Why Are You Here?

The surest way to self reliance is to make money doing what you love. ~ Carl Weisman

Why are you here? Not, why are you here visiting this blog, although thank you for doing so. Why are you here? On planet Earth? At this moment in time? Have you ever thought about that? Most people haven’t, which is too bad.

Some people know why they are here and they have always known. I have often thought that the greatest gift you can ever been given is to know your life’s purpose at a young age. The problem is that only a precious few receive that gift. You know them: Tiger Woods, Bill Gates, Yo-Yo Ma. They never question how they spend their days. For the rest of  us, it is a—sometimes lifelong—journey, if we choose to embark on it at all: what is our life’s purpose?

How important you think the answer to that question is depends almost entirely on your age. In your twenties? Who cares, pass the beer. In your fifties? Can’t sleep at night not knowing the answer. Time is running out.

If you are like most people, myself included, the way you spend your days is one giant amalgamation of random events. Maybe it was the major you casually chose in college, or some part time job you took one summer or some charity at which you volunteered. Whatever the circumstance, most of us are in a place we did not thoughtfully or consciously choose. Life chose for us, and we dare not change because we are too busy trying to make ends meet.

When you are trying to make ends meet, it is difficult to ponder the question, “Why am I here?” But if you are struggling to make ends meet, either financially or emotionally, have you ever considered that not knowing the answer to that question maybe the reason why?

Half the people I speak with over the age of fifty cannot wait until the day they retire. Do you know why? They hate the way they spend their days. They want to do something else. They are  not living their life’s purpose.

I have spent the better part of the last five years searching for my life’s purpose (as if it were some treasure, just waiting to be dug up). Am I living it today? I am not sure. I can tell you what I have done in the last five years. I have acknowledged my strengths, identified my passions, narrowed down my genius and I now spend my free time doing what I love: writing. And one more thing: I will never stop looking. The answer is just too important.

I would like to think that sharing what I have learned on this journey is my life’s purpose, along the way inspiring others to discover theirs. Maybe, maybe not. In the mean time, I am pretty happy doing what I am doing and I have a vision for so much more. All the result of the continuous search for meaning. Maybe that’s the key: identifying your passion isn’t a destination but a journey. And there is one thing I am sure of: they key to your happiness and fulfillment depends on your being true to your journey and not anybody else’s. Are you ready to take that ride?

The Four Great Lies of the American Dream

Live like you’ll die tomorrow—learn like you’ll live forever. ~ Gandhi

One of the great things about America is the (apparent) freedom to do what you want. That has been its selling point all along. It is called the American Dream. But just because you can do something, does not mean you should. There is a very short list of things we have been told we should aspire to do or to own. In general, the things on this list are good things and many of us should aspire to them, but not everyone. And therein lies is the rub.

We have been sold this list as if we, the collective who occupies America, is a homogeneous entity. That everyone should aspire to these things. That is not the truth. There are times and circumstances under which the items on this list do more harm than good. Having the personal courage to recognize that in the face of the constant sales pitch can be quite a challenge.

The first lie is that everyone should buy a house. We can argue whether a house is a good long term investment, but I think by now, we can all agree there are good times to buy a house and lousy times. Like when prices are outrageously and historically high due to artificially low interest rates. Consequently, for some people, the numbers just do not make financial sense. And spending a lifetime in extreme debt, constantly teetering on bankruptcy, for the glory of home ownership is foolish. A reasonably priced rental with some savings in the bank is a much better life. After all, aren’t we all just renters anyway? Nobody takes their home with them when they go.

The second lie is that everyone should go to college. Unless you know exactly what you want to do with your life, college is an extremely expensive holding pattern. Expensive in both time and money. Even if you do know what you want to do, college may still not make sense. The numbers bear it out. Being a plumber, a truck driver or dental hygienist is a far better career move than going to college and majoring in all but a few disciplines. You will make far more money and your job will never be shipped overseas. Greater financial and employment security beats a piece of paper on the wall while searching for a job to pay off a mountain of debt.

The third lie is that everyone should get married. Having studied the subject of marriage and written two books on the subject, I feel qualified to say that some people should never get married (Tom Cruise!). You can love somebody without marrying them. You can have a child with somebody without marrying them. I accept that there is a lot of social pressure to marry, but a marriage that is destined to fail serves no purpose. I have met many happily never-married people. Their joy came not from remaining single, but from coming to terms with the idea that they made the correct life choice.

The fourth lie is that everyone should have kids. Just as with marriage, there is great societal expectation to procreate. But social expectation is not a sufficient reason to become a parent. For many people, not having children is their innate preference, but not all have the strength to stand up to that. I have chosen to forego fatherhood and have never questioned that decision. For me, the correct life path was to not have children. Everyone of us is on a different journey, and if yours is calling you to something other than parenthood, then that is the right decision for you, now matter how much you believe in the American Dream.

Mirror Mirror on the Wall – Damn You

The secret to success is to do something other than nothing. ~ Carl Weisman

If you do not like where you are at in life right now, I have some good news for you  and I have some bad news for you.

Maybe you are unemployed, or underemployed. Maybe you have a job, but you hate it—it does not fulfill you—and you feel trapped. Maybe you are deeply in debt or house poor. Maybe you cannot retire yet because you did not save enough. Maybe you are overweight and out of shape—or worse, sick. Whatever it is that makes you discontented, I have some good news and some bad news.

Maybe you think you are where you are because the government has not created enough jobs. Or your employer shipped your job overseas. Or your union let you down. Or medical care is too expensive. Or younger people have more current job skills. Or the bank lent you more money than you could reasonably afford to repay. Or society has too much fast food. Whatever your belief, I have some good news and some bad news.

The bad news first. The source of all your problems is in the mirror. Step up to the mirror and take a look. The first thing you will notice is that the mirror does not accept your lies. You can lie to everyone else about why you are where you are, but not the mirror. It is a cold and ruthless antagonist that knows the truth, and will not let you run from it. How long can you stand there and stare at the truth? You want to believe the source of your problems is somewhere other than in the mirror, but the mirror knows better. The only thing left for you is acceptance. How long will it take? Time is wasting.

Now for the good news. The solution to all of your problems is also in the mirror: the dream job, good health, financial security. Whatever it is you think you want or need can be found in the depths of the mirror. It is a one-stop shop for all that life has to offer—limited only by your imagination.

Now step up and take another look into the mirror. See the power, the potential, the light. It is there. It may have been dormant for a while, but it is there. You cannot deny that it is there, the mirror does not accept that lie either. It is there. The only thing left for you is acceptance. How long will it take? Time is wasting.

And how will you know of your acceptance, your belief in the power in the mirror? What will be the outward manifestation of your belief? You will take action. You will put one foot in front of the other and start walking away from your problems and toward the magnificent, self-reliant you. And on the day you take that first step, and not some other unknown day in the future, your life will be what you dreamt of it. Thank the damn mirror