There is a moment in life when we all ask ourselves the most poignant question of our life. It is at that point that we stand in front of our own existence and examine our self. We critique our manner, our thoughts, our being. We ask, in humility or frustration, anger or exhaustion, “Why am I here?” Looking back on my own life this was the moment that I realized not only my own individual purpose in life but the role that I would play in the lives of others as well. The answer was not a subtle hint. The response was not a mere whisper. The answer didn’t simply come to me it was hurled in my direction and I understood. My life hasn’t been the same since.
I grew up in a house filled with music. I grew up in a home where actions spoke louder than words and faith animated our daily lives. I grew up knowing right from wrong and good and evil. My parents said that from day one I wasn’t a shy person. It was clear that my character was bold and fearless. I often walked up to complete strangers and started conversations. I was more comfortable around my elders than my peers and found their conversations to be enlightening and uplifting. Then I began to question their words and their motives and I began to challenge the system. Though I didn’t know it at the time this was one of my wisest decisions.
I remember clearly being taught that in order for us to understand something we should not simply accept that thing as fact. Each of us needed to challenge the idea and gain our own understanding and testimony of its veracity. Time after time I began to challenge that which was placed before me. I started to re-examine my life and the values that I had and one by one they began to fall and their flaws were exposed. Those that I had held in such high regard were now the same people that were the authors of my chastisement and ultimate casting out. It was in this moment, when my world was crumbling and my belief system was laying upon a foundation of sand that I realized that I needed to rebuild upon the core values that mattered most to me.
I knew in my heart that I was good, and I don’t mean nice, or sweet. I don’t mean good in the generic and pedestrian terms. I mean good; genuine, true, heartfelt and wise. That simple fact kept me afloat. I’ve spent nearly decade defining my values, finding myself, searching for peace, yearning for solemnity. I can honestly say that have been broken, beaten and torn down to the very center of myself. And while there are pivotal moments and a few tremendous breakthroughs it’s only been in the last year, or even the past 6 months that I’ve truly been able to stand tall, firm, and sure of who I am and how I will define my presence and my gift to this life and to those whom I will encounter.
When I sat there before myself, my being, my essence; I placed my faith and my life in the hands of a greater power. The voice that replied back to my question was the voice of a wiser, nobler, and stronger me. I looked at myself as an eager soul ready to take on the world and I knew I had to be broken in order to rebuild and become the greatest me. My wiser self knew the role that I would someday play and deep within I too knew my place in this world, in this life.
I can’t explain it. There really aren’t words to define that feeling I get when I know that I am in the right place, at the right time, surrounded by the right people. I have felt it. I have also swelled with arrogance and pride as I stood before others when I should have thanked them for the privilege that they afforded me. My wiser self knew that I needed to eliminate that from my life. I needed to learn to stand up not as a model of how everyone should be, not as display of inspirational perfection, but rather as humble, fellow passenger on this journey we call life. That has been a hard lesson to learn.
I have lived a lot. I have experienced much more than I believe many people of my age. Some of that is due to my own folly and conceit, some has been fortunate chance, and some of it feels as if the very forces of the universe are pushing against me; perhaps in an effort to refine my qualities or contrarily to keep me from that majestic mission that I feel so compelled to complete. Whatever the reason might be I will be forever grateful for each blow, bump, bruise, and battle wound because these scars – be they emotional, physical or otherwise – they are my badge of honor. I will wear them with pride. I am the man that I am today because of experiences of my yesterday. I am stronger, more patient, more caring, more hopeful, wiser, more compassionate, and humbler because I have fallen to my knees and somehow found the strength to stand up again.
I have always been a leader. I believe that it is something that was born with me. As I grew, that innocence and authenticity in my leadership was replaced by command and pride, selfishness and domineering. I believe that as I grow wiser I see that natural leadership comes from a place of modest dignity and sincere love for others. As I grow to know myself and become aware I am able to better gauge my place and my sentiments as I seek to lead. I hope that my direction comes from a place grounded upon my values and my experiences and not a place of self fulfillment.
As I sat in that room nearly a decade ago, I heard a voice in my head. That voice was responding to my question, “Why am I here?” My wiser self responded in no uncertain terms. “This life is not your own. You will live your life in service.” Those words may as well be tattooed across my heart because I will never forget them. As a leader I know that I am not here to glorify myself and lift myself up. I am here to help others in their pursuit of perfection. I want to offer guidance and hope, security and friendship. I want to be there for others when they need it. I want to stand beside them and lift them up. When the rest of the world tells them what’s wrong with them I want to be the one to tell them what is good about them. I want to believe in their dreams. I want to empower their imagination. I want inspire them to be the best that they can become. I’m an optimist and oh so imperfect and I’m a leader.