How To Find Your Purpose
Me telling you how to find your true purpose feels a bit like arguing about what’s better – pie or cake. If you like one or the other, nothing I say is going to change your mind. You have to try a bunch of desserts and decide for yourself.
So, instead of telling you how to find your true purpose, let me tell you how I found mine. Hopefully, my story will inspire you to do the kind of work you need to decide for yourself.
How I Found Mine
I’ve had lots of small realizations that have helped me. I’ve learned things like:
- I get more joy working from passion than from logic.
- I need to consider relationships over the long term - I don’t always understand my true feelings in real time.
- Living well is nice, but authenticity and immersive experience is more rewarding than a big bank account.
But there have been three BIG realizations where I’ve gotten extreme clarity on who I am and what I'm meant to do.
Seize Every Moment – How I Learned to Savor Every Day
In 1985, I was almost killed by one of the most famous domestic terrorists in modern US history. I go into detail about this at Permission, so I’ll skip over the story here and talk instead about what came out of it.
I don’t know how it is for you, but at twenty-five years old, death was just an intellectual idea for me. A brush with violent death changed me in a very real way. It showed me my mortality – I knew suddenly that I was going truly to die someday.
That made life very precious. I discovered a new drive. I woke up with a burning desire to get every bit of life out of every day. Almost overnight, I went from drifting to seeking out new challenges and opportunities. My approach to life today can be summed up in three key attitudes:
- Take Action!
- If you can conceive it and it feels right, go for it!
- If it works out, great! If it doesn’t, learn from it and do better next time.
- Pay Attention!
- Life is a series of profound gifts. Pay attention to the ones that come your way and the lessons they teach.
- Mind-clouding things like distraction and drugs diminish your ability to focus, so do your best to avoid them.
- Experiences are made greater by appreciation. Even the richest people can feel desperate if they fail to appreciate the abundance in their lives.
- Relish the gifts that come your way.
A Walk in the Woods – How I Learned the Meaning of True Happiness
When I was studying how to be happy, one of my keys to personal change was long walks in the woods, both alone and with my wife. Those walks were part of a rich tapestry of study, reflection, conversation, and realization. As I explained here:
I reflected deeply during long walks in the woods. I thought about who I was and what I wanted to contribute to the world. I've always tried to seize everything that life has to offer, but at that time in my life, the push from the experts and the deep reflection helped me completely change my path. I learned that - truly - we create our own happiness. And beyond that, the steps you need to become happier, more effective, and more fulfilled are not that complex.
You and I deserve happiness, we're capable of getting it, and there are a lot of resources to guide us on our way. This isn't just a pep talk, it's a certainty for me because I've put it into action in my own life. That doesn't mean we'll never have any struggles, but it does mean that we can envision a path for our lives, get on that path, and find fulfillment.
During the walks, I asked myself questions like, “Am I an attorney? A businessman? A martial artist? What am I here on earth to do?”
I got very, very quiet and did my best to listen to the answers. The answer came back more and more clearly: “I’m here to learn, improve myself, and share.”
Once I was certain about how I wanted my future to look, my wife and I began the process of leaving our jobs, selling our beautiful house in the woods, and moving back to Ann Arbor, where I opened the Japanese Martial Arts Center in 2006.
JMAC has done very well. I try to make sure that it embodies a few principles that define me both as a martial artist and human being:
- Study obsessively
- There is no such thing as good enough in the dojo or in life. To truly absorb and express the deepest principles of mastery, there must be obsession.
- Spar Often
- The deep value of martial arts, both for self-defense and for personal development, comes from testing them under severe conditions.
- Untested martial arts become exercises in fantasy … fun but not likely to lead to a deeper truth.
- The same principles apply to business, relationships, and life. If you coast, you may miss out on some struggle, but you also miss out the most valuable experiences.
- Share Everything
- Teaching helps make sure our theories hold up under scrutiny. It keeps our learning alive, so the next generation can make things even better.
- What’s cutting edge now won’t be so remarkable for the next generation. I may be the best in the world at my art right now, but what I can do won’t be the apex when the next generation comes up.
- Sharing is the key to making sure your contributions have a future life.
A Thousand Moments – How I Learned What I Was Meant to Do
Each day brings a thousand moments. In each one, if we show up with enough patience, clarity and vulnerability, we can learn. I’m stubborn - I learn slowly - but even I was able to see what the Universe was trying to teach me – I’m here to try to help people move past their limitations.
Most limitations are self-imposed. They may come from a bad upbringing or from challenging experiences, but the past only defines the future if we let it.
The hard part is that overcoming our “inside stuff” is a skill itself, and most of us are too busy trying to get through life to get good at it.
That’s where I can help. I’ve been forced to learn the same lessons so many times that I’ve distilled the art of overcoming limitations into a few key points. The single most important point is this one: you have to believe you can , at least a little.
That’s why I created Permission. It gives you the time to map out where you want your life to go, and journal what’s keeping you from getting there. It provides incredible, unconditional support for you. If all goes well, you experience a few breakthroughs and your inner voice becomes far more helpful.
Even if you don’t magically transform on the day of the event, the experience can be so powerful that it brings long-term positive change to your way of thinking. I’ll also share tools to help reaffirm what you learn and get even better at your inside stuff.
It’s a day of hugs, high-fives, and handshakes.
It’s like a day-long rock concert with you as the guest of honor.
Whatever happens in your life, I wish you every success!