I remember the day so well. It was February of 2003. I know that because I was sitting in a brand new Honda Odyssey van I and my wife had just paid cash for. I was parked in an empty parking lot of an empty state park. My wife thought I was at work. Everyone at work thought I was out of the office trying to sell something. I spend the entire day by myself in that van…miserable and in tears.
I had no reason to be miserable. As I said, I paid cash for the van I was in. I had recently moved into a home I and my wife had built. I was making a decent living as a partner in a small business. I was married to a drop dead gorgeous blonde I had fallen hopelessly in love with when she was just 16 and we had three wonderful and healthy children between the ages of 12 and 2. But there I was in tears till I knew my wife would be wondering where I was.
I pulled myself together, went home and pretended nothing was wrong till everyone went to bed. Then I sat alone in the dark living room trying to figure it all out. I’d fought depression most of my adult life and I knew what I was experiencing. I knew something had to change.
- My employees deserved a better boss than this.
- My business partners deserved a better partner than this.
- My children deserved a better example of how to live than this.
- And my wife deserved a better husband than this.
I determined I absolutely had to figure what made the difference between thriving and surviving. And I had to do it for their sake, not mine. And it was that last part that made all the difference in the world. So much difference that I now tell people I really don’t believe anyone in the world has better life than me…not one person.
Prior to that moment I had spent my life trying to “thrive” for my own sake. I wanted to have a great life. In that dark living room in February 2003 I suddenly had a purpose much bigger than myself. I was still on a quest to learn the difference between surviving and thriving, but it wasn’t for me, it was for other people…people I truly cared about. I wouldn’t understand it till many years later, but that purpose made me what Donald Miller called in his book by the same title, A Hero On A Mission (please read it!).
That sounds a bit arrogant if you haven’t read the book, but it isn’t meant to be. A mission is a something that has a clear goal, is important and involves risk. A hero is someone taking action for the benefit of another. When you combine those 2 and the goal is a long-term worthy cause, your life becomes a purpose driven adventure. It’s still messy and full of ups and downs, rights and wrongs, successes and failures…but it is FULL of them. You are no longer empty, meaningless or bored.
Important Note: Organizations & People are very similar. All of this is as true for an organization, business, family…any group of people really…as it is for an individual person.
Many of you right now have a critic whispering (or shouting) in your ear. He or she is sitting on your shoulder and they look like you and sound like you and you listen to them a lot. I’ll leave you with the words of Theodore Roosevelt from which Arena Success Group take it’s name.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. “