#137 Passion, Purpose and the Road Back

4:30 in the morning may not be the best time to start a blog post, but it works for me.  I like the quiet, the sense that I can work peacefully and write and then post and then move on with my day.  While many people take Sunday mornings as a chance to sleep in, I find that getting up early on Sundays to write sets the whole day, and the following week, off to a good start.  

Yesterday, a very dear friend of mine sent me a YouTube video of a Ross Evans presentation at a TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) event.  Evans is a relentless inventor, seeing a problem, a practical solution, and then creating opportunity by merging the two.  You can Google TEDx for more information.  

The important part of the presentation had to do with how Evans got started.  In it, there are 3 overlapping circles, one labeled Passion, another labeled Purpose and a third labeled Contribution, which caught my eye.  

What is your passion?  What makes you most come alive?  What brings you to that place where every effort and every sacrifice seems so full of potential and makes you want to just give into it every time?  That place where you know that you are doing something that speaks to you and calls forth the best of your talents and understandings.

What is your Purpose?  Why are you here, and what is your obligation to your world?  What do you singularly contribute to that world that no one else can?  What is it about the your particular make-up and experience that makes your contribution different than anyone else's?
What is your Commitment?  What are you committed to doing in your own space?  It doesn't matter how small or large that space is, it can be your own family, your neighborhood, your city or town, or maybe even the world.  What is it that you want to have happen if you can get your Passion and Purpose to come together in one clear moment?  

The idea of these three over-lapping circles immediately struck me and, while I have no real interest in any of Evans inventions, or even their implications and contributions in the developing world, I was struck by his demeanor, an almost overflowing enthusiasm for his work, his contribution.  By watching the video, you can clearly see the potent combination of Passion + Purpose + Contribution playing out on the stage.  

This post also feels a little like a turning point, I think, a bend in the road.  For the last 6 months I have torn apart my life in a very real way and have gained a lot of understanding about who I am, who I'm not (arguably more important) and the ways in which my behaviors and actions have an impact on my authenticity, my relationships and the peace in my soul.  A lot of that, at least thematically, has shown up here and has touched a nerve with a lot of people.  7 of the top 10 posts from Fen's Thoughts have come from this period and the readership has almost doubled in that time.  I have tried to see my failings honestly, struggled to see myself authentically, uncovered the lies that I present to the world every day because I think I have to, and tried to answer the question, "Well, if I'm not who I thought I was, then exactly who the hell am I?" 

And that may be the purpose of this post.  To begin looking at who I am, instead of looking so much at who I am not.  What are my passions?  What is my purpose?  How do I contribute to my world?  Have you ever thought about that?  About the relationship in your life between passion, purpose and contribution?  After 6 months of near-constant work the time seems to be approaching when it is time for me to start rebuilding.  It's time to be me.  Authentically me.  Time to dedicate my energies to those things that speak most directly to me and fill my life with real purpose.  To fill it with the full impact and force that I have.  To appreciate, and use, my singular talents to contribute to my little world and to bring peace, calm and purpose to my soul. This time though, to do it with intention.  Not accidentally, not by suddenly ending up somewhere and having no idea how I got there, but with the clear intention of discovering and retaining and developing my authentic self.  Do you live in your world intentionally?  Or have you ended up somewhere finding yourself out of place and not really sure how you got there?  I have been given the most wonderful gift of being able to take a look at my life and how I got here and now it it time to take those parts that were unintentional, even accidental and replace them with a life of intention and purpose.

What I do best is solve problems.  The problem itself doesn't really matter.  Crafting a viable solution does.  I find a sense of personal value - of passion and contribution there.  In the understanding and context or it, in the solutions available to solve it, and in designing a mechanism to resolve it.  I saw a marksmanship  problem and solved it.  I saw a female body armor problem and helped craft a solution.  What started out as my own personal unraveling here has become a body of work that people approach me about and are interested in.  When I am most clearly being me, I recognize a need, and have an ability to craft a solution pretty quickly to fill it.  I am articulate and bright enough to find resources that advance it.  I also don't mind short-circuiting the process and finding that person or that group who can most rapidly affect change or help move a project forward.  A combination of understanding, vision and abilities that allow me to see things that others don't, to recognize the implications and to marshal the requirements necessary to fix them. A force of personality and passion and drive.  While it has taken 3 years to get the marksmanship program fully supported and resourced, we are now running at full capacity and are spreading the word each week to units and Soldiers alike.  The next generation of body armor will be the first to have a design fit specifically for female Soldiers to increase their ability to defend themselves and their peers and to effectively fire their weapon.  The blog has led to friendships and opportunities, and blessings that I would not have had if I didn't think and write each week.  I need something to focus on.  I do not do well in a void.  Without something to consider, I become restless and bored and self-destructive.  I am not in a good place for me without something to sink myself into.  

I am relentless once I turn my full attention to something.  The basis for the original marksmanship program was built in 3 days and executed over 3 months and then I worked endlessly to continue it and advance it and get it resourced and funded and supported.  I certainly had help from a lot of people along the way, people with vision and authority and influence who have been instrumental in helping advance the idea, but ultimately, the hard work, the day-to-day raising of it has been done by me.  Now I can turn my energy towards sustaining it, although admittedly, that does not interest me nearly as much. The same is true for my personal journey.  The amount of hours, the near-total immersion into looking at my life has been staggering.  It is truthfully a part of every thought I have now. I used to be able to treat it as something I could pick up and put down.  To work on for a bit and then put back on the shelf.  Not now.  Now it demands and commands my attention every day.  My real commitment and passion now is to effectively leading myself and my family.  That is the journey.  To authentically lead myself.  That leadership demands self-awareness, authenticity, and talent.  Talent can be developed and nurtured and expanded on.  Self-awareness and authenticity have to be uncovered.  I have not done this alone, not by a long shot, but I did have to recognize the problem and then set myself to working on it.  I did have to be willing to take on the project of my own unhappiness in the first place.  Marksmanship, body armor, me.....No difference really.  Only the complexity of the problem, the depth of the obstacles that have to be overcome and the willingness to take it on. And the relentless focus to fill the need. 
What are your passions?  Is it your passion to lead Soldiers?  Is that what you truly want to do with your life?  Is it your passion to create or to sustain?  Each have their own merit.  There are plenty of people who can build something or invent something or create something who cannot nurture it to a long-term viable state. There are also those folks who will never be the creative force behind something new, but who, once it is seen and understood, have an incredible ability to sustain it and ensure it remains relative over time. Our world, from our families to our communities to the world at large need both.  Knowing where you properly fit - where your passion meets your purpose is a crucial step.  

What is your purpose?  Are you, have you, taken your passions and mixed them with your skills and abilities to affect positive change in your life?  Professionally, I am getting very close to that on some days.  Personally, I have a lot of miles to go.  But now, instead of just feeling out of synch and lost as I move through my days, there is a sense or recognition of when my passions and my purpose are working together and when they are not.  That's been a major step in coming to my understanding of me.  I cannot always affect change the way I would like to quite yet, but that doesn't mean I failed.  Now that I can see where the divergence happens, I can turn the relentless energy of problem solving inward and focus on finding a solution that works for me. 

Where is my deepest passion? I'm not exactly sure, but somehow this journey, my journey, calls to me.  If I could do anything at all with my life right now, it would be to travel the Army and talk about leadership.  Not how to do it - that's management - but rather why discovering, knowing and living as truthfully and authentically as possible is ultimately the key development piece to becoming a leader who espouses those characteristics the Army is trying to find so desperately right now.  I have the answer.  The answer is in the journey.  The journey we all must take in order to not find ourselves one day in a place we do not belong. With skills ill-suited for the problems we face, and completely out of synch with our passion and purpose.  The answer is in the journey to ensure that we end up in the place where passion, purpose, and commitment come together in such a powerful way that our world - no matter how large or small - is positively influenced by our presence in it.  

My journey is instructive toward that end.  It calls out the best of me every day. Last week on a rifle range, I met a battalion commander familiar with Black Hearts and that period in my life.  He indicated that he would like me to come to his unit and talk about that time.  I don't know today whether it will come about or not, but what I do know is that Black Hearts was a terrible, tragic time that has also been the greatest blessing of my life.  Out of that nightmare, I have been reborn and today, with full intention, and all of the passion and purpose I have available to me, I have come around the bend.  I am on the road back and the journey has been worth every single step.

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome.