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Passion and Purpose in Living, Loving, Learning and Leaving a Legacy

Kenneth Lay Stephen Covey A news item appearing in my Google Desktop Sidebar this morning about the death of Enron founder Ken Lay immediately reminded me of Stephen Covey's book, First Things First: To Live, to Love, to Learn, to Leave a Legacy.  I don't know much about how well Lay lived, loved or learned, but I have a pretty good sense for the legacy he has left ... and it is very different from the legacy being created by some other famous and wealthy people. On a whim, I decided to see if Dr. Lay and Dr. Covey, both popular speakers, ever appeared on the same program.  Googling for "stephen covey ken lay" did not turn up any such event, but it did serendipitously connect me to Steve Pavlina's inspiring blog post about deciding what to do with your life, which emphasizes the importance of defining one's life purpose and applying the fuel of passion to achieve, or at least contribute to, that purpose, while being open, honest and fully conscious.

In yet another example of when the reader is ready, the blogger appears, I have been very much in the question of deciding what to do with my life lately.  Although it is my decision, it is one that is very much influenced by a number of other stakeholders, including my wife and children, and other potential customers (I still believe that, on some level, everyone's a customer).  I recently discovered that Noah Kagan, a friend I met through the blogosphere, is also exploring this question (when the blogger is ready, other bloggers appear?).  As I posted a comment that included a link to a post I wrote during my last career transition, I became glaringly and uncomfortably aware that I was not being true to myself or my blog, not mustering the gumption to be open, honest and vulnerable about the fact that I am currently in the question, if not a full-fledged transition.  I've been receiving warm encouragement to unfold from Dan Oestreich, another friend I initially met through the blogosphere, and to practice appreciation, especially for myself.  So I will take this opportunity to unfold -- or, perhaps, unpack -- a little about my current state and desired trajectory, in light of all these positive influences.

I have been channeling my passion through the company I founded over a year ago, Interrelativity, whose purpose is to use technology to help people relate to one another.  The mission of the company is a derivative of the personal mission -- I create a world of harmony and love by helping people relate to one another -- that I uncovered, articulated and embraced at a Warrior Monk retreat I attended during the last period in which I was immersing myself in the question of what to do with my life.  As I have noted periodically in this blog, Interrelativity has offered me -- and others -- rich and rewarding experiences along many dimensions, but, unfortunately, the financial dimension is not among them.  I have never felt so alive, and yet I have not earned so little money in over 20 years.  As provider for my family, I feel a growing tension between my lofty idealism and a more grounded pragmatism.  I want to be able to make meaning and make money, and so I have started to explore other paths through which I might be better able to achieve these dual goals.

Friends have asked me what kind of position I'm looking for.  I tell them that I want to find a path through which I can fully engage my passions, skills and experiences to make significant contributions to worthwhile projects while continuing to grow, personally and professionally ... and, of course, get paid.  I have felt fear about articulating this longing so publicly; after all, who am I to want all this?  Doesn't everyone want this?  What would this world look like if everyone was committed to doing work that makes meaning?  Some have suggested that I cloak or modulate my deep sense of passion and purpose, fearing that some potential customers (including prospective employers) may [only] want to pay for the services of someone who is willing to make money without necessarily making meaning.  I share this fear, and I may come to regret being so candid, but having opened up to the possibilities of unfolding radiance -- or what Steve refers to as awareness and full consciousness -- I'm going to risk feeling like a fool, and feel the fear and do it anyway.  It's all a learning experience.

Steve notes that his purpose is to grow and help others grow.  When I first discovered Stephen Covey's books and seminars, and crafted my first mission statement, it was "to foster the growth of my self and others".  The shift to my current mission, "helping people relate", is simply a reflection of the way I go about fostering growth in my self and others -- I'm an irrepressible connector, and nothing makes me happier than helping people relate to other people (and places and things) that they previously either didn't know about or didn't fully appreciate.  More information about some of the specific ways I have helped people relate over the years -- including projects, presentations and publications -- can be found on my home page at the Interrelativity site.

A brief perusal of Steve's blog tells me I've struck a mother lode for personal growth ... with numerous dimensions of potential connection.  One post listed in Steve's "best of" sidebar that jumps out at me is on self-acceptance vs. personal growth, a challenging issue I've long thought -- and blogged -- about.  Another is on how to make money from your blog, and there are many more that look interesting and inspiring.  However, another issue I've been grappling with is allocating time among input, processing and output (which is yet another theme in which I've received inspiration from Stephen Covey and Dan Oestreich, and another one of my favorite bloggers, Kathy Sierra) ... and so I'm going to apply a disciplined approach to mining this newly discovered wellspring of wisdom slowly ... and surely.

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