Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’…..Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr
What would you do if you knew that you could not fail?
Anyone who has ever been asked this “golden question” knows that it instantly creates a moment of reflection. When you pause and allow yourself to think about a life without borders, it leads into thinking about accomplishing something greater than yourself. You dream without restriction and create a world in which you have purpose.
Purpose, what a scary word.
Purpose has always been a very loaded word for me because it seems to invoke destiny and lack of control in one’s own life. Purpose is purported as the one thing that you were created to do. The thing that scares me is about this is the thought that I could possibly do the wrong thing in my life and miss my purpose.
I want to simplify this though. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary states that purpose is the action for which a person is specially fitted or used. This definition changes the weight and severity of “purpose”. Now I can ask, “What action am I specially fitted for? What things have happened in my life that would allow me to get behind a cause and support it?” Conversely, “What things would I change due to my personal experiences and interactions with the world around me?” When we look at it this way, we can now link our purpose back to our moment of reflection.
What would I do, if I knew that I could not fail?
(Feel free to actually pause and think about this.)
If you are anything like me, this is where the dream world quickly fades as your brain replaces wonder with reality. Beseeched by the pains, failures, fears and disappointments of life, we get stuck. Many people have a sense that they are able to live life beyond the mundane but have no clue where to start. Living untethered from the grinds of daily life seems to conflict with purpose.
Many of us feel that we want to make a difference in our world but sometimes we get burdened by the mundane. We get comfortable with this life until the “ golden question” resonates in our soul and makes us uncomfortable again. Over the years, I’ve learned that being uncomfortable is actually a good thing because being uncomfortable spurs action and change. The problem lies in not knowing what to do, where to turn or how to get started. So, instead of taking action or speaking up, we remain silent. We settle for complacency in our lives because we don’t know where to begin nor do we know how to even make a difference.
For years I sat back and watched the world beyond my family and our issues without giving it much thought. My life was great. I couldn’t complain about my job, my wife, my children or really anything but time after time I was heartbroken watching various events unfold across the country and across the globe.
The “golden question” would roll around in my head but the weight of solving the world’s problems seemed too heavy for me and too big of a task to be a part of my purpose so I did nothing. That is until I learned that all that was required of me was taking a simple step forward.
- Do Something
In his Book, United, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker wrote about the time when he was a Newark City Councilman and one of his constituents called him about a couple of security guards that were attacked by some drug dealers in her mostly forgotten housing complex. The caller, Elaine, was reasonably upset and wanted him to take action. What she didn’t know was that Cory had just fought another battle in the ongoing war with the Mayor of Newark. According to Cory, Mayor Sharpe James had released a campaign of harassment and lies against him and even had the police following him. The thoughts of not being able to accomplish much in his first year floated around his skull. It was in this moment of frustration with the system that he yelled at Elaine, hung up on her and went home.
When he got to his building, his mentor, Ms. Virginia Jones happened to be hanging out near the door. He tried to ignore her and walk by but she was not having it. Like many of us that have felt crushed under the weight of a dream deferred, he wallowed in self-pity and unloaded his feelings on a woman who had invested nothing but time and energy into him. In that moment she had every right to cuss him out or even walk away but instead she did what every good mentor does: She took this as an opportunity to Change the World. She told him, “Cory, you should do….. something.”
He responded, “Something? That’s it?”
“Yes. You should Do Something.” That was it. She smiled and that was the end of the conversation.
Cory rudely walked away and headed to the elevator in his towering housing complex, which happened to be broke. Sixteen flights of stairs later he arrived at his apartment and slammed the door shut only to see his Bible on the coffee table staring back at him. Taking a deep breath, he walked over to it and opened it up to Mathew 17. This was a chapter that he had read countless times before but this time the words leapt off the page, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed…..nothing will be impossible for you.” It was at this moment that he remembered the words of Ms. Jones, “Do Something.”
Cory Booker then stepped into his purpose as a councilman and thought to himself, “I am allowing my inability to solve a problem undermine my will to contribute something to the solution. I am allowing my inability to do everything undermine my determination to do something.”
As with anyone who decides to take a step, any step, Councilman Booker set into motion a plan to Change the World. He found an action for which he was specially fitted and devised a plan to set up a tent between the towers of the forgotten housing complex. He then invited Mayor James and other community leaders and pastors along with anyone else who might be available, to come talk and pray for their community. His belief was that their presence would deter the drug dealers from hanging around the area. He resolved that he was going to Do Something rather than do nothing and feel hopeless.
Over the next ten days something miraculous happened. First, Elaine met him in the common area as he was setting up with his staff and immediately hugged him. All of the strife between the two was instantly melted because Cory decided to Do Something. Twenty people joined him in the tent that first day and stayed overnight. On the second day, correctional officers from a local facility showed up and offered to do security and rotate shifts for their protection. They had seen the news and wanted to help. That was when the media really started to show up and folks started to see some change. Non-profits arrived with people, food and donations. As more and more people poured in, a block party eventually broke out. People who had been scared of their neighborhood because of the drug deals were free to enjoy the outdoors.
For nine days, clergy from various religions prayed with the residents. Spirits were uplifted and hope was restored to many. During this time, Cory refused to eat as he was meditating on the scripture that said, “These come only by prayer and fasting.”
On the ninth day, the mayor quietly showed up and sat with Cory. They talked about all the good that could be done and the difference that could be made. He decided he would come back and talk to the people and on the tenth day of the fast the mayor turned Cory’s step into life changing action. Many thought that Cory would condemn him for not showing up early but instead he just loved on him and supported him. The mayor then pledged to make the necessary changes needed for the apartment complex. He pledged to add security to the buildings, establish a police command post on the site and build a new park for the children of the area. After ten days without food, Councilman Cory Booker finally accomplished his purpose.
You know what was the best part of it all? Purpose never ends. When you finish one aspect you move on to the next. This was the catalyst for his entire career which led him to eventually become the mayor of Newark and then a State Senator. Sometimes, accomplishing our purposes means that we just have to step outside of ourselves and do what can do, in our area, with our sphere of influence. Sometimes we simply need to Do Something.
- Be Better
After you accept the fact that each of us, with our actions, have the ability to Change the World; then you must prepare for that first step. Often times that means that we will need to become more knowledgeable in the subjects that we are passionate about. In the past I have felt that I lacked the money, influence and connections needed to fulfill my purpose as it related to specific causes but I learned over time that there were multiple ways to Do Something. The best way to prepare for that first step forward is to increase your knowledge. Always work to Be Better.
Ways to improve yourself:
1) Reading – One of the most effective/available resources that we all have are books. Every day I’m thankful that God created a website called Amazon and shipping called Prime. Unfortunately, I can’t spend my entire paycheck on books. My wife recently reintroduced me to this great, forgotten place where books are free called a public library.
It is at the library that I am reminded that I am not the first person to try to help my cause. Every subject that you can think of has an author that has spent hours researching and digging into the best methods for success. Combine this with your knowledge and life experiences and you can potentially create a revolutionary new solution.
One of the best things about reading a book is that a concept can be broken down to its simplest form and absorbed over days and even weeks. Books are a great counter to the social media trap where we simply read articles on Twitter and Facebook. Most articles are too short to fully inform you on a topic but are just long enough to peak your interest. If you are left wanting more, this is when you should get a book and dig a little deeper.
2) Find a Mentor – This is one option that has been so vital to my success but I was not conscious of until later in life. Since I was in high school, I have been blessed to have many mentors pour into me; many without me even seeking them out. One such mentor radically changed my life and is a demonstration to the effect that one person can have on society.
Adrianne Solomon moved with her husband Vern and son Brandon from Ohio to Del Rio, Texas when Adrianne got cancer. The cancer had spread quickly and the family was out of options. Vern gave up a very successful career so that they could get a radical treatment from a doctor across the border in Mexico. Katie and I met them at church and hit it off instantly. We were looking for an older couple to help us navigate a tough moment in our lives and they were right on time. After going through back to back miscarriages, hope that we would ever have children was starting to fade. But Adrianne didn’t allow that. She gave us hope, quoted us Bible scriptures and coached us through our struggle. The crazy part is that a woman whose body was dying of cancer but whose spirit was super charged was able to give life to a young couple whose bodies were healthy but whose spirits were crushed.
Katie is a personal trainer but was working as a physical therapy tech at that time. She traded therapy for therapy with Adrianne. She gave the physical part and received the mental. Vern and I struck up a great relationship and he poured more into me in one year than many people had my whole lifetime. However, after two years in this small Texas town of 40,000 people, Katie and I were ready to move. She wanted to get back to personal training and we longed for community, which was something that was missing from our lives during the miscarriage. I looked for jobs and received an offer from a private school in San Antonio but the pay was less than I was making. I didn’t like the idea a reduced salary, but I was willing to take it because we felt that our time in Del Rio was up.
My mom suggested that we should also check out Austin so I decided to email a few coaches in the area. One said that he was looking for a composite science teacher but I only had my life science certification. Without asking anyone I said, “No thanks” and moved on. I figured I would just stick with the San Antonio offer. Driving home from school a week later I got a call from Katie, she said that she told Adrianne about the Austin job and Adrianne said I needed to look into it. I tried to say that I had already committed to the private school, but Adrianne wanted to know if I signed a contract.
I hadn’t. Then she told Katie to relay to me, through the phone, three words that have stuck with me since.
“Always Better Yourself.”
I paused for a moment. The words started to sink in and I realized that Adrianne was right. I wanted the safe and easy way out, even if that meant a job that was $10,000 lower than the one in Austin. The only thing that was stopping me was testing for a new certification.
Her words haunted me so I decided to email the coach again and ask if he would consider me if I took the composite science certification. Later that day we were at Vern and Adrianne’s house when the coach from Austin called me. He wanted to interview me. Vern and I took a drive up to Austin the next week. I interviewed and it went so good that the coach told me, “If you pass this test, the job is yours.”
One month later I nervously but excitedly opened the email with the results. I passed and we moved to Austin. Periodically, Katie and I reflect on how we wouldn’t be in the city that we love so much if it wasn’t for a cancer patient that decided that she wanted to give life even if her mortal body didn’t possess it.
Adrianne passed away a few years later but not before we got to go back and visit her with our oldest son. He was a result of that prayer and optimism from Adrianne. First she gave Katie hope and then she gave me hope. From that day forward I learned a lesson that will never be forgotten: Don’t ever underestimate the power of a mentor.
- Change the World
The most important thing you can do today is lead those around you.
We started out with the “golden question” and we it let roll around in your head for a little while. With that, you thought about what you would do if you knew you could not fail. Hopefully you took the time to think about things that affect you and the issues that resonate in your soul. No matter what the cause is, big or small, the most important thing is that it matters to you. Your future matters to you. Your purpose matters to you.
You learned that you had to become knowledgeable about your cause before you take your first step and now you are ready to take it. You are on the path to Changing the World.
Although it may seem scary, changing the world and stepping into your purpose is actually easier than you may think. The most effective way to create change is to influence those around you for the better and help them to make their dreams come true.
Take out a piece of paper and write down the names of five people in your life who you could help develop their purpose. This is your world. It’s that simple. Work to affect positive change in the lives of those five and be intentional about it. When you decided that you are going to pour into someone else’s life then they are going to reciprocate that favor and help you to get your cause off the ground. Relationships are the key to changing the world.
Too many times we get caught up in the thought that we would have to change the lives of 7 billion people when realistically, if you actively work to change the lives of five people around you, every day, then you will make an impact that will never be forgotten.
This is where the real leadership opportunities are. Be purposeful about who those five people are. It could be all family, co-workers, close friends or it could be a mixture of all three. Let those five know that they are going to be your team. Have them read this blog to get a better understanding and then you guys help each other. You support their cause any chance you get and in return they commit to supporting your cause. You have effectively built a small army for change.
Once you have your cause and your purpose simply start in your own backyard by making small changes in support of your cause. You can work on this alone until your group is built up but don’t let inaction be your voice of reason. Do Something right away. Do whatever you can and once you have your five people, duplicate what you have learned. Teach them that they can also Do Something. They too can influence five people around them to Be Better and to Change the World.
I am going to give you your first step. Although it may be small, it might be exactly what you need to get the spark going. I have created a Facebook Group where “Do Something” people like us can go to share our ideas, our causes, our successes, and our pains. This group will be a place where you can link up with others that are passionate about the same things that you are and instantly start to make a difference through the exchanging of ideas. Along with this I created a new hashtag that we can use to represent what we are doing. #DoBeChange. This will be a simple reminder to you and those around you that we can all: Do Something | Be Better | Change the World.
I want to leave you with a story that illustrates the power of change that is possible with one person. Sophia Auld is not a name often spoken of in history books. Her story was pretty inconsequential for most of her life except for one thing: She taught Frederick Douglas how to read. This thing that we now take for granted changed the course of history and helped to create one of the greatest leaders in the fight to end slavery. When Frederick was a young slave, he was sold to Sophia and her husband Hugh. Unaware of how other slave owners treated their slaves, Ms. Auld started out kind and treated Frederick like a human being. She taught him how to read until her husband, Hugh, told her that educating slaves ruins them and causes them to become unhappy with their station in life. If she continued she would ultimately lose her “property.” She eventually became cold towards Frederick and stopped teaching him BUT the damage had been done. He got a taste of freedom and was never looking back. After that he would ask questions about reading from white kids he would come across and would teach himself even more. Later, he would teach other slaves how to read as he realized that “knowledge was the pathway from slavery to freedom.” That spark of freedom stayed with Frederick and he planned on escaping for years. Using the knowledge he gained from reading and working on a waterfront dock, Frederick dressed as a free black sailor and borrowed a friend’s sailing papers. He boarded a train in Baltimore and headed for New York. When the conductor asked for his papers he nervously but confidently said that he had documents that allowed him to sail the world. The conductor looked at it and moved on. 24 hours later he was in the free North.
After his daring escape from slavery Frederick became a minister, an author and an US Ambassador, holding the highest government position of any African-American of that time. All of this was possible because of a spark. A spark given to him by Sophia Auld during a time of innocence before the evils of her day corrupted her.
If Sophia Auld, a woman who eventually embraced the ills of slavery, could be the catalyst for change in one young man’s life, what could we possibly do with our minds set on great things, even for a moment? With just the right amount of courage, persistence, and dedication to our purpose, we might simply Change the World.
Are you ready to Do Something! Join the Facebook Group below. Connect with other Doers. Do Something, Be Better, Change the World.Do Something