Monday, December 29, 2008

The Giving Spirit Revisited / Wishes for 2009

I am seated at my desk this morning, awash in gratitude as I think about this Christmas season and what may be one of the most spiritually, mentally and emotionally profound Christmases that I have ever experienced.

Our Christmas this year, as always, has been focused on giving back, especially to people who themselves have little if anything to give to others.  In a time when the media is reporting financial gloom and doom, cutbacks in giving and other symptoms of the economic crisis as they like to call it, we have witnessed more giving this year than ever.

The program that we participated in for battered mothers and their children went way above expectations this year as friends collaborated with us to make a phenomenal difference.  The number we helped this year, either directly or through inspiring others to help on their own, is up 700% from last year.

We were blessed to have an opportunity to help feed the homeless, the lonely and the stranded over the holidays, cooking food on Christmas Eve and helping with the distribution on Christmas Day.

On Saturday, the local blood donor clinic was open and I was able to make a contribution that will save up to three lives.

All great stuff.

However, what took place in my heart was even more profound.

This Christmas, a number of events took place within close proximity that impacted me mentally and spiritually.

This season, I witnessed profound stories of personal giving - giving that was taking place under the radar to help take care of others during the season.  I witnessed last-minute miracles for good people as they struggled to make ends meet or worked diligently to help overcome sudden incidents of misfortune. 

So many people sent me emails expressing personal testimonials of receiving help at the last minute, just when they needed it.  We started referring to them in my house as "Jimmy Stewart endings" in reference to heart-moving, wipe-your-eyes, Hollywood style endings appropriate for the season. 

Get-togethers with family and friends were more powerful than ever this year as I took the time to really savor the feelings of goodwill that filled the air.

As if that wasn't enough, I was overcome with profound gratitude as friends and strangers from all around the world, including Europe, New York and other parts of the US, Canada and Australia reached out to us with open hearts when they read my blog about some of our current adventures (and misadventures) - found here if you would like to read it.

During the midnight Christmas Eve service, I found myself powerfully moved as the congregation sang Christmas carols, as the true meaning of the season seized my heart and overwhelmed me.

As I experienced all these feelings of gratitude, I didn't need to ask what it was all about - I knew all along.

For many years, my family and I have experienced what many know as the abundance of the season - unlimited food, unlimited gifts, etc.  However, for all of those years, I felt something was missing in all of this and I couldn't quite put my finger on it.

This year brought the perfect storm of events, generous, loving people, opportunities to share and opportunities to receive to help me discover what I was missing.

Despite my insistence in years gone by that I knew what the Christmas spirit was about, I think I was merely going through the motions, simply checking off the holiday obligations.  Make annual donations to various organizations - check.  Buy gifts for everyone - check.  Organize opportunities for giving to others - check.  Be happy during the season - check.  Check, check, check.

Looking back, I realized that it had gotten too mechanical.

This year, I savored every single action.  I savored every single project that I was involved in and I was grateful for the opportunity to do so.

I was also grateful for the opportunity to do it with others who really cared.

And so as I sat in church service on Sunday and listened to the Christmas carols being sung, I looked up and said a prayer of thanks to God - a prayer thanking Him for my friends, for complete strangers (met and unmet), for the opportunity to share with others, for the opportunity to be humble enough to receive from others and for the strength and courage to continue to follow our intention to make a difference in this world.

Contrary to what the media would like us to believe, the unselfish, giving spirit of people is alive and well.  We see what we choose to focus on.

A number of people came to mind as I sat there in gratitude.  While many came to mind, I will mention some of them here.  Things they have said or done in the last month or so have had a profound impact on me and my family and the sense of deep gratitude we are experiencing during this season.  There is always a danger of leaving people out but if I listed everyone that I was grateful for, the list would be very long (my LinkedIn network alone is up to 16.5 million people at the time I wrote this).  :-)

The people who come to mind include my family (of course), Andrew B., Roberto L., Jonathan S., John C., Jim L., Estean L., Hilary R., Tim S., Bruce MacN.,  Joseph S., Casey W., Gabriel M., Keith B., Don H., Gary J., Daryn K., Ken B., Mac P., Frances H., Marilyn B., Debra P., Peggy C., Lauren M., Iris P., Peter T., Gerald C., Barry G., Peter D., Doreen C., Peggy M., John G., Bret D., Evan G., Tim M., Lew M., Emily H., Jeremy R., Paul S., Deborah W., John Paul W., Gerry O., Ros O., Gina P., John L. (and the gang),  Marvin C., Alex T., Kevin F., Dave M., Ed N., Heather and Mark U., Bill G., Ray J., Larry F., Jackie H., Sharon C., Tony R., Steve B., Linda G., Cathy F., Paul L.,  Jenifer F., Nick S. and John M.

I am grateful for everyone in my life and grateful for their spirit of giving and sharing, their commitment to others and their passion to make a difference in the lives of people around them - even when it means sacrifice for themselves or a sense of swimming against the tide.

As 2009 draws near, we have a choice to make.  We can succumb to the sense of despair as the media would like us to embrace or we can choose to see phenomenal opportunity in everything and everyone around us.

There are incredible opportunities around us for growth, for sharing, for learning and for receiving with humility and gratitude  - phenomenal opportunities for each one of us to leave a legacy of hope and love to the generations that are coming behind us.

2009 will bring interesting challenge and opportunity for me and my family.  We are contemplating a number of programs in alignment with our purpose and passion, including children's education in North America and service to the needy overseas.

Whatever you decide to do in 2009, do it with passion, purpose and a sense of making a difference.  If you want it bad enough, you will be successful, regardless of the challenges you face.

Remember that you are not alone - you are surrounded by people who want to help you be successful.  Be open to their help just as you expect others to be open to yours.

Above all, keep your faith alive.  Whatever you believe God is, remember that in your darkest moments, faith in God will lead you to victory in your efforts to make a difference.

I wish each one of you, a phenomenal 2009 filled with personal victory, a fulfillment of purpose and a legacy that others will learn from and multiply, for the benefit of all.

Yours in service and servanthood.


Friday, December 19, 2008

The Giving Spirit

My family and I have experienced a few surprises this week that have given me pause for reflection.

A few clients have been a little tardy in paying me for one reason or another lately; an accounting mix up here, a transfer error there.

Nothing big or earth shattering. Life goes on in the abundant life we live.

A couple of days ago I was notified of a security compromise across my bank accounts, similar to the massive identify theft I experienced about 4 years ago. All of my cards and accounts have been turned off while they sort it out and since all of my accounts are in the US, I temporarily don't have access to much.

This is a major inconvenience, especially at this time of the year. However, the bank will get it all sorted out, we will laugh it off and life will go on.

This morning the heat in our house died. It's below freezing today so things will cool down a little as the day wears on.

Hmmmmm, I thought - how does one fix that problem when all of your plastic is turned off and your nearest bank branch is 2100 miles away?

Then I got a little frustrated and tossed a question out to no one in particular. Maybe I was asking God.

Why does this happen to my family when we have dedicated so much of our lives helping others, especially going really above and beyond this Christmas?

Then I was reminded of something. For as inconvenient and painful as this is for us, it will be of brief duration.

For many families out there this Christmas, this is a way of life for them.

There is no light at the end of their tunnel, at least as they see it. Or maybe there is a light at the end of their tunnel but in fact, it's a train headed toward them.

As that thought sank into my head, I was ashamed of my frustration.

My frustration evolved into an AHA moment as I realized that this sequence of unusually timed incidents is in fact a lesson for me.

What is the lesson? It is to help me REALLY understand the lives of the wonderful people we have helped this year. It is another reminder of how grateful we should be for everything we have. After all, we could lose it all in a moment.

Our inconvenience of a fleeting duration is a challenging way of life for some people. My challenge will pass - theirs will not without help.

So with that thought in mind, my frustration has evolved into gratitude - gratitude that I have much in my life to be thankful for and gratitude that I can overcome whatever I choose. I have my family and our passion and purpose around helping others - what else do we need?

Which brings me to the final lesson I learned out of all this.

There are a lot of people who need our help out there. No matter how much we do and how much we give, there is always room for a little more, especially at this time of year.

So if you will excuse me, I will light the gas fireplace to keep my family warm and I will find someone who REALLY needs help.

Maybe there is someone in your neighborhood who could use a little help as well.

To you and yours for a blessed holiday season, I extend deepest gratitude and thanks to all of you and all the things that you do. I wish you every success for 2009.

Yours in service and servanthood.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Are We Living Life On Purpose?

I've been thinking today that more people are on purpose about talking about being on purpose then just plain old being on purpose.

We use lots of reasons for why this is the case:

  1. We are too busy at work
  2. We are too busy at home
  3. We have too many commitments dragging our kids around to sporting events (that we enrolled them in for the most part)
  4. We are waiting for the definition of our purpose to be handed to us
  5. We are waiting for the perfect opportunity, when we have more time, energy, money
  6. We are waiting to be at the empowerment level (knowledge, network, money) necessary for the opportunity
  7. We are waiting for the economy to get better
  8. We are waiting for the right time to tell others so that they won't be angry, embarrassed, disappointed, etc.
  9. We are waiting for more peace in the world
  10. We are waiting to move to a geographical area that is more open to such opportunities,
  11. Fill in your own reason here ______________.

That's a lot of waiting!

Many of the reasons we use to delay living a life on purpose are not because of external events.  They are based on choices we are making or have made in the past.

For many people, when you speak to them 5 or more years ago, now or in 5-10 years, you discover they are always in the same spot - they are just about to start living a life on purpose.   Living a life on purpose is almost within their reach, that magical carrot on a stick that will set them free.  They are reading the current "living on purpose du jour" book.  Interestingly enough, they have read every book of the genre and yet their purpose remains dormant or undiscovered.

They are so close to living their life on purpose that they can taste it and they try to convince you of it.  Maybe they are trying to convince themselves of it.

As we say in New York City - woulda, coulda, shoulda.

I don't have the heart to tell them that 10 or more years ago, they were saying the same thing.  Nor do I have the heart to say that in 10 years, they will be in the same place - waiting.

For many, their purpose will still be awaiting discovery well into the future, dangling enticingly in front of them as their end-of-days looms on the horizon.

Oh, the moments we miss.

Many look to latch on to others, with the hope that others will pick them up and carry them to their sense of purpose.  Those people have missed the point:

Their sense of purpose is THEIR own sense of purpose - not someone else's.

For every day we choose not to live a life on purpose, we miss out on many things, including:

  1. Enhanced personal fulfillment
  2. An opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others, maybe even saving lives
  3. A chance to find financial freedom - you didn't really think you would find it working for someone else, did you?
  4. A chance to see the world - if that is where your purpose takes you
  5. An opportunity to learn new things, maybe to even be the best in the world at something and be recognized for it
  6. The potential to meet phenomenal people who will touch your mind and heart forever
  7. A chance to leave a legacy - to be remembered by others as someone who made a difference.

I think many of us need to make a choice, a choice that comes down to one of two things.

1. Do we want to stay where we are, wondering about how "someday we will be something", creating the potential for a lot of dreams that will be replaced by frustration or resentment over time?

2. Do we choose to lay out a plan for living our life on purpose, for seizing that which is important to us at any cost and through any struggle and just going for it?

97% of people who tell me that they are living their life on purpose are at the exact same place in their life that they were 10 years ago.  They will probably still be there in 10 years time.  They are also really good at New Year's Resolutions, pie-in-the-sky dreams and stuff of a similar nature.  They are the ones who start 10,000 be-all-and-end-all projects and finish none of them.

Don't be one of the 97%.

Don't hang out with a lot of them either, otherwise you will become one of them.  Save who you can and move on.

Be one of the 3% who stands up and says "My purpose in life is to do _____________.  I exist to make a difference in my family, community, company, country or world by doing _____________.  Today I find the people, knowledge and other resources to get there regardless of what others think.  I want it so badly that my spirit burns to make this happen.  When my end-of-days has come, I will be remembered for _____________.  If I were not here, the world would miss me because I offer _____________ to the world."

Seize this feeling, let it surround and permeate you and then go for it.

If you don't how, email me - I will give you the cranial defibrillator you need to make it happen.

There is a greater sense of urgency every day to make a difference - today it is your turn.

Do you want to live a life waiting for fulfillment ,  hoping someone else provides it, or do you want to own the process, struggles and all, knowing that on the other side of struggle is phenomenal fulfillment and amazing life experiences?

I know what you think you want.  Do you have the courage and desire to go for it?

Yours in service and servanthood.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

I Believe in You

I was reading an email from a friend last night who has incredible vision, passion and heart.  He has everything he needs to be successful - great ideas, an empowered network and a market that will continue to consume his services insatiably.

There is just one thing wrong - one thing that will delay his leap to greater impact on this earth and delay the fulfillment of his purpose.

Bob feels that no one supports the work that he is doing.  Every day he slogs away at manifesting what he believes to be his goals and his purpose.  Few people understand what he is working on as he is rather private and when he does come in contact with others, they are usually asking him for something instead of collaborating with him to manifest something that could benefit both of them as well as others.  There are many who think he should settle down to living a life as dictated by the masses but he believes his calling requires that he not live such a life.

He is losing his faith in his ability to make a difference - it's been a long ride of giving without being helped with his own purpose.

I keep telling him that he needs to make "the ask" more often, to reach out to others to help him manifest his purpose as he has helped so many others.  His response is that that is not his style, that he doesn't want to impose on anyone else. 

And so he waits for others to step up to help him.  There are many around him who know that he is waiting but they don't step up to help.

I wonder why there are so many examples of similar stalled opportunities out there, so many examples of unfulfilled purpose. 

We can all say that the person who is trying to create something owns responsibility for making the ask.  It is always easy to say that the other person is responsible.

However, just for a moment, let's pretend we have the responsibility and opportunity to make a difference.

Perhaps we feel we have nothing of value to offer to someone.

Maybe we feel that that person has it all figured out and so we leave them alone. 

Maybe we are too busy living the recklessly fast game we call Life.  We need to relax more - it's a game where no one gets out alive anyway.

Maybe we are too selfish, waiting for someone to help us FIRST or taking the position "when I have some spare time, I will help them".  How many times has spare time manifested in such situations - almost never.

Whatever, the reason, the person on the other end is wondering why no one steps up to help.

It's a lonely place for them - afraid to ask, don't know how or who to ask, too proud to ask, too humble to intrude ..... all the time frustrated that no one steps up.

I remember being in a similar place back in the mid 80's.  I was struck one day by the power of a song that I heard by Twisted Sister. 

Yes indeed, even the "big hair" bands of the 80's were capable of writing some pretty powerful poetry.

The song struck me because at the time, I was feeling pretty alone and misunderstood regarding my purpose.  The lyrics are at the bottom of this post for those who are interested.

I think that each one of us can name someone right now who has incredible passion and purpose to make a difference.  Many are incubating projects that we are aware of but in many cases, we never take the time to explore their passion. 

The scale of the difference they wish to make is irrelevant.

What is relevant are the dreams and visions of these people to make a difference - to leave a legacy.

It would be really cool and potentially profound if we could all suspend the notion of self for 24 hours.  During the next 24 hours, imagine if we reached out to those we know - family members, an associate, a child or a friend and said one thing.

I believe in you and I believe in the power of your potential and what you are doing.  How can I help you to make a difference?

Note that I didn't say "Can I help you?" which opens the door to a "no".  I said "How can I help you?" which opens the door to collaboration.

As Stanley Marcus once told Tim Sanders - "Everybody is generous during good times, but only generous people give during hard times."  Since one of the most valuable things you have to give is your time, now is a great opportunity to share your gift with others.

I wonder how many wonderful things could be manifested from just reaching out to someone and helping them realize their dreams.

Perhaps you would also unleash the power of some of your own dreams.

Yours in service and servanthood.


I Believe In You - by Twisted Sister

Why does no one seem to understand
That it's more than love I need
It's so hard to keep your faith alive
When nobody else believes

Oh I need someone there for me
Need someone who can see
Need someone to show me
Ohhhh, that they Are there to help me fight
If I fall, to set me right
Someone there to hold the light

Won't someone say
I believe in you
I believe in you
I believe in you
I believe in you

It's so hard to do it all yourself
Fighting for your dreams alone
When the toy's upon the highest shelf
A child's tears soon become stone

Oh why does no one lend a hand
Why does no one understand
Why I need to make a stand

Ohhhh,it's so hard to carry on
When all your hope is gone
All your dreams have come undone
I need to hear

I believe in you
I believe in you
I believe in you
I believe in you

Why won't someone say these words
Are they really so absurd?
Must they always go unheard?
Ohhhh, if someone needed the light
I'd be there to help them fight

If they fell, I'd set them right
And then I'd say
I believe in you
I believe in you
I believe in you
I believe in you
I believe in you
Won't someone say I believe in you
I believe in you
Won't someone say I believe in you
I need to hear I believe in you
I believe in you