Monday, May 21, 2012

A Followup to Intentional Living

My last post, Can "Employees" Live Life Intentionally?, has been one of my favorite blogging experiences to date. The comments have meant so much to me because, through dialog, I better understand myself, my friends and the world around me.

I'm a very passionate person. I think a lot about significance (it's one of my Strengths Finder themes), which is why this topic in general is so important to me. I'm also a high D (and I) on the DISC profile. I drive hard, form opinions, and make things happen. I don't shy away from debate because a part of me needs it to form my next opinion (or refine the one I just had 5 minutes ago). The downside of this personality is that I'm often a steam roller, plowing over peoples' emotions and opinions without even realizing it. For much of my life, I've had friends tell me something along the lines of, "Well, what you said/did was offensive... but I know your heart and what you really meant."

My heart on this topic is for you to find your purpose and live it to the best of your ability. I'm naive about many things, but I want to believe at some point in life, we are all given a choice to follow the Author's plan or write our own. I believe His plan is perfect and I hope you'll have joy, peace and fulfillment following it.

At the same time, I struggle with verses like Romans 9:20, 21 and especially, 22 or Proverbs 16:4. Is it possible your plan isn't so great after all? Or do we choose our own version which may lead to destruction which then also gets written into the larger story?

The main reason for writing this followup is because I saw a friend at church yesterday and realized I really wanted his opinion on this topic. We had worked together in ministry before and I knew he and his family spent some time overseas doing missionary work. I also knew he was in what might be considered a "normal" job now. The response he sent me via email was so incredible. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did. I'm so thankful for his permission to post it here:
Hey Luke!

It was great seeing you guys, too. I'm so excited for your upcoming trip. We loved our time in China back in 2006. We were there for exactly two months goofing around, learning more about the culture, meeting some amazing people, etc. You guys are going to love it!

As for thoughts on your posting... my views have definitely evolved (or devolved) over time. For what it's worth, I don't necessarily disagree or agree with the posting, but my indifference is not due to the subject or the way it's presented. I has more to do with my own experiences and how I view certain issues in life.

The older I get, the less "dogmatic" I become - which practically means that categories get skewed or evaporate, rules become suggestions, and most arguments seem to be little more than an exercise in human interaction. Don't get me wrong - I care deeply about family, social justice issues, the environment, international security, ethnic relations, etc., but many philosophical questions like whether "employees can live life intentionally" just don't arouse much consideration for where I am in life right now. For a business owner, I think it is a tremendous question to ask.

So, what does it even mean to live life intentionally? To build a business, pursue your dreams, travel the world, raise a family, create, invent, write, love, learn, etc.? One could probably list all the possible options, and I assume "to live intentionally" could mean to do anything except "give into the system" of a drab, boring, monotonous, painful 40 year career you didn't enjoy.

With such a definition of intentional living (or at least an implied definition), I could see how anyone who is working in a more "traditional job" could feel quite alienated by the posting. But I know you personally, and I know that is not what you would want people to feel. Rather, you are hoping to encourage them to pursue whatever path will help them find greater fulfillment in their lives.

Every few weeks, I have the privilege to work with some clients that are in... [redacted] ...some of their employees cannot even spell their spouse's name. Many have a history of heart disease, drug abuse, domestic violence, environmental hazards, etc., and it breaks my heart to hear employee after employee waive their company health plan because they cannot afford $15/week to have corporate medical insurance. Despite all my projected pity upon their situation, it is always such a joy to hear their stories, laugh with them, get to know who they are, what they do, what they enjoy, where they hang out, all about their loved ones, etc.

So there I am in my clean business attire, private university education, urban-international background, sitting with employees smelling of smoke and manufacturing grime, deep "in the system" with little or no-way out at their juncture in life. Are they living life intentionally? What does that even mean in their circumstances?

[ edited to remove a personal story of a Vietnam vet and the challenges he faced in his family and in life ]

I think there is so much more to life that we can ever know or understand, and I think the whole point of it is to love and respect one another during the short time we have on earth - no matter where we find ourselves. Whether in Nashville or NY or China or Hicktown, USA, whether building a high-tech company or pushing buttons on a factory press or negotiating peace in Iraq... people make career choices for various reasons, and whether it is considered "intentional living" or not is quite subjective.

My mom asked me when I was a little boy, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Apparently I answered, "I want to be a daddy." Coming from a kid who didn't grow up with a father, that was quite an interesting response - but it has definitely stayed with me. I find more fulfillment as a dad than I ever did trekking the globe or preaching or smuggling Bibles. Those were exciting activities, but playing catch with my sons is a true slice of heaven.

I think that is the same for so many others (whether than slice of heaven is found in an occupation, relationship, experience, etc.) Some things trump everything else.

For a business owner, you are right to be concerned for the well-being of your employees. I would even say it is "noble" of you to encourage entrepreneurship and freedom of movement for your team members (it is very rare compared to business that would rather squeeze the last dime out of their workers). So I think it is great that you are thinking about employees in this manner. I would just add that you may only see (and probably see) just a limited portion of what really matters in the lives of others. For them "living intentionally" may have very little to do with their career.

And that might be the point anyway - to continue to get to know other people's dreams, hopes, fears, joys, etc. That's what makes life.... well, life! So those are some thoughts... and I didn't even use the word "calling" or "purpose" or "destiny" ; )

Would love to have lunch or something before you head south! Cheers.

I've read this over and over again. I can't get enough of it. This is probably my favorite part: I would just add that you may only see (and probably see) just a limited portion of what really matters in the lives of others. For them "living intentionally" may have very little to do with their career.

That is the truth. We spend so many of our waking hours "at work," it's easy for me to make a generalization and say the time there has to be significant. That's probably short-sighted thinking. Ideally, I'd like that time to be an intentional part of your purpose because I like efficiency and spending so much time at work on something that doesn't directly impact your God-given plan saddens me. But I clearly don't get the whole picture... and it would be arrogant of me to think I do.

I hope you got something out of this unusually long post. It was probably more for me than anyone else.

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