I have been exploring many of the same topics you speak of in your writings for about 11 years now. As a youngster I came from a blue collar family that didn’t have much (from a material standpoint), but I did have a wonderful, loving and very supportive close family. However, I was a good student and was very driven from early on to “be somebody”. I did well in college, got a great job right out of school, and made tons of money at the time for a 20-something. Life was good, I was happy, and I felt like everything was on the right track. By all accounts my goals and aspirations at the time might not have been much different than many of the eager MBA students that you mentioned.
Then, my grandfather died. My grandfather was a carpenter his whole life in a tiny German town outside the twin cities. He was a terrific man by all accounts, but did not have a lot of material success and lived a pretty simple life. His funeral changed everything for me. That day, I arrived expecting family and a few others to be there to pay their respects. I was shocked at his wake as the line of people grew and grew and grew and eventually trailed all the way outside the chapel. Hundreds of people showed up. As I stood close to the casket with other immediate family to talk to these people as they made their way through the line, I was changed.
Many said: “I am a better person because of him”
Dozens of people, with all sincerity, made sure that I knew how lucky I was to have the grandfather I did. They told me how great of a man he was. They each shared stories of how he had gone out of his way to help them at one point or another in their lives. They told me how he had made them laugh. Many said: “I am a better person because of him”. “I feel fortunate that I had a chance to know him”. I knew that these sorts of comments were typical at a funeral, but it was the way that they said it and the sheer number of comments that really blew me away. This was clearly a man that touched a lot of people deeply in life, left the world a better place, and in all the right ways.
At the time, my wonderful wife and I had just given birth to our first child, a daughter. My family is quite spiritual and believed that as old life passes away, new life is born. They asked me if I would be willing to hold up my new daughter for all in the church to see at a certain point in the ceremony. A symbol of new life. I agreed.
When the time came, I stood up in the middle of a packed church, extended my arms, and held my brand new baby daughter up as high as I could. The priest said, “as old life passes, new life is born”. Few in the church could hold back tears.
What matters? What doesn’t?
It was on that powerful day that I suddenly had a whole bunch of new questions. Questions that I had never really asked myself before. What will they say at my funeral? What was it that my grandfather seemed to do so right in life? What matters? What doesn’t? What and how will I teach all of this to my new daughter? What did my grandfather and grandmother do to be in a relationship where they loved and respected each other so much? Etc. etc. etc. etc. All seemed to be pretty simple questions that I would figure out with a bit of study and thought. Ha Ha!
As you might imagine, I’ve been trying to figure out the answers to those questions ever since. The more I learn the more questions I have. I’m fascinated with the study of psychology, philosophy, leadership, authenticity, and happiness. Can you be a great husband, father, son, friend, and business owner all at the same time? Or do the qualities and character that make you good at some of these roles, make you bad at others? It is an amazing quest!
I don’t know if they’ll be of any value to you, but here are a few of the resources and thoughts that have resonated with me over the past several years. None are perfect but offered me powerful knowledge:
8 resources that have helped
- Ken Wilbur’s book “A Brief History of Everything” is based on Integral Theory and combines everything into one general theory. Interesting framework and concept.
- Ray Kurzweil’s “The Singularity is Near”. Completely changed my old linear view of life and where technology will take humanity.
- Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”. Seems like she wrote it yesterday.
- Jonathan Haidt’s “The Happiness Hypothesis”
- Jack Canfield’s “The Success Principals”
- Napolean Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich”
- The Hudson Institute on Life Coaching teaches that life, and we as individuals, go through seasons, like nature. A cycle of renewal. All seasons are necessary to get to the next one. Know what season you’re personally in, and accept it. Winter is necessary for Spring to happen.
- Brian Johnson is an entrepreneur and philosopher. He can be a bit over the top with lovey-dovey stuff for my personal taste, but his website is fantastic. He has read and summarized 100 of the great books and thinkers (many that you have quoted in your thoughts). I have read most of them. Well worth the $50 to get summaries of 100 great teachings.Brian teaches that many extraordinary minds have been contemplating these same questions for centuries and this collective knowledge can be organized into 10 categories: Optimism, Purpose, Self-awareness, goals, action, energy, wisdom, courage, love, entheos.
The three core values of truly successful people
Lou Holtz (the American football coach) says there are three core values that he can find in successful people, and only in successful people:
- Trust. They always do the right thing.
- Commitment. They are committed to excellence.
- Caring. They care about themselves and others and show it.
These are just a few that come to mind. Lately I’ve been fascinated with the topic of how to be a good father, husband, son, and friend, and if being a good entrepreneur and business owner is compatible. All of these are my goal and purpose. How do you need to change your actions as you play each specific role, and can you do that while still maintaining authenticity and honoring your true character? The scary thing is that I feel like I’ve only met a couple of people in my whole life that I think have really managed to be good at all of these at the same time. So, it can be done! (but is far from easy).
Everything changes. Everything is connected. Pay attention.
A lifelong master student of Buddhism summarized all of their knowledge of this philosophy in 7 words: “Everything changes. Everything is connected. Pay attention.”
Sorry for the ramble. Keep up the great work, good luck on your “journey”, and I really look forward to hearing what you have to say in your book.
The circle of Life. This is a guest post by Eric Ronning, father, husband and President of Channel Financial, a financial advisory business of which he is a co-founder. He is a sponsor of Entrepreneurs’ Organisation Minneapolis chapter.