I so wish this story were not true, but it is. It was a Wednesday morning around 7:30 AM late 2001, I was on my way to the office. A beautiful morning, hot, but it was still early and the morning air felt nice. I was traveling down a main four lane road that leads directly into Nashville. I was driving on the inside lane, next to the turning lane. Just to my right a Metro bus had stopped in the middle of the road, not at a bus stop, just in the middle of the road. I noticed to my far left a man running across two lanes of oncoming traffic and paused in the turning lane. He was waiting on my lane of traffic to clear so that he might proceed to catch the waiting bus. I slowed momentarily to make certain he was waiting to cross, and then proceeded. This all took place in a couple seconds. I'm sure you understand, when driving we make a lot of calculations in our minds every few seconds. Just as I started to pass him, he took off running to catch the bus, and at that very instant both our lives would forever change.
As I write this, I can see clearly that horrific accident unfold before me. Tragically, gut-wrenchingly, and horrifically, he passed away three days later at the Vanderbilt Hospital in downtown Nashville. It was later revealed to me that he could not see well and had been warned by the bus driver that he would be struck by a car if he continued to run into a busy multi-lane highway. The tragic misfortune was ruled an accident, due to the negligence of the pedestrian. So sad and misfortunate. Fifteen years later does not erase this vivid encounter nor does it restore their family to normality. My heart continues to ache for this grieving family.
Thirty days later I decided to take an extended break and gather my thoughts. I sold my business and spent the next five years evaluating my life. I could write a series of novels of all the discoveries about myself that was revealed during the next 60 months, but I will just mention one at this time. My biggest takeaway was this; my life had no significance. I had been relatively successful financially at a pretty early age, but I was not spending any intentionality on being significant. I was spending the majority of my waking hours generating another dollar. If I only had one more......you fill in the blank. It seems we invariably move the bar. Just a little bigger....or, just a little nicer. I was on a quest for an elusive, tangible article that I just couldn't get my hands around. Each and every success was nice for a moment, and then it faded into the darkness only to yield another round of discontent. My intention here is not to discourage growth and success, quite honestly, just the opposite. I want to grow and succeed now myself; I just don't want that to be my primary aim. I was absorbed in all that glitters thinking that would scratch the itch.
Taking time off allowed me to search deep and uncover my innermost thoughts and motives. Being a man of faith, I went to God calling out for meaning and purpose. He revealed to me that true rest and meaning is only found in Him. In order for me to have purpose, I needed to spend more time resting in His leadership and devote energy, effort and time investing in others. I soon discovered that everything does not revolve around me.
When you have a little bit of success, you began to feel invincible. A feeling of entitlement can creep upon you without notice. You create a world around you in which you become the nucleus. After much prayer, evaluation and meditation I found that when I'm a servant leader to my family there is a peace that comes over you that is indescribable. I have found that when you put yourself last for the benefit of your wife and children they sense an indescribable love that is beyond comparison. I'm not trying to make this a "faith" thing, I'm just sharing what was revealed to me. Now, living a life of success and significance is much more gratifying than having a life of inward focus.
I tried to identify what success and significance were for me, and this is the short list.
Success means to me:
1. Financial freedom and stability.
2. Having an engaging family and meaningful relationships.
3. Clear conscience.
4. Good health.
5. Being content without being complacent.
6. Having a clear sense of direction.
7. Having dreams and establishing goals.
8. Trusting a higher power.
9. Having meaning and purpose.
10. Being considered wise.
Significance to me is:
1. Meeting the needs of others.
2. Helping others when they can't repay you.
3. Being available to aid others when it may not be convenient.
4. Providing above and beyond the expected amount or minimal requirements.
5. Giving out of obedience rather than compulsion.
6. Placing personal wants and desires aside for the benefit of others.
7. Depriving yourself for the sake of others.
8. Delaying personal gratification for the greater good.
9. Foresight to invest in long term matters that will impact generations to come.
10. Stop waiting your turn to talk and truly engage.
I want you to take the time to look deep inside yourself and see who is living there. Ask yourself difficult questions and make adjustments accordingly. Are you all about you? Are you chasing something that is elusive? Does your life exemplify a person of gratitude that is compassionate for others?
I pray that it doesn't take a tragic accident for you to discover that you should have been doing things differently. Please take a moment and be mindful of your surroundings and make absolute certain you are living a life of significance.
Live on purpose,