This week was my birthday and as often happens when we complete another lap around the sun, I took time to reflect. To look in the metaphorical mirror at me and see if I am the person that — deep down — I want to be…to look at my life and see if it’s the one that I want to be living.
You see, many years ago when I was working in corporate America I had a conversation that changed my life. I didn’t know it at the time, but that discussion would prove pivotal in setting the tone and direction for everything I have done since and in providing the fire in my belly, the why behind the how, and the vision that weaves my daily steps into a tapestry of passion and purpose.
It was my first session with my first mentor, a senior leader at the international oil and gas firm where I had been working for a year or so. In preparation for our first meeting, he’d given me an assignment that sounded fairly straightforward: tell me what you want to be known for in 25 years. For two weeks I chewed on that question, tasting the flavor of different answers and sketching out what would become the bones not only of my career but my life from that day on.
I walked into the conference room and sat down, nervous about what he would think of my answer. After all, I had no idea if I’d done this right at all! He mentored seventeen other people at the time — many of them were top leaders in our industry — and a big part of me was terrified of screwing up the opportunity to work with him. Tamping down my nerves, I offered up the answer to his question that I’d spent weeks thinking about: in 25 years, I want to be known for two things. First, I want to be known for loving other people more than myself. And second, I want to be known for living life wide open.
I felt the first part was pretty self-explanatory. Loving other people more than myself meant that every day, I wanted to become less self-centered, less focused on my own wants and needs. To live my life in service of the greater good. To walk daily with the intention of bringing joy and peace and happiness to the people in my life, strangers on the street, and the multitude of humans I will never have occasion to meet.
I knew the second part would require some more explanation, so I offered a lengthy list of examples of what I…