Tom, on Purpose

I have a personal mission statement. It’s important to have one. I think everyone should stop and consider their core purpose in this life from time to time to make sure their journey is aligned with their principles. Without it we’re all just wandering around in the thicket peeing on the trees. My mission statement isn’t perfect. I look at it all the time and think I can do better. Sometimes I rewrite it entirely. I’m usually very satisfied by the time I finish it but, within a few weeks, it seems horribly, irrevocably wrong. I don’t think I’m very good at writing personal mission statements.

But that doesn’t stop me.

I first got the idea to write one about a year ago. I was reading Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and wasn’t really enjoying it. The habits made perfect sense but I’m not really very good at developing those, either, which is probably why I’m not among the highly effective. Reading Covey, though, somehow lead me to download and consume another of his works, How to Develop Your Personal Mission Statement. I was in the mood to find some purpose in life at the time so I gave it a try. Again, very satisfied with the result. Again, it made no sense within a few weeks.

At the same time as I was doing that I started reading Victor Frankl and Vic mentioned something very cogent that has stuck with me in the four seasons since: he said that we don’t so much invent our mission as detect it. It’s there. It’s waiting. It occurred to me that I was trying too hard and I needed to stay in the trees a little longer, look around a bit more, and let my mission come to me.

So I lived.

I’m pretty good at doing that, I practice it every day. In the process of doing so I kept this thought in the back of my mind: if you’re not living your purpose, Tom, then you’re just living someone else’s script. I love that. I’d like to say it’s mine but I know it isn’t. I’m not really sure where I heard it, to be honest. Maybe Covey said it, too, or Frankl, or maybe it’s in the Bible somewhere. I don’t know, I haven’t read a Bible in years. I hear it still sells well.

Every couple of months or so I change a word or two of my mission statement or delete a sentence or add an adverb. Life is fluid. I’ve scrapped it entirely at least twice and started the whole thing over. The one thing that stays the same in every rewrite, however, is the first sentence. All of the words and phrases that follow are malleable and seem to change to suit my current dreams, ambitions, fears, and favorite TV shows. But not the first sentence. The first sentence appears to be my core principle.

“Delight in life.”

Maybe the rest of it is fluff. Perhaps I only have one true mission and delighting in life every day is all I really need to keep me out of the trees. Maybe that’s my north star. My purpose. My mission.

There should be something more, I realize that. There should be a but. You know, something like “Delight in life but read the Bible,” or “Delight in life but support honest leaders,” or at least “Delight in life but build the first interdimensional, trans-galactic commercial flight vehicle.” None of that is likely, but that’s the rub – I’m the guy with bucket list items of “fly unaided through space,” and “live forever.” So maybe “delight in life” is all I really have. Victor Frankl would be proud; my mission found me a long time ago.

Later today I’m going to give it another try. I’m going to write out the rest of my mission and feel smug and satisfied with it. I’m really going to buy in this time. I might even develop a good habit. I realize my mission statement isn’t going to make complete sense in a few weeks and is going to get scrapped again in a few months, but it’s a start. Another start.

Of course it’s going to be irrevocably flawed and imperfect.

It has to be.

It’s a reflection of me.

Picking the Prez

It’s easy to see why they call it super. The gains amassed by the frontrunners today in the dozen or so states holding primary elections have been, historically, insurmountable. If, as expected, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton show well on this particular Tuesday, they will be their party nominees. One of them will be the next President of the United States of America.

Insert long pause here.

Donald Trump is a celebrity billionaire whose wild caricature has become his identity. Hillary Clinton is a political insider. Her influence and scandal have been felt through six consecutive administrations. Oh, America, we have a problem.

Honestly, I’m as likely to vote for Trump as I am for Clinton. Even though I certainly have more in common with the Democrats than I do with the Republicans, I don’t see much difference. These two ego-driven chameleons seem to have more in common with each other than they do with their supporters. They are driven by the blowing of the wind. They lack a core. Like Narcissus, they are in love with their own reflection.

But I guess that’s the state of modern American politics these days. Who am I to judge?

I wonder if it really matters. The office of the president seems to be nothing more than that a money puppet. Policies enacted in the government seem to favor big money and multinationals no matter who wins the election. Something like that has to make us wonder if the truth is some sinister conspiracy or just a reflection of capitalism gone wild.

It’s worth a moment to ponder, at the very least.

Whatever your particular ideology, I hope if you’re in Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, or Virginia, you get out and vote. I hope with equal measure, and even greater passion, that you take the time to understand the implications of your vote not only on your own lives and the lives of all Americans, but on the lives and fortunes of every human being, everywhere. Consider the planet, too.

It isn’t important that we all believe the same thing. It is important, however, that we strive for what is best for all of us. We see how they’ve drawn the battle lines. Between right and left. Black and white. “Us” and “Them.” But the battle lines between big money and politics have blurred. Greed and corruption have taken away the power from we, the people. In a world of super-speed information with the knowledge of all mankind electronically at our fingertips this is the era we can take it back. Choose wisely.

Have a super Tuesday, folks.

Resistance is Futile

For the last 36 days writing has been easy. I get up on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday morning – right around 5:30 a.m. – and I start writing. Usually within 30 minutes I have a rough draft and usually within another 30 I have a finished piece. Some days the whole process takes less than thirty minutes, sometimes a good deal over an hour. Never do the words get in the way, and never does the page stay white.

Today is different.

I’m measuring every word and counting every syllable. I’m considering the implications of every sentence. It’s agony.

I just finished a wonderful book on the subject of overcoming barriers to creativity called The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. He says it’s all about resistance, which is just that little voice in all of us that tells us we cannot succeed. We’re not any good. We don’t have the time. Nobody cares. The problem with resistance, I say, is that most of the time it’s right. Most of the time we will not succeed, most of the time we’re not good enough, most of the time there is something more urgent to do, and most of the time nobody cares.

The gist of his argument is that, even so, do the work.

In fact, he wrote another book I haven’t read yet, called Do The Work.

Ernest Hemingway once famously said that overcoming writer’s block is as simple as writing one true sentence, write one thing that is the truest thing you know, and then write another. Ernest and Steven had the same idea: in order to write today, when the words do not come easy, you just have to start to write. Do the work. Even if all that comes out is drivel, do the work. Genius comes from effort, and resistance is right 100% of the time we do not give the effort.

So I’m writing. I’m writing like I have for the last 36 days and I’m writing about the things I love. I’m writing about writing, about reading, about time, and about life. The only difference between today and the last twenty times I sat down to do this is that, at the conclusion of this work, it becomes the second entry in my blog.

There is no more pressure than the second entry in a blog.

On the first entry you get a free pass; everyone wants you to succeed. By the tenth entry you’ve gained the followers you are going to gain, if any, and you’ve gotten into stirring up controversies and really speaking your mind. Oh, but that second entry …

I had it in my mind today to talk about the absurd state of modern American politics, the differences in my mental and physical state after a weeklong cleanse, or how much more I notice in the world around me now that I am following my passion, but those were not the words that came. Resistance came, instead. So I wrote one true thing about resistance, and then I wrote another.

I just did the work.

608 words later I have this, a blog about blogging. I hope it says more than I think it does. I hope it says something about how important it is to find passion, to follow passion, and to do whatever it takes every day to overcome the barriers to passion. I hope I’ve moved someone.

If I didn’t I’ll try again on Tuesday. And then again on Thursday. And then again next Saturday. I won’t give up because resistance already won the last four decades and I won’t let it win again.

And that, my friends, is the truest thing I know.

Tom Started a Blog

About a month ago, a ridiculous thought occurred to me: I should start a blog. As with most thoughts I have, I blurted this particular idea out loud, took a big swig of my over-sized beer, and laughed with everyone else in the room. Nobody else laughed.

I’m used to that. I say a lot of funny things that no one laughs at.

But this time it turned out that no one was laughing because everyone was encouraging. Encouraging, me, to start a blog.

The next day I opened the Google machine and typed in these words: how to start a blog. Immediately there was every expert in the world telling me what to do, why to do it, how to say it, and — most importantly — where to start. Instantly, I was overwhelmed.

The most important thing, almost everyone was saying, was to have a clarity of focus so that people could find you easily. You needed a topic.

I didn’t have a topic.

So I started writing. I started writing every other day, religiously. If you know me you know I don’t do anything religiously, except drink beer on Sunday mornings. Some things require practice to maintain. But I figured if I can create a lifetime habit of beer drinking through dedicated practice then surely I could create a writing habit by, you know, writing habitually.

I figured the topic would come.

A month later I’ve written 18 offline blog entries, one every other day, of which I am surpassingly proud. I’ve written about self-improvement, beer-drinking, football, politics, death, parties, bartenders, canines and friends. I have a wide variety of topics to choose from.

And my favorite one is whatever is on my mind today.

I guess I’m not good with rules. I guess I’m not focused enough to create a super-successful, million-follower, award-winning blog for the ages. Yet.

When I first started and learned I needed a topic, I asked everyone I know what the topic should be and I got a hundred different responses. Some were hilarious and others were profound. Then one day one of my friends told me I should write about the one thing I seem to love the most … me.

It was a joke. I think.

But that’s where this thing ended up, after all. This is a blog about me, about my walk through this journey of life and the way I see things as I go along. It may not be much but it is the best that I can do. For now.

Seems like every journey of a thousand miles begins with a first step. So, this is my first step.

Come take a walk with me.