"I’m a firm believer in ensuring one should create a stable and successful position for oneself and one’s family first because it is from there that one is then able to make a greater difference socially (be that for ‘higher purpose or otherwise’)," writes Ben Metcalfe, a former member of Citizen Agency with Tara Hunt and Chris Messina.
I see an interesting conversation about to ensue around higher purpose, calling, and compromising and not compromising art at Tara Hunt's HorsePigCow blog.
"If Al Gore had been interested in the environment from the beginning he probably would have forged a career in politics to become a lowly environmental campaigner. Who knows where he would be now. But I doubt he would have the power and influence to assert his ‘higher purpose’ as he does now given the base he established for himself. Same for Warren Buffet," continues Ben.
I hadn't thought of Buckminster Fuller when I wrote my follow-on comment, but he comes to mind now. I pretty much think of him as one of my own inspirational heroes.
"The minute you begin to do what you really want to do, it's really a different kind of life." - Buckminster Fuller
"In 1927, at the age of 32, Buckminster Fuller stood on the shores of Lake Michigan, prepared to throw himself into the freezing waters. His first child had died. He was bankrupt, discredited and jobless, and he had a wife and new-born daughter. On the verge of suicide, it suddenly struck him that his life belonged, not to himself, but to the universe. He chose at that moment to embark on what he called “an experiment to discover what the little, penniless, unknown individual might be able to do effectively on behalf of all humanity.” - Buckminster Fuller Institute
If you're not familiar with the rest of his experiment, here's a bit more on Bucky Fuller. I also remember reading that he would simply go about his work for a new project, and he trusted that he'd get his funding. And it always worked out - oft times in the 11th hour - but if the vision came, it was conceived.
In my comments in Tara's blog, I start: "Whether what I call what I do ‘higher purpose’ or not, all I know that is my inspirations come from a place that feels greater than myself and my own survival and bigger than just expressing myself. Just feel it can’t be only about me and how I am putting food on the table for myself any longer. Once I had strong inclinations and visions, I couldn’t be sure it was in anyone’s best interests to abort them and pretend them away.
To that end, though, I don’t believe that any sacrifice is in order, and I spent far too long on a renunciate path to know that is misguided as well. As Ben says he “infer[s] that one should sacrifice one’s opportunity to become rich and successful in order to strive for one’s higher purpose.”
I suppose that I don’t really buy into that binary view.
I think being motivated/captivated/enchanted by the higher purpose is in itself the driving force that will get one to wake up in the morning and do everything possible to see it through. It’s hard for me to be motivated by the carrot of future riches and future purpose dangling.
I suppose that I have had this VERY same discussion with a friend of
mine that is concerned about me: he says that I should be practical and
seek my own stability in wealth, and then I can be a philanthropist
later. He doesn’t know me (or believe my stories) from my days when
this is PRECISELY what I tried.
I came close enough to being a dot-com millionaire on paper. As luck would have it just about the time the whole house of cards was collapsing that I read Randy Komisar’s book in 2000. Waiting for higher purpose someday later he refers to as the deferred life plan.
This is it folks, you can be hit by a truck or a tsunami any moment.
(BTW, his WONDERFUL book for entrepreneurs is “The Monk and the Riddle,” and Randy is a VC at Kleiner Perkins [interview with Randy at Venture Voice]. He’s one to assert both/and too: values driving success. Just recalled that he is Buddhist [since Ben had mentioned Buddhist philosophy]. Another Buddhist book that is about higher purpose AND wealth that I absolutely loved is “The Diamond Cutter”.)"
p.s. The reason I (and many artists I believe) avoid calling,or higher purpose, hasn't anything really to do with fear around money. That's only the obvious excuse.
Update: Should I ever meld together reader comments below (thanks Bruce, A Foolish Guy, and TorAa) and my comments here and over at Tara's blog post on higher purpose and Tara's readers' comments, whew, that'd be one heck of a post.
While running around the high school track I had enough time to get a bit more "out of my head", and remember that after my all-so-serious-and-four-year-long-quest that begain "what is my purpose, or in more plebian terms, why is it I would bother waking up tomorrow?" what I've learned is that the people I know that are living their highest purpose do it so totally, so naturally, so spontaneously that I'm not sure they could even articulate it for me. They act and live in lock-step with their heart - and the heart doesn't explain itself. Anyhow, they don't need to: Art speaks for itself (or in other words, explaining kills art).
"The task is not to find the lovable object, but to find the object before you lovable.” – Soren Kierkegaard, “Works of Love"
Often we discount what we are working this very minute too easily in the search for something that is higher, better, loftier. Later. Bring your best to every task every minute. I don’t advocate stressing about knowing if you have a higher purpose or not. Or worrying if you are doing ‘it’ right or not.
I have spent too much time in past fretting whether I was living my purpose and since I wasn’t quite sure what my purpose was that gave me a lot to stress about - rather than just living that minute, and the next minute, and the next. (It’s not really YOUR higher purpose anyhow.)
In the living of it, the purpose unfolds.
Maybe we might allow ourselves to be ameniable to living out any inspired vision that is already making its way into heart. And I have a feeling it would not be making itself so clearly known if there wouldn't be any foundation coming with it. If nothing is making itself too clear, just trust you are living it and enjoy what you are up to.
When I’m stumped about proceeding (higher purpose or no), I’ve found a little time each day in quiet helps set the tone for the rest of the day:
“The self-conscious mind cannot reach silent knowing, but silent knowing can reach into it at rare moments when the internal talk ceases, allowing other things to be heard. Everyone has these moments, when the world turns quiet and an indefinable calm washes over us.” - John Lamb Lash, "Not in His Image"
It is at these times that the clarity makes the next step more obvious, especially since 'higher purpose' can seem so hugely overwhelming and daunting - so where would you begin?
My housemate's refrigerator magnet may say it all: "Ask your heart what's right, and follow it." Although that's the training wheels version to get practice. It becames our nature, not our second nature, to just follow our heart without asking and without reservations. And so without even being aware of any higher purpose or striving towards higher purpose we end up on purpose totally spontaneously.