An oxymoron. Almost.
Deeply philosophical. And profoundly insightful. For me and those who had to experience it the hard way.
Mahatma Gandhi’s turning point came when he was expected to give up his first class seat at Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. That and the ensuing events led him to the use non-violence as the most potent tool to deal with oppression and other social injustices.
Jerry Garcia narrowly misses a car accident and later goes on to describe that as the “slingshot for the rest of his life”. The legend he has become, was triggered by this incident that caused him to choose the guitar over his hobby of painting and drawing.
More recently, a near death experience helped catapult the life of a relatively unknown rural young man to become a popular speaker helping him earn an eight figure income consistently for years on end.
And the list goes on.
The consistent theme in each of these stories, and the many that have been left unsaid, is the significant nature of the incident that happened in each of their lives and the profound change it caused thereafter. The change was big enough for each of them to leave a lasting impression behind; one that we continue to talk about till this day and will be so for many generations to come.
It is natural for people to suffer through significant experiences and alter the course of their life as a result of that. It is only natural and fitting that such incidents become the cornerstone for living fulfilling and socially useful lives going forward. If anything, these incidents are the cosmic equivalents of deliberate magic that are planted in people’s lives to create common good for mankind.
In storytelling, each of these incidents would be called an inflection point. Points at which the hero or the heroine turns his/her life around and goes on to achieve the impossible.
My learning? Significant events result in profound learning. And profound learnings inspire great action. Great action results in massive benefits for self and society.
Question. What if my life is dull and boring and hasn’t gone through a significant experience? Should I be robbed off the opportunity to live a fulfilling, successful, useful, satisfying and enjoyable life?
Flipping the question on its head – do I have to wait for a significant event to happen before I see the wisdom to get my life in order and achieve big things? Should a cosmic log whack me on the side of my head to turn my life around and live one that is purposeful, meaningful and profound.
If a NDE (Near Death Experience) is what will cause me to take stock of my life, then something is seriously wrong with the picture.
If a major illness is what will cause me to address my health, again something is not right about the picture.
If downsizing at work (aka layoff) is what will wake me into thinking of upgrading my skills, then I don’t have it figured it out yet.
The point is clear. I should not have to wait for life altering events or near death experiences to shake me out of my slumber to find my life purpose. The secret to real success lies in finding my purpose and passion even without one of those NDEs.
One simple way to kickstart the process is to ask the existential questions early enough. Am I living a life that matters to people around me and the society at large? Am I living a life filled with purpose and passion? Is this why I was put in this world, situation, place, office, home, position etc? Am I moving the needle for myself and others?
Or what would I do if I were not afraid?
Shedding that fear to ask these philosophical questions will result in meaningful answers to find purpose and hence apply the necessary course corrections in one’s life.
The answers could and will be as varied as the person asking the question. And every single one of the answers need not be a life altering crusade like Gandhi’s or strum-your-way-to-greatness like Jerry Garcia’s or to speak-your-way-to-a-glorious-income. However, it should make you live an unboring, purposeful, passionate, fun-filled, sunny and useful life.
I am in awe of people that use life altering events to create big, beautiful experiences for the rest of us. I am simply making the case for the rest of us to not wait for those incidents to happen before we can make those changes.
Waiting for a disaster to flip your life around is one way to do it. The easy, uncomplicated way is to get it together and do it without one.