My life took a dramatic turn on November 16, 1989.
I was working as a camp director in northern Minnesota. My wife and I had spent the summer leading programs for disadvantaged kids, sprucing up the camp, training counselors, and trying to figure out how to drum up charitable donations.
"It's time," my wife said.
She had that look.
We jumped in the car and headed for the hospital in the next town over. Later that day, we welcomed a beautiful baby girl into this world.
Then, I got to work.
You see, just a few weeks before, I had been fired from the camp, but we decided to live there anyway and defy the camp board. They had shut off the electricity and the heat, and I remember burning books in the fireplace to keep the lodge and our living quarters warm. We had no money and no job prospects.
I spent a few days scouting the area looking for work. Northern Minnesota is not known for its burgeoning job market, as you can imagine.
At a shoe store, I interviewed for a job as an assistant manager. One of my jobs out of college was working in retail, so I had some experience. "This job seems like a big step down for you, John," the hiring manager said.
He was right. So, I moved my new family down to Minneapolis and hit the pavement again. I was one determined individual. I interviewed at gas stations, libraries, flower shops, and more shoe stores. I finally ended up working in customer service at an exercise equipment company, but I wasn't done figuring out how to advance in my career. I wasn't sure what that career even was, but I was motivated to figure it out as soon as possible with all of my power and mental capacity.
Something was motivating me, and it was the best kind of motivation ever invented. I had to support my family. I asked my boss if I could write technical manuals on my breaks and over lunch. I interviewed for a copywriter job...six times in three months. It was more than a desire to put food on the table. I took it upon myself to live with more conviction and purpose. I wanted to make a "name" for myself only because I was sharing my name with a wife and a baby. I wanted to amount to something because I needed a certain amount in my bank account at the end of the week.
I was mindful of one thing in life. My purpose and intent was to support others. I wasn't advancing in a career for myself. There wasn't a carrot dangling out in front of me, and I didn't want to drive a BMW. What I really wanted was to meet the needs of the two people depending on me, one who was only a few weeks old and one who had major life-threatening issues that came up during the birth and who wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. I looked at them through a different set of eyes.
It wasn't pressure. Purpose, conviction, mindfulness, and confidence in life do not come from some innate sense of pride or a desire to step on the backs of others to get more recognition and make more money. True purpose comes from outside of yourself, when you see your role as important not to your own career but important to other people. If I had slacked, slumped, and slouched my way through life, it would have meant a low paycheck for sure but also extremely low confidence.
I often wonder why I even have confidence in my ability. I wasn't really raised that way. It started on November 16 and carried on through the birth of my other three kids. This was a confidence that others had attributed to me, the best and only kind--the kind that works. They had confidence in me to work and I accepted the role.
How about you? Where have you looked for purpose?
For many, success is elusive because it becomes a personal passion or a prideful pursuit. Real success in life always has a dependency clause.
Mine is named Rachel.