Yesterday I was surprised by a gentle gift of grace. Several weeks ago, I had made a reference in this blog to the book by Chris Lowney (Heroic Leadership) Apparently the publishers of the book monitor the Web with care, and sent me a copy of Lowney’s latest book, Heroic Living. (At this rate, I am tempted to take every opportunity I can to name all of my favorite authors in all of my blog submissions, and watch my library grow!)
There is serendipity in the timing of this gift. The subtitle of the new book (and excuse me for mentioning it one more time: Heroic Living!) is “discover your purpose and change the world.” This comes on the eve of Labor Day, and for me Labor Day serves as more of a turning point for me than does New Year’s. Many people assume that New Year’s is the time for resolutions, a time to take stock of life and direction and investment, and a time to make necessary corrections.
For me, those sort of resolutions occur more at Labor Day. It seems that the Fall is when life at work begins anew, and I need to recalibrate my focus on purpose so that I can actually change the world. That, I gather from Chris Lowney, is what makes for Heroic Living.
When I first read in the subtitle the words “discover your purpose” I suspected something along the lines of Rick Warren’s Purpose-Driven Life. Instead, I found something more in line with Bob Buford’s Half-Time. (Like I said, I am tempted to list as many authors as possible from now on!)
Lowney puts forward a number of simple, core questions at the center of the process of discovery: Who am I? What am I trying to accomplish in life? How should I behave and treat other people? What values are important and fundamental, in business and family life? Why do I matter? And What makes my life meaningful? [p. 18, Heroic Living.]
I’ve just spent a great deal of time over this summer asking and answering questions that would produce a more focused work and ministry. Reading this list left me rebuked. As Lowney continued, you can understand why:
In the ancient world of, say, twenty years ago, we could skip these philosophical questions and get right to the nitty-gritty ones, such as where to work and live. But change, culture clash, scale and complexity won’t allow us to operate in that old-fashioned way any longer. Before we are bankers, priests, astronauts, or film manufacturers, (or Pastors, or Directors, or Professors …) we are human beings. So the first and most strategic question we must ask is: What does it mean to be a fulfilled, purposeful, successful human being? … If we don’t tackle the question of what makes human life meaningful, we may end up becoming expert and successful in ways that we’ll discover, late in life, were not very meaningful at all. Before worrying about what we’re doing for a living, we need to figure out what we’re living for, because our “career” in the new world environment is not a job? It’s our whole lives.
Not a job … but a whole life. As I prepare for the last long weekend of the summer, those are the questions and that’s the task that really matters most.