Looking death in the face and its effect on purpose

I’ve been thinking lots about purpose lately as something inside quests for my purpose. Above my desk are four Post-it notes with the following messages:

  1. My business will let me spend much of my time traveling and being in the wilderness
  2. I need a one-to-many business model and to cut my Internet days down to two days a week
  3. I help people run the business they want so they can live the life they want
  4. What if I died?

These four statements are all tied to trying to achieve my ‘why’ or my purpose, which are the same thing said different ways.

On traveling

The first two items are tied together. I want to have a business that allows me the freedom to spend more time with my kids. Held in tension with that is the sometimes overwhelming passion to help people run an awesome business and live the life that they want.

That has me reading books about purpose, productivity, working, leadership, or one of many other topics to keep learning how to help people more and how to be better myself. I read these books at the same time I should sometimes be playing with my kids and giving them my full attention.

I sit in my office daily and look at the mountains, and whether it’s raining, snowing or sunny, part of my soul longs to be in the mountains instead of in my office.

And yet, I send an email to someone asking for advice on their business and hear about a success and there’s nowhere I’d rather be than reading that email helping someone.

On whying

My third statement is a daily reminder of my why. Why do I stay focused for six hours straight sometimes and occasionally suffer pains in my legs from standing without moving for six hours? Because I’m reading/researching/writing about ways to help people make their business better.

These last two weeks as I’ve had a bit of a limp in one leg or the other, looking to my WHY has reminded me that while I need to make sure I move more, this momentary discomfort has a purpose.

I’m helping people live a good life.

On dying

My final statement is a reminder that I’m mortal. It’s not just that I ride my bike to work every day through the city, which means that in any bike-car incident — regardless of fault — the bike will lose. Even if I drove or walked or had a home office I’m not guaranteed any more time than this single second I exist in currently.

Despite my generally good health I could lose it all in an instant and be gone from this world.

This is another constant reminder that I need to stay focused. While I have dreams of affecting so many more, would I be okay with the small legacy I’d leave if I were to die today?

What is the single best thing I could do at work today to help affect people anew?

What is the single best thing I could do at home today to leave my family with the knowledge I am a good husband/father?

This final statement was only added recently as I read The Obstacle is the Way and think more about Stoic Philosophy. That note stays there as a daily reminder to be effective in my work. I have no time to surf Facebook or Twitter or visit any number of interesting links on the web.

I only have time to push the ball forward and help more people.

Do you have this clarity? Could you tell me your why or your purpose? Do you have a daily reminder of what these are, staring you in the face? Have you engineered your day around achieving these things and cut out all the shallow work so you can focus on the deep work that truly advances your cause?

If you don’t it’s time to set aside a day and get it. Continuing to wallow around in self-pity where you think the world is against you and you can’t catch a break is simply a recipe to still be there in 20 years. You’re still going to blame ‘life’ for the raw bone it threw you and there is nothing I can do to help you with that.

On wanting that clarity

If you want that clarity it’s time to put the work in. Figure out your purpose and stick to it.

Take a page from Will it Fly and figure out your 4 Quadrants.

Go through Deep Work and cut the fluff from your life.

Once you’ve started down that path you’re going to find work isn’t so bad. It was always you and how you perceived your situation, not what was happening. If that’s tough to swallow, then you’ve got more work to do. No more whining about what happens to you — turn it around and use that obstacle to reframe what you’re currently doing to be better than you would have been otherwise.

photo credit: nukamari cc

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