“We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.”
J. K. Rowling, author of “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”
The British alternative rock band Coldplay has a song they call “Fix You.” It starts with these words:
“When you try your best, but you don’t succeed,
When you get what you want, but not what you need,
When you feel so tired, but you can’t sleep,
Stuck in reverse,
And the tears come streaming down your face,
When you lose something you can’t replace,
When you love someone, but it goes to waste,
Could it be worse?
Lights will guide you home.”
Nice sentiment. But what if you follow the wrong lights? You’re in trouble.
If you were to take an art or photography class, the first lesson the teacher would impress upon you is the importance of figuring out your source of light. If you don’t know your source of light … or if you select the wrong source for your light … your photograph or painting is not likely to turn out very well.
The same is true for your life and your career. A happy life and a successful career start with your light source. I’ll go into great detail on that in my new book, “The Payoff Principle,” coming out in a few months.
For the moment, however, let me suggest…
1. You’re going to have significant problems if you choose the wrong light source.
For example, many people think EDUCATION is “the” light source. In fact, wherever I speak around the world, people talk about coming to America because they believe they can get the best education in American universities. And they believe education will lead them to the good life.
There’s just one problem. In a recent study of one million American workers, it was discovered that only 20% of the respondents were working in a job that was related to their educational degree. That means 80% of today’s workers paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to get a degree they’re not even using … and at one time, were quite excited about.
So what happens then? When people discover that education is not “their” light source, they switch to a different source of light, thinking that may be the ticket to the good life. For many people, their JOB becomes their light source.
However, there’s a problem with that light source as well. In that same study of one million workers, only 20% of them said they were using their strengths or greatest gifts on the job. And half of the respondents said they would walk off the job tomorrow and do something else if they could. They were saying, in effect, “take this job and shove it.” The job was not the exciting, fulfilling, and meaningful light source they had hoped for.
When people conclude that neither their education nor their job is “their” light source, they often say, “Give me the MONEY.” Cash becomes their source of light. In other words, “I may hate my job but if you just give me enough money I can buy some stuff that will help me forget about the job.” A nicer car, a faster boat, or a bigger house. Indeed, when I was growing up, the average-sized American home was 950 square feet; today it is 2700 square feet.
Like all other mistaken sources of light, there’s a problem. Almost no one ever seems to have enough money. When Howard Hughes died as one of the richest men in the world, he was asked how much money he needed. He replied, “Just a little bit more.”
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m all for education, jobs, and money. I’m all for hard work, better incomes, and some nicer things in life. But when people unknowingly substitute EDUCATION, JOBS, and MONEY for a deeper, more lasting, and more significant purpose (or light source) in life, they’re going to have some major problems.
2. You must have a light source that means something to you..
Perhaps you’ve felt like your life was more like a treadmill than an adventure. Perhaps you’ve felt like your work was nothing more than another day and another dollar. And you may have wondered what you’re doing on this Earth.
It’s not a great way to live. You need to figure out your purpose because … as author Kenneth Hildebrand states … “Strong lives are motivated by dynamic purposes.”
If you don’t have your purpose figured out, think about it this way. Your purpose is WHY you were created, and your mission is WHAT you’re supposed to do about it.
Or think about it this way. What would you say if you had the world’s attention?
One middle-aged couple grappled with that question as they sat across from one another in the booth of a coffee shop. They shared a newspaper and their thoughts on the articles they were reading. “Oh my,” said the woman. “Did you read this story about the fellow who won millions of dollars on that game show? Says here that he’s got himself a web site where he’s saying all sorts of unflattering things about the show and the show’s host.”
“What’s he griping about?”
“Doesn’t say. Just seems like he’s offering some kind of commentary, criticism really, just because people will listen to him since he spent so much time on the show and won so much money.”
“That’s what you call biting the hand that feeds you,” said the man.
“You’ve got that right. But I’d like to ask him why he’s using his fame in this ugly way. Of all the things he could write about. My goodness! If I had the world’s attention…”
“Yes, my love? If you had the world’s attention, what would you say?”
Readers? What would you say if you had the world’s attention? Your answer will lead to the clarification of your purpose.
And once you’ve clarified your purpose or light source…
3. You reap tremendous benefits with a healthy light source.
In the Broadway musical “South Pacific,” the actors and actresses sing a song that asks a profound question. “If you don’t have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?” Exactly.
With a clarified purpose or healthy light source, you get direction, creativity, and resilience. You get to see more of your dreams come true. It’s why PURPOSE is one of the 12 keys I teach in my “Journey to the Extraordinary” program.
Dawn Driscoll, an account representative from Thomson Reuters, said, “Before the Journey program, I had never figured out or written down my purpose. Once I learned that, it helped me keep things in perspective and stay focused on what is really important. My purpose has helped me make better decisions and improved my relationships on
and off the job.”
Yes, you will reap tremendous benefits, but often times, so will others. Your purpose can make a difference in the world.
Take Josefina Guerrero, for example. Before World War II, she was the toast of Manila, a young, vivacious woman married to a wealthy man. Then in 1941 she discovered she had leprosy. Immediately she began treatment, but when Japan invaded the Philippines all the leprosariums were abandoned. And Joey got a purpose.
Joey joined the underground, smuggling food, clothes, medicine and messages to POW’s. She mapped out fortifications along the waterfront and the location of anti-aircraft batteries. When guerillas discovered a newly-sown minefield where the 37th Division was scheduled to land in Manila, they asked her to get the message through. With little thought for her own life she trudged through miles of enemy encampments with the map taped to her back and delivered it safely. Because of her courage many dangerous missions were completed and the U.S. War Department awarded her the Medal of Freedom for saving untold American lives.
Amazingly, Joey was never caught. In fact, the Japanese soldiers had a horror of this ragged little woman who shuffled through the streets of Manila. And even when she was stopped they didn’t detain her long, once they recognized the swathed bandages and lesions of advancing leprosy.
It’s time for you to make sure you’ve chosen the right light source for your life and work.