succeed, make sure you S.T.O.P. to speed up.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  What are some ways you’ve learned to build excitement and action around your ideas?  

For a while I’ve had a bit of a passing interest in following some of the “startup world” as it’s called. Primarily the technology companies that dream of one day growing to scale and being bought for billions of dollars. Some of the dream team in this arena would be companies like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and even Google just to name some of them. I’ve followed blogs, listened to podcasts and even read some books by and about the famous entrepreneurs. At first it was all really fascinating and sometimes energizing to hear these fiery entrepreneurs talk about the rigors of building a growth company. Even though I’m not in the startup world I found a lot of inspiration to work hard, believe in myself and to be creative in my work.

Also, since I’m in a small company that is working hard to evolve and grow I read a good number of business books. One of the topics I like to read on is building a culture in a company and how important it is. The fierce determination and energy of the start-up world and the study of building culture is both exciting and applicable in your daily work life. (Which I find is fairly rare.)

Not only can I apply the knowledge and approaches in the office but I can often find nuggets of wisdom in being a better dad. After all, isn’t being a dad really similar being the entrepreneur/CEO of a startup?

World-Is-ChangingBut lately I’ve started to have a creeping feeling that this once scrappy and exciting arena of start-ups is starting to get, well, self-obsessed. It seems like every other blog post I read or discussion I get into the idea of doing work that “matters” comes up. If you’re going to build a company that lasts you’ve got to focus on “changing the world,” scream the new experts in startups and business literature. Go big or go home! Build a culture that helps people transcend the basic needs and find self-actualization and purpose!

“Wait,” you may think. “Isn’t that good advice? Don’t you want people trying to change the world? Daring to do bold things?”

My answer would be, “It depends.” The issue I take isn’t with the idea as much as it is the broad and exclusive application of and the assumptions these statements make. Let me state my points:

  • It seems very self-congratulatory. So often when I hear people talk of how their company is going to change the world, it comes across to me more as a marketing ploy or ego boost than an earnest passion. As if they are trying really hard to be bigger than they really are so people will buy their widget or come work for them. Are they trying to convince me or themselves? Or perhaps they just needed more hugs from daddy. 
  • “Changing the world” is almost meaningless. By definition, when I wake up every day I change the world. Every decision I make, person I interact with, circumstance I’m in, things I create/destroy, etc. is a change to the world we’re in. So what does it mean to “change the world” anyway? Personally I believe saying you’re trying to change the world is just lazy. Lazy because it’s easier to say that than it is to solve a specific problem and be o.k. that solving this problem alone isn’t giving the world an overhaul but it is no less worth doing anyway. 
  • Not all businesses need to be built to change the world to be successful. There are countless companies begun by motivated, smart people that weren’t out to do anything to the world other than make their way in it. There was an idea, a desire and a willingness to work for the dream of accomplishment on its own merit. And what do you know? Some of them actually did change the world. 
  • It assumes that people find self-actualization or purpose because of work. Now, I get that we spend most of our lives at work so we should try to do what we love. But when I hear people almost piously talking about building companies and cultures that help people feel like they have purpose, I have to wonder if they’re deluded or just plain arrogant. Sure, maybe there are organizations that are doing work that by its nature is derived from deep purpose. But most organizations are doing things that aren’t like that. I’m not saying people’s work is without purpose. I’m questioning if they find purpose because of work vs. finding purpose and then applying it to their work. And if someone did base their purpose on their work I think they are standing on a very shaky foundation. (Which, ironically, would be bad for the team they’re a part of.) 
  • It completely deludes most people. All the zealous screams for doing work that really, really matters and changes the world is closely akin to the ridiculous statement we’ve all heard people tell their kids. “You can do anything you set your mind to, honey.” The problem is that it isn’t true. You can’t do anything you set your mind to. If so, someone would be Superman by now. I really want laser vision and steel skin. Not gonna happen. Similarly, when you elevate the definition of work that “matters” to meaning it must have some legacy leaving impact that will be remembered in the books of history, you have at the same time just told 99.9% of the people listening to you that they can’t do work that matters. And make no mistake, that is the message that is coming through. Which brings me to my final point…
  • It totally demeans most of humanity. There was a time not long ago when we honored anyone who supported their family by dependably working at something that added any value to society. It didn’t matter if they were the CEO of a large company, an entrepreneur, a missionary or a janitor at the local elementary school. There was honor and dignity in diligent work. (Notice I didn’t say that all were equally rewarded or admired.) So along with my previous point, raising the definition of meaningful work to be history book worthy insults the mass majority of people who will never achieve that level of results. Not to mention it ironically dooms many of the very people pitching this idea to never achieving anything “meaningful.”

And this didn’t make the list because frankly I have no idea how to expound on it yet or if it makes sense. But a phrase came to me as I thought about this issue the other day and I haven’t been able to shake it. “If everyone is out to change the world, how can we know what the change should be since there is no one living in the world that exists now?”

Many people will likely say I’m misinterpreting or twisting what is being taught, and it may not be the well-intentioned aim of those giving this advice. But results, not intent, is the measure of value. And the results I see are people that get so caught up in trying to achieve some level of transcendence in their work that they are never able to really just be happy. I see companies that are building relatively mundane products and services burn out (or at least look ridiculous) because they stretch so hard to make their business seem like it is fundamental to the human story. Why not just build your relatively mundane company on great values, make a great living (or sell for a large amount) and let your impact not be on the world at large but on the people you get a chance to interact with? Make the lives of others richer and help them reach their goals while you build a financially prosperous company. That may not be remembered by the world but it will certainly have a long range impact.

Or what about being a dad? If I raise kids that are strong, productive and valiant men and women…have I not changed the world for the better?

Instead of telling people to change the world why don’t we talk about playing a positive, inspiring role in our communities? That may have nothing or everything to do with what they do in their work. It may not be something your company’s culture affects directly. What our company’s cultures and purposes should do is create environments where people find the camaraderie, expression and development they need to be energized from their experiences with us instead of drained. When we have a society of people that are constantly energized and are progressively finding their life’s purpose, collectively we will achieve something worthy of the history books.

I’d love to hear from any of you on this. Where am I off base? Why do we need more of the message about changing the world? What points am I missing?

I’ve been talking with my wife about legacy a lot in the last year. As in, A…LOT. What it is, what it means, how we do it right. So when I heard that Reggie Joiner was doing a series at Gwinnett Church about legacy I was obviously interested in tuning in. I would highly suggest checking it out. He has some really great points, even if you aren’t into the whole “God” thing. http://www.northpointministries.org/gwinnett/messages/legacy.  (On a side note, I just read a post at The Smart Bear blog where a guy who would be rated as successful by most people’s terms wrestles with this idea as well.  Always interesting to see how this issue affects all of us the same.)

There were two things he mentioned Cherie and I have talked about before, so they really resonated with me. I’ve been marinating on them for a few days now and thought I’d put my thoughts into text since that usually helps me begin to get clarity. Here are those two points:

  1. You will be forgotten
  2. Look for the bigger picture not the better life

Yep, that’s right.  Even Mr. Jobs will be forgotten eventually.  (To all the Apple fan club, I’m sorry.  But he’ll still be forgotten.)

steve-jobs-in-time-magazine-front-cover

How can a Time cover person be forgotten? Time.

The first time the idea that I’d be forgotten really settled into my heart was almost a cliche moment. I was laying in bed unable to sleep staring at the clock one night. (No, it wasn’t raining.) But I had a thought running through my head. No matter what I do, no matter how “big” I become in this life the likelihood is that when I’m gone and my great grandchildren are adult I will have been reduced to a few stories. A generation or two after that and I’ll be completely forgotten. In other words, nothing I do will be remembered or matter.

Facing this truth isn’t hard. It’s crushing. What do you do with that? If nothing matters and it’s all to be forgotten why not just stop? Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die!

At about the time I was ready to drive to the nearest 24 hour liquor store and start getting my Leaving Las Vegas on, a thought began to form in my mind. What if being forgotten was the best thing I could have happen to me? Knowing I’ll be forgotten forces me to stop thinking about, well, myself. Leaving a legacy isn’t about me creating something but instead jumping into something. It’s about seeing the story that is unfolding around me in the world. Getting deeply passionate about the human race and living to push that drama in a better direction. To put it in Reggie’s words, I could stop focusing on the better life and start focusing on the bigger picture.

The bigger picture. That is the answer to meaning. It isn’t being remembered or powerful. It isn’t even about building something that outlasts me. Because anything I create will eventually die. What I can do that no one else in all history is able to do is make the direct impact on the people around me like I can. I can be a ripple in their lives that drives our small worlds in better directions. They can do the same in theirs and together our little ripples will form a tsunami of change that happens over generations.

Think about the “great” people of our times. Billy Graham, Mother Theresa, Ghandi. What do they all have in common? Over 99% of the population in the world couldn’t name even one of their parents. But without the family that preceded them would they have been able to be the great men and women they became? Good, bad or indifferent the legacy of their families helped make them who they were. Without those people there would have been no Billy Graham. No Ghandi. No Lincoln or Churchill.

So no, I may not ever be a “great” person and I will likely be forgotten. But the things I set in motion with my life may create a lift in the tide of my heritage that gives someone down the line the foundation to stand on to be recognized as great. I will have helped the human story be richer. Those around me will have a bigger impact because of the ripples I sent out.

And that makes being forgotten an exciting thing.

handoff

Legacy. A word that can inspire people to greatness, crush them in despair or ignite generational wars. What is it? What does it mean? Why does it have such power…even for those of us that don’t think about it at all?

I intend on exploring this issue for the rest of my life. That’s because for the rest of my life I’ll be creating my legacy, reacting to other people’s legacy and trying to tear down some legacies. Heck, it’s like air. You have to breath and so you have to interact with it. It isn’t a question of importance. It’s a question of quality. If you live in a world with low quality air your life suffers. But if the air is clean and rich in good qualities, then you have more energy, health, better sleep, etc.

Think about it. The best things in your life are related in some way to it. Your wife? She is partially the result of the legacy of the family she comes from. Your kids? They are partially the result of the legacy of your family and the legacy you are creating as they grow up. Your job? It is the legacy of someone that started that company and the legacy created by those that have run it until now. We are all part of the legacy we were born into with the human race.

But go a level deeper. We are all part of a much, much bigger story that’s unfolding. Since I love trying to model things visually to help me get a better mental construct I just began playing with it and came up with the concentric circles approach.  (Sorry for the image quality.  Still learning the ropes with some of my programs.)

Legacy Circles

When I first began putting this together I naturally started with “You” in the middle and went out from there. But that just didn’t sit well with me. I think this is a much better way of looking at things. But my point is that when you think about legacy, it isn’t just yours that needs to be dealt with. You have to deal with the legacy you’re creating and how it interacts with all the broader legacy of the other circles. Where do you have barriers to overcome? How will your legacy fit into the bigger picture? What things can you benefit from in the legacy of others? For example, if you want to leave a strong legacy for your kids and ignore the impact on your community or from your community, your impact will be diminished or possibly have the reverse effect. Likewise, if you ignore the story that has been unfolding in your family line you will miss opportunities to improve the legacy you leave in your part of the family line.

Side note: Some of you will note that I’m missing a circle…the God one. That was intentional for a few reasons. First, I wasn’t sure where to put it. The instinctive place is the middle. After all, he would be the central point of the story. But isn’t he also involved in the lives of individuals directly? So his impact isn’t just something that ripples to us from a larger picture but, in fact, starts ripples within our lives. But putting him at any point other than the center would feel wrong too. Secondly, I didn’t put it in there because I think there are many people interested in the issue of legacy that aren’t thinking in terms of God. And a good discussion brings in many perspectives.

So here we are. A beginning point to a discussion about how to live not just a successful life, but a significant life. What makes up a significant life? How do you plan to get there? Is there even a difference between successful and significant? When is your life deemed significant? Let me know what you think and let’s do some exploring together.

footloose1

“I want to dance in Logi’s room!” (That’s Caleb’s pet name for his kid brother Logan.)

It’s T-minus 20 minutes and counting until bed time. With bellies full of Chic Fil A and more energy than can be spent in any day, mom was ready for some down time and the boys were ready to move to the beat. Next thing I know Kanye West is in the room and I’m dancing in rhythmic circles with my 3 year old to the sound of Love Lockdown. Boom boom BOOM boom. Boom boom BOOM boom. Boom boom BOOM boom. “I’m not lovin’ you. Way I wanted to. What I had to do. Had to run from you-u. I’m in love with you.”

Squatted down, hands smackin’ the horse as we jump forward in circles and laughing uproarously – it’s the toddler dance off. Showing off all the moves. From the horse rider to the swim to the 80’s hip hop retro moves we break it down for none to see. Logan, who’s been playing with train’s in the play room decides it’s time this thing got started for real. Toddling in, he tosses his best moves down like 4 aces in a backroom poker match. Jumping up and down and pumping the arms like he means it, now this party is moving.

I scoop both the boys up, one in each arm, and we’re jumping and dancing together to the magical sounds of Counting Crows singing the theme song from Shrek. They’re looking at each other and laugh/screaming. I’m pouring sweat and loving every second of it. The song ends and we’ve hit bedtime. Climbing into bed, I talk with each of them for a few minutes and treasure the moment.

This is every day life the way it was meant to be. Small memories that only take minutes to create but last a lifetime. Joy arising from simple opportunities taken to enjoy each other. Legacy built in my life and theirs. It’s moments like this that remind me that it isn’t just me building value into my boys but just how much value they add to my life. They help me remember that the “important” stuff I did at the office really doesn’t matter that much. They help me let go of all the good and the bad that fighting to make my mark in the world brings with it and just simply…love. By the time we’re done my joy is unshakable and I walk downstairs to hang with the woman of my dreams and write this post. Speaking of which, I’ve gotta go!

The other day I was with some friends and we were discussing what makes a life look different from others. Specifically, being Christ-followers, we were talking about what could make our lives look noticeably different than non-followers. Now, I know this is a risky topic to take on because of the incredibly emotional nature of the discussion. But I think this is relevant for anyone really. Don’t we all want to live a life that is somehow different than the masses of humanity?

MatrixWe’ve all seen the Matrix. And if you haven’t, stop reading this blog right now and go rent all three of them and get to work. Seriously. (Me tapping my fingers as some of you leave…) Okay, now that we are all on the same page, don’t you sometimes feel like Neo? Not that you live in a matrix and the real world is at war with artificial intelligence. But that when you look around you it appears so many people walk around in almost a drone-like trance. If you ask people why they do things and they were honest much of the time I think you’d end up with something like…because. That’s it.

Don’t you want to just shake them? Yell in their face to start thinking and wake up? But that is exactly the issue. Have you first asked yourself if you are walking in the same trance? There is a reason that daily life seems so unchanged and mundane throughout history. Yes, the environment changes. The clothing changes. The technology and organization changes. But fundamentally not much really is different from 1,000 years ago. We are born and want to grow up fast while our parents tell us to slow down. We play, learn and strive to be a man or a woman. We seek out independence and freedom from the bounds of our childhood homes. We seek out work. We find work. We look to advance in our work. We build stuff. We seek for even more stuff in our lives. We want connection with other people. We meet that special someone. We have kids. We complain about having no time to play anymore. We complain that youth is wasted on the young. We pay taxes. We die. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Wow. I’m not really that much of a downer I swear. But isn’t that the thing we fear? Pointlessness. That if you strip away all the Facebook bluster about how exciting our lives are and take away the occasional fun experiences our lives just about follow this kind of progression. This is where we stood the other day asking the question: What makes our lives look any different from other lives?

If this were an easy answer I wouldn’t be putting it in a blog post. I’d be putting it on a piece of paper in a bottle and selling it for millions per bottle. I can’t solve this. The best I can do is give a single perspective in a maze of views. The single thought that I have had since that night is this: Our actions should hint that our minds are focused on something other than the things that make this life better.

Here’s the point: if this life has looked the same for so many for so long, should start looking elsewhere? Maybe you believe that there is no afterlife and there is no God. OK. But can you at least see that living for the betterment of mankind as a whole (i.e., beyond your life) is carries a greater legacy than anything else you could do with your life? And if you are a believer (of any sort, really), shouldn’t you be focused on the next life more than this one? Simple math tells you that even if you live 150 years on this earth that eternity is waaaayyy longer than that.

But here’s the thing, how many of us live day to day thinking about life beyond the here and now? I’d wager the number is pretty much zero. Why? After millions of years of being on the earth (or thousands depending on your persuasion), learning how to deconstruct DNA and build computers that can almost think as well as a human, why have we not realized that optimizing this life means thinking beyond it? I’m not saying this is a new thought nor am I saying this is particularly revolutionary. It’s not. And yet you and I don’t live this way.

The question I’m asking here is what does your life point to? What does my life point to? When I’ve died and been gone for 100 years, what will it have mattered that I was here? Maybe I’ll attempt an answer to that at some point. For today, I’ll just let that question sit.