In his June 3, 2013 NY Times column, The Way to Produce a Person, David Brooks wrote:
But a human life is not just a means to produce outcomes, it is an end in itself. When we evaluate our friends, we don’t just measure the consequences of their lives. We measure who they intrinsically are. We don’t merely want to know if they have done good. We want to know if they are good.
That’s why when most people pick a vocation, they don’t only want one that will be externally useful. They want one that they will enjoy, and that will make them a better person. They want to find that place, as the novelist Frederick Buechner put it, “where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
If you are smart, hard-working, careful and lucky you might even be able to find a job that is both productive and internally ennobling. Taking a job just to make money, on the other hand, is probably going to be corrosive, even if you use the money for charity rather than sports cars.
We live in a relentlessly commercial culture, so it’s natural that many people would organize their lives in utilitarian and consequentialist terms. But it’s possible to get carried away with this kind of thinking — to have logic but no wisdom, to become a specialist without spirit.
Making yourself is different than producing a product or an external outcome, requiring different logic and different means. I’d think you would be more likely to cultivate a deep soul if you put yourself in the middle of the things that engaged you most seriously.
My advice over the years to people young and old: Find what makes you feel most alive and then figure out a way to make a living doing it.
Composing a life is serious work.
Heather turned to me and asked, “Do you want to send it?”
Heather once worked in a large business unit I led at the Star Tribune newspaper in Minneapolis, Minnesota. We lost track of one another about 20 years ago. We reconnected by chance last summer. Heather is now a writer, editor, and a photographer. I hired her to edit two book manuscripts. On May 28, 2013, we were sitting at my dining room table ready to upload Learning to Live: Essays on Life and Leadership for publication as an e-book at Amazon.com. Heather not only edited the manuscript, she also designed the cover, wrote an introduction, and formatted the text. I call this a legacy book: it is a way for me to save and leave behind a time of my life filled with adventures and peak experiences.
For the past 20 years, I’ve used my life as my own learning laboratory filled with study, intensity, and constant reflective learning all necessary to compose a life of my own. My art was not only the book I was about to publish but the intentional living that the book expresses. Every life is one of creative potential and we should put as much passion into designing our lives as painters, sculptors, writers, and artisans famous and obscure do with their creations.
I asked my wife Melanie to come to the room. “We are ready,” I said nervously. “I want you to give the command.” Melanie clicked the computer mouse and the manuscript uploaded flawlessly. A few hours later my book was ready to meet the world.
Welcome to “Tom’s Thoughts.”
Twenty years ago after much work, I wrote a purpose statement for my life: To live a life of spiritual, emotional, and intellectual adventures and to share what I learn with others. I will use this blog to offer my thoughts about life and leadership.
I invite you to engage with me.