People Power: The traits of the uncommon man - Aug/Sep 18

By Sam Allman

Of the many needs humans have, finding a purpose in life sits at the pinnacle of them all. A strong purpose drives our motivation to endure. We will withstand hunger, thirst, sleep deprivation and pain in pursuit of purpose. Purpose gives us meaning and the internal fortitude to continue when our trials seem more than we can bear. As I read stories of those who survived great suffering for purpose, I wonder how they did it.

In Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl tells the story of what he learned by surviving the Holocaust. As an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist, Frankl observed that some concentration camp internees did not endure long and died; others were able to withstand the most horrendous conditions-beatings, hunger, cold, exhaustion-in order to survive. The difference: the survivors found meaning and purpose in their suffering. They found a reason to do whatever it took to stay alive. Whether it was to live to seek revenge against their captors or find out what happened to their loved ones, that purpose gave them the motivation to endure. According to Frankl, “What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost, but the call of a potential meaning (purpose) waiting to be fulfilled by him.”

Frankl points to research indicating a strong relationship between “meaninglessness” and criminal behavior, addiction and depression. He argues that in the absence of meaning, people fill the resultant void with hedonistic pleasures-power, materialism, hatred, boredom or neurotic obsessions and compulsions.

As Frankl implies, we have to search for purpose, and it has to be worthy of us. Discovering purpose in our sufferings gives us the motivation to endure them. I’m sure someone has tried to comfort you in your problems by saying, “You know, everything happens for a reason.” Of course, what they mean is there is purpose in what we are having to deal with or that some good may come out of it. I do not believe that everything happens for a reason. But I do believe that if we can search for and apply a meaning to each of our sufferings, that will give us the endurance to see them through.

We can find purpose and meaning by finding a cause that is worthy of us. That’s what Stephen R. Covey in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, meant when he identified purpose with “leaving a legacy.” Face it: most of us do not want to live and then die leaving no evidence that we were even here. “Leaving a legacy” is leaving evidence-evidence that we existed; evidence that we left something behind. Here’s some real news: we leave everything behind. No one gets out of this alive, and no one takes anything with them except their knowledge, wisdom and memories. Everything we leave is our “legacy.” We leave our “stuff” and the impact our living had on the lives of those around us and our Mother Earth. Will your legacy make a positive difference or a negative difference in the future?

Steve Jobs once said, “We’re here to put a dent in the universe.” I believe he meant that our purpose ought to make a positive difference in the lives of others and in the world in which we live.

The theme of this month’s issue of Floor Focus is sustainability. Sustainability has been defined as “the ability to sustain” or the “capacity to endure.” Sustainability has become a global issue because it is by no means certain that our society has the capacity to endure, at least in such a way that the nine billion people expected on Earth by 2050 will all be able to achieve a basic quality of life. The planet’s ecosystems are deteriorating, and the climate is changing. We are consuming so much that some scientists think we are already living far beyond the earth’s capacity to support us. Nearly one in six of our fellow humans goes to bed hungry each day-both an unnecessary tragedy and a source of social and political unrest. Meanwhile, our globalized world is more interconnected and volatile than ever, making us all more vulnerable.

The purpose of our industry’s focus on sustainability is its desire for economic development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It is about making our future the cause of the present. And that’s what we do when we search for and discover a purpose that is worthy of leaving evidence that we lived and made a dent during our lives. Do you want your dent to be positive or negative? Is the way you are living today compromising the ability of your future posterity to live, survive and endure?

I see the importance of business and government leaders establishing rules and regulations that protect future generations, like dumping toxic waste into the environment. But what if each and every person, of the billions living today, decided to make the dent they left a positive one, instead of negative? Since personal purpose and meaning are applied and chosen by each of us individually, let me suggest we each do our part by becoming good stewards.

Stewardship is the job of taking care of something, such as an organization or property. It’s the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care. Remember we can take nothing with us. We leave everything. Ownership is fleeting, and eventually we have nothing. Technically, we are entrusted with teaching future generations to survive and thrive. We are stewards of the future. Ironically, when we take care of the future, we also take care of ourselves.

Of what should we be good stewards? First and foremost, we should be good stewards of our bodies. This is the vehicle that takes us to the future. A good friend of mine who passed away several years ago once said to me, “If I had known I would have lived this long, I would have taken better care of myself.” When we are young, we think we are immortal. Death is something that won’t happen to us. Then we lose someone who wasn’t so lucky. Hopefully, we learn sooner rather than later that if we don’t have our health, we have nothing. Your body is self-healing, but it can only do so much. Too much partying, risk taking, alcohol, smoking and drug use will eventually take its toll on your future. Those activities will make you old. Don’t allow your exit from this life to be a tragedy. Embrace the paradox; live like you will die tomorrow but, at the same time, treat your body like you will live forever.

Being a good steward over time will determine the quality of our lives. It’s the great equalizer. No matter how smart we are, no matter where and to whom we were born, whether rich or poor, we all have the same amount of time. Poor use of time has been found to be the number one cause of failure both in life and in the workplace. It has been said that “success is living your life your own way.” I believe that sometimes living gets in the way of this. Most of that is because we give up what we want most for what we want now. Good stewardship requires you to consider how you use your time.

Learning to manage your finances is also evidence of your stewardship. If you are making your future the cause of the present, you are preparing for your retirement; you are investing more than you are spending; you are living within your means. Good stewards are frugal and thrifty. They are careful about exploiting theirs and the world’s resources.

Good stewards continually strive to grow and learn. In a world where job security is gone, the only thing we have is that our skills are better today than they were yesterday. Good stewards are working on themselves; learning and mastering new skills that will make them more marketable. The problem today is not getting an education; the problem is keeping one. Each of us has gifts and talents that lay dormant if they are not recognized and developed.

How well do you care for and manage your stuff? Nothing lasts forever. But a home that is well cared for will last hundreds of years; a car will last for decades. How you care for your stuff is more evidence for the world to judge the kind of steward you are. Whether you like it or not, it’s part of the legacy you leave. What does your bedroom look like? Are your clothes hung neatly in the closets or folded nicely in your drawers? Is your bed made? The military expects new recruits to make their beds properly every single day. Being a good steward over few and little things prepares us to be a good steward over many and bigger things. Good stewardship over “stuff” extends their longevity and protects precious resources.

No one on their deathbed will say, “Gee, I wish I would have spent more time at the office.” Good stewards nurture their relationships. It is the essence of people power. A measure of our legacy is the impact we leave on the lives of others-whether it be our children, our friends or our constituents. It’s the relationships that matter most to us, and it’s those relationships that will give us the power to endure suffering. Our careers and our work matter, but relationships matter more. Good stewards nurture, care for, forgive and are kind. They love. I am not talking about love, the feeling. I am talking about love, the verb. Love is the spirit of giving. Giving of yourself for someone else. Most of us are selfish and think of ourselves most of the time. Powerful purpose subordinates yourself to others. That’s when we find purpose that is worthy of us and gives us the power to endure.

Finally, good stewardship means we take care of the environment. We pick up trash. We recycle. We are thrifty with our natural resources. We don’t waste. We are good global citizens. What if each of us decided to make our cause, or at least a portion of it, the future? Each of us can focus on sustainability by being good stewards. Good stewardship can be part of your purpose. What will be your legacy? How do you want to be remembered?

Copyright 2018 Floor Focus