49 Chapters
Medium 9781605095233

Chapter 4 The Gift of Purpose

Leider, Richard J. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Service is not possible unless it is rooted in love and nonviolence. The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.

Mahatma Gandhi

Life purpose is a gift that you give naturally and spontaneously. Remember those times when people you care about wanted you to share with them? Maybe they were in need and asked for your contribution. Think about what you love doing and what you want to contribute naturally. What do you want to give others that would make a difference for them? What is it that you see naturally, that you would like them to see for themselves?

Your life purpose is a gift for three reasons. First, you didn’t have to earn it—it came with your birth. Second, it is a gift because you get something for yourself when you interact on purpose. And third, it is a gift to others because they get something from you that is theirs to keep. This chapter will help you realize that you are uniquely gifted for serving others, and will show how your own story can help you uncover your purpose, gifts, and passions.

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Medium 9781626565609

Chapter 4: Reimagining Passions—Why Do You Do It?

Leider, Richard J. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

To explore the nature of meaningful work, we must confront the big philosophical question: “What is the meaning of life?” In The Meaning of Life, philosopher Hugh S. Moorhead collected statements on life’s meaning from 250 writers and scholars. Novelist James Michener wrote: “The main purpose of life is: 1) to have a job in whose purpose you can believe; 2) to have friends whose immediate purposes you can trust; 3) to have some spot on earth which you can return to as home; and 4) to be at the same time a citizen of the world.”

It is no surprise that Michener lists work first. “We put our love where we have put our labor,” wrote Emerson. “To work is to pray,” said St. Benedict. “Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing,” said Theodore Roosevelt. Love, prayer, a prize—is this how you see work? And if you do not, is it not a shame? Is there not something missing when we spend most of our lives, and certainly the greater part of our waking hours, engaged in something that is not a gesture of love, a prayer, or a prize? Faulkner wrote that one of the saddest things is that the only thing people can do for eight hours a day, day after, day, is work. He observed that we cannot eat or drink or make love for eight hours—and literally, he is right. But when our work sustains us, when it becomes an act of love, then perhaps it is not so sad at all. Perhaps it is something to celebrate. Perhaps eight hours a day is not even long enough to really sustain things.

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Medium 9781626565609

Chapter 2: Reimagining Calling—Should You Quit Your Day Job?

Leider, Richard J. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

When people are introduced to the idea of reimagining work, it is not uncommon for them to respond in something like the following way: “It sounds great in theory, but I think I should be grateful just to have a job. I’m just trying to get by, doing what it takes to make ends meet. I know there is more to life than this, but I can’t see what it is or how to get it. I’m working harder than ever, but somehow, I’m accomplishing less. I’m stressed out and the problem is that all the alternatives—changing my career, starting over, finding something different—seem overwhelming. How can I trade the security of my job for the uncertainty of a fresh start? I feel guilty even thinking about the luxury of meaningful work. My parents would never have complained in this way.”

Does this sound familiar at all?

Few of us really have the “luxury” of having the perfect job—the one that really engages our gifts, where we are only focused on projects we are passionate about, and where the culture is consistent with our deepest values. But even if we do not experience that ideal, we do have the “luxury” of choosing how we experience our work. We have some control—not complete freedom perhaps, but some choice over what parts of our job we focus on and thus, some degree of control over what our work is like.

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Medium 9781576754566

Chapter 4: Why Purpose is Good Medicine

Leider, Richard J. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

77

One should not search for an abstract meaning of life. Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life to carry out a concrete assignment which demands fulfillment.

Viktor Frankl

On a walking safari in Africa, you walk on well-worn century-old trails, through savannahs and fields of tall grass, across fast-moving streams on slippery fallen logs, and over tree-covered plains teeming with wildlife of all sizes. And that’s what we’ve been doing all morning.

Our group has covered half a dozen miles since breakfast in a variety of terrains. We have seen thousands of birds and animals of all sizes. We have experienced mist and rain and now, around noon, sun that beats down fiercely from overhead. In short, it has been a perfect day for a hike and we are all, though tiring, totally into it and completely up for more of the same this afternoon.

But just as we begin to set a course through the low acacia trees that mark our path to our afternoon’s destination, Daudi points out a sight that changes our plans for the day.

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Medium 9781576754566

Chapter 5: Connecting with others

Leider, Richard J. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

103

How long the road is. But for all the time the journey has already taken, how you have needed every second of it in order to learn what the road passes by.

Dag Hammarskjöld

In a grassy clearing beneath the shadows of massive rock formations, we’re gathered together to form a circle, all 14 of us, middle-aged and older men on this “inventure” safari through northern Tanzania. It is the second-to-last night of our two weeks together and we have begun to reflect on what it will be like to return to “civilization” and our “real lives.”

Richard reminds us that “re-entry” can be a challenge; people who have not been on a trip like this may find stories about and accounts of our experience boring, off-putting, or simply meaningless. If we arrive face-to-face with loved ones, co-workers, and family and begin regaling them with tales of our African adventure, they may recoil, shut down, or otherwise ignore us.

So the key advice we are given is to practice “your story, my story.” Let others tell you their stories before telling yours. Rather than inundating our audience with a deluge of details from our trip, we are cautioned to create a two-way flow of stories that allows us to drink in the experiences of those who haven’t shared ours.

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