Photo Courtesy of the author/CrowzArt Designs
This article originally appeared in the Huffington Post on January 11, 2017.
I was born at the beginning of what is known as Generation X. Growing up, my idea of success centered around acquiring and achieving stuff. I wanted a well-paying career, a nice home, a fine car (a Benz or a BMW was a must), be able to afford annual vacations to some Caribbean island, and in general living a life of luxury. Oh sure, I wanted a family (in the 1980s, the average family had 2.5 kids so that is what I imagined), but that always took a backseat to my career aspirations. I thought happiness was about acquiring more stuff. The more stuff you had, the happier you were.
Most of my friends had the same idea for success. For some, this became an all-encompassing goal. They would do anything to achieve their vision of success. Some resorted to drugs, while others committed theft. Some even sold their souls by sacrificing everything and everyone in their path to accomplish their dreams. While I didn’t do drugs or commit theft, I was still on my way down that same path. I got married shortly after college and my wife and I decided to put off children in order to establish and pursue our careers. By all accounts we were successful. We had nice jobs, a beautiful home, 2 fine cars and generally could vacation wherever we wished. We had achieved what is known as the American Dream; however, that dream would soon turn into a nightmare.
After having children, and working for over 25 years, one day I woke up and thought “Is this all there is to life?” I had a well-paying job and still had a successful lifestyle but I was miserable. I was on the road for work all of the time and my children were growing up without me; my wife was stressed because she effectively became a single mother caring for three kids while also trying to hold down a job herself; and I was putting in a lot of hours at work but I didn’t feel that I really made a difference. On top of all of that, I began to see colleagues who were in my same age group die at an early age and the organizations for which they worked seemed to barely care. Lastly, I read the article “The 10 words you won’t say … on your deathbed” that talked about the five regrets that people have when dying. After reading that article and thinking about where I was in life, I knew that things had to change.
The first thing that I did was to redefine what success meant to me. I discovered 4 keys that ultimately led me in a new direction.
Live on purpose – Everyone has a purpose or else you wouldn’t be here. I wanted to discover what my true purpose was and to spend the rest of my life fulfilling that purpose.
Family matters – I found my true calling when I became a parent. My wife and I sacrificed more for our children than we ever thought possible. We always believed that it was our job to prepare the next generation to be better than we were so we took our responsibility seriously.
Meaningful work – I knew that I wanted to work in a field where I made a difference and not just for a paycheck.
Leave a legacy – Yes, part of one’s legacy is tied to family, but a much larger part is tied to the community. I wanted my life to be reflected in those who surrounded me. That meant family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and others that I interact with on a routine basis.
After considering these 4 points, I decided to become a writer and speaker who focuses on leadership development. I was able to use my purpose to develop my gift. I knew early on that my purpose was to raise my children for what God has planned for them. For a while, I neglected my purpose; however, I knew that I needed to refocus if I were to discover the true meaning of success. By necessity, I also learned several leadership lessons along the way and became very adept at communicating these lessons with my children. While I got great joy in how my children were able to use these lessons to better themselves, I also saw a need to communicate these same lessons to a greater audience and that has become my life’s work. I decided to write a book about what I learned and was fortunate enough to have it published. While my work is not finished, the good news is that I am leaving a legacy of leadership to those who read my books or listen to one of my talks. I won’t say that I am satisfied because I am still busy refining and passionately living my true purpose, but I can say that I am content because I now know the true meaning of success.
The author is a Licensed Realtor with Keller Williams in Austin, Texas. His new book, Discerning God’s Purpose: A Father’s Journey from Tragedy to Triumph will be released on January 14, 2017.