Dave Yarnes: "What Makes a Worthy Life?"
I still remember his question as if it were yesterday. I was sitting in Washington Reagan Airport, completely engrossed in a conversation with a great spiritual leader, my friend James Cannon.
Commuters rushed by in all directions, but I remember being so focused that it seemed as if the noise and distractions around us were muted. His question was big, and I knew I had not considered it in the past. I also knew it would help set the course for the rest of my life.
James was well known for his incredible business and his philanthropic exploits. I was young, my companies growing and philanthropic efforts just beginning. Ever learning, I always looked forward to whatever time I could spend with him. I asked him about his success. I thought of as many questions as I could to throw at him on a number of topics.
Over the years, I have found ways to grab moments with key leaders wherever and whenever I can. If I know someone is traveling and has a long layover or is stopping at a certain airport, I often arrange my schedule to coincide with theirs, to grab a few minutes in their busy schedules. I had to sacrifice and be intentional, but it was always worth it.
My topic for the day with James centered on some orphanages that he and I had financially underwritten in East Africa. The need was immense. The AIDS pandemic was ravaging villages and creating masses of orphans. We talked about lessons we had learned. We discussed watching the children grow up to lead fulfilling lives. We remarked, as we poured money into this devastating need, that our personal bank accounts grew somehow miraculously, supernaturally.
A question about personal focus had been forming in my mind. I said, “I feel so passionate about the work in Africa but I am also seeing incredible opportunity in business here in the States. Plus, my family is young and the travel is often grueling. There are so many directions to consider. I just want to make sure I’m focusing my efforts wisely.”
His look seemed to intensify and he stared at me for a moment. Then he looked at his watch and glanced at his ticket. He continued in a more serious tone, “I have to run, but there is something I have wanted to tell you that seems obvious to me but might not be to you.”
“You are at a crossroads, and it seems as if you are trying to go in a lot of directions, but there is really one question to be asked, and you’re the only one that can answer it. Once you do, you will be able to focus your energy on making it a reality. Then every other aspect will fall in place naturally. When all is said and done, what will you have considered a worthy life?”
With that, he picked up his bag, we said our goodbyes, and he walked off to his gate.
The question was so simple but haunting—often the most powerful truths are the most simple. Looking backward from the end of my days, what would I consider a worthy life? What would be my measure of fulfillment and prosperity?
I want to challenge you to examine this question and similar questions. From their answers, you will develop the components for a clear, personal plan for your own life strategy.
Research shows that individuals approach the topic of change and movement toward fulfillment and prosperity in one of two ways. There are those who believe they have no control over exterior conditions and are not able to influence or affect change. On the other end of the spectrum, there are those who believe they can change and control most aspects of their own environment. This second group has a strong understanding that they can dramatically influence their personal world through their actions.
The first group will be driven by circumstances and not by choices. The second group will live a more dynamic and forward-driven life. The bottom line is, the more influence you believe you have, the more things in your life you will try to influence and the more success you will sustain. Just trying to exert influence creates a higher probability of actually being able to make change.
Take a moment to adjust your thoughts. Attitude makes the difference between those who live their dream, feel fulfilled, and create the type of life they believe they were destined for and those who live at the mercy of their current surroundings and circumstances. Pause a moment to think deeply about your attitude, and make a commitment to yourself to approach this material with a fresh sense of empowerment.
Core Passion and Change
You may have tried to muster this passion from time to time as projects and platforms demand. But if you’re like most, when the moment passes or the project ends, the passion fades. Why? This type of passion is what I call “situational passion.” It exists only in relation to a cause. However, when you undertake the task of uncovering and defining what matters most to you personally, a true, lasting type of passion and clarity will be released. Let me say it simply, clarity and visualization of what matters most to you will create a lifestyle of passion. This is what I have come to label “core passion” and it is a powerful tool for continuous change.
Over the years, in numerous seminar environments, I have asked the question, “How many feel they are in a season of transition in life?” Amazingly, 75 percent respond in agreement. However, when I ask for clarity as to what the next season holds or what the plan looks like to get there, inexplicably almost none can describe what this transition looks like.
If you will use the following questions in a deeper, more thoughtful way, I assure you profound clarity will follow. You may find the answers are far more challenging than they may appear on the surface. Pursuing honest answers will help you envision what your life will look like in your idyllic future. As you seek the answers, you will be able to refine your understanding of what changes must occur in order to get from where you are now to where you want to go. I assure you that your core passion will build.
Even from a casual consideration of the questions below, most people realize their magnitude and significance; sadly, many never take conscientious time to reflect on and answer them. The 3C Strategy for a fulfilling life will give you a framework to answer and act upon these and other of life’s most important questions:
- What really is important to me?
- What kind of person am I called to become?
- Who am I to share my life with?
- What aspects of life are the most important to focus on now?
- Which area of my life is most drastically in need of improvement?
- What specific changes would I like to see?
- After these changes are made, can I picture myself living in a satisfying lifestyle of fulfillment and prosperity?