I don’t know the exact moment in my career when everything changed. I just know it did. I woke up one day and I could see the path laid before me. I knew exactly where I was and by way of being told, I also knew where I wasn’t going. And that is how I knew I was on the wrong path, headed in the wrong direction.
Our work, jobs—the most amazing and important things we do, are all to create a special place belonging to each of us in different ways. These creations or structures are composed of our moral code. Not the kind of code society imposes on us. But the kind of code where our soul tells us on a visceral level, what to do next. By and large people really don’t know how to move forward when there’s so much uncertainty in the outcome. Whether it be financially, job security, or remaining comfortable in routine.
Something is always at stake when we don’t know what’s ahead. Our integrity. Our serenity. Our communities. Our comfort. Our definition of success. But that mystery is not the curse of our existence. It’s the wonder. It’s our obligation to take our dreams and visions and transform them into those creations, those structures.
I always say stress and anxiety just means you care. And nothing is wrong with that. As poet, David Whyte, said (and I’m paraphrasing here). “In the middle of the road of my life I woke in a dark wood where the true way was wholly lost. How do you know that you’re on the right path, your path? Because it disappears, that’s how you know. How do you know that you’re really doing something radical? Because you can’t see where you’re going, that’s how you know. But you may enter the contemplative splendor of self-doubt at the same time as you’re setting out on this radical new path.” So you have to know where you are in the midst of anxiety and stress and where you are is called here. Stand still. Because you aren’t lost. You are merely on a course of discovery. Somewhere between no longer and not yet, what we’ve survived—we find ourselves in the continuous fold of who we are becoming.
Struggle, failure, disillusionment will be part of our story. But it is not our defining moment. We become the manifestation of our many journeys. When one door closes, you realize you have the eyes to see the world and its possibility in full color. You find freedom. You have not ended. You’ve simply changed directions and kept on going. You’ve learned that anything that costs you your inner peace is far too expensive. You’ve learned how to be by knowing who not to be. People think that mentors come to you in knight’s clothing with charm, charisma and ego to boot. With the exception of a few wonderful women and men, my best mentors weren’t the best people. Not even close. But I so value these individuals, so I listened to what they weren’t saying and what they weren't doing and I wrote about the silence.
I once heard ego is merely the anesthesia that deadens the pain of stupidity. I couldn’t agree more. As my father told me just the other day, (paraphrased) “love many, trust few, and row your own canoe.” He continued with, “The longer you live the smarter you become. When your life experience equals your education, you achieve wisdom. And wisdom is your life IQ. I survived my career by being the wisest person in the room—but not the smartest. Knowing who to trust is not everything but it is critically important. Education is a strong foundation but your house is built from your life choices. And those choices become your life experience.” (He’s the best).
Of this be sure. Life is not about winning and losing, its about never giving up. Be kinder to yourself. Then let your kindness flood the world. May this be the principle and foundation of the human project, the human story, the human encounter, your next decision and my next choice.
May we move forward and toward one another in gratitude, forgiveness, and love. My vision is that people will become of interest to one another in a profound, sincere way--without agenda. That we can live well together despite the awful truth that our mixed intentions sometimes have the unmixed impact of life altering consequence. I hope we can learn to see that dignity which resides in us all. The sort of divinity that comes when we value the other more than we value ourselves. We all have a story to tell. But know your story is not your identity. Neither is your job. Use your voice to tell those stories that hold up moments where we find our ability to make change.
Authentic, life altering change happens at the level of gesture. It’s everyone doing something different than we’ve done before. But always know your worth. Never sacrifice yourself, others, or your values because of a need for acceptance. Embrace the mystery of tomorrow and let your response to what is to come - big or small - be simple:
Today is our becoming.