Make a Difference

Aurora see in Wisconsin

“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.” ― Fred Rogers

Joan loved science.  When she was 8 years old, she declared to her family that she wanted to be a scientist.  Her mother scolded her, “Women’s brains can’t do science.”  She was crushed and went sobbing into a pillow, wondering if she had to let go of her dream.  On her 14th birthday her brother, Richard, gave her a college textbook titled “Astronomy” which included an impressive chart of scientific data produced by a female astrophysicist.  That was what she needed to encourage her to pursue her career. 

Joan earned her doctorate in physics in 1958 and went on to work at NASA and JPL where she made critical discoveries about the nature and cause of auroras, specifically the interaction of the Earth’s magnetosphere and the magnetic field of the solar wind.  She was recognized and awarded many honors for her contributions to astrophysics, sunspot cycles, environmental hazards to spaceships and climate change.  Before passing away this past July, Joan Feynman had pushed through the barriers of bad advice she had received as a child and went on to make a dent in the universe of human understanding, space travel and our world.  

We are often told what we can and cannot do.  Our families, others and our jobs can intentionally or unintentionally cast us into roles that limit our potential.  I think many of us can relate to bad advice that we have received from others or have given to ourselves.  There is a tendency for us to undervalue our significance or limit our own potential. We are surviving but are we thriving?  We turn the cogs of the machine, but are we living our potential?

You are important.  You make a difference.  The truth is that you individually bring a distinctive value to our human family.  Your individual contribution, diverse traits, history, strengths, challenges, specific talents and nuanced skills fit together into the unique puzzle that is us.  You belong.  Our teams, our organizations and our world would not be the same without you.  That is the incredible truth.  The collection of our uniqueness builds the fabric of who we are as individuals and as a group.  When someone leaves, we become less. 

What are you doing to challenge the barriers you or others have placed upon you?  What would you change?  Are you hiding any of your talents or distinctives that could make us better as a group?  Please don’t!  Bring you.  Make us all greater by being greater yourself.  Embrace the strengths and unique talents of yourself and others as part of our collective power.  Our gaps and our strengths combine to make a diverse spectrum of formidable capability that will help us, our companies and our human family become even greater.  

Each one of us has a unique opportunity to make a dent in the universe.  Encourage yourself.  Encourage others and leave a bit of yourself behind at every encounter.  Together, we become even greater. 

Purpose

“Hear me well on this day… when you are deciding on next jobs, next steps, careers, further education, you would rather find purpose than a job or a career. Purpose crosses disciplines. Purpose is an essential element of you. It is the reason you are on the planet at this particular time in history. Your very existence is wrapped up in the things you are here to fulfill.”  – Chadwick Boseman

A wealthy man in the neighborhood passed away. He was known for his business prowess, cunning frugality and perpetual seclusion.  His neighbors assembled at the funeral, more out of curiosity than acquaintance.  Many were discussing his shrewd business dealings and began to speculate among themselves on the accumulation of his wealth.  Finally, one neighbor approached the minister and asked, “Do you know how much he left?”  The minister looked up at the gathering, smiled sadly and said, “All of it.”

Our book began with our first breath and it will close with our last. What happens between those first and last chapters defines what we leave behind: the epilogue.  It is the sum of what we have done in this life and the mark we have made upon the shelves of history.  So much of life can seem like inconsequential progressions of putting one foot in front of the other.  We are surviving, following and reacting to external forces.  Those narratives leave no permanet mark in our story or on those around us.  What story do we want to leave behind?

What is your mission?   What is your purpose?  I remember being asked those questions many years ago and frankly, I struggled with the answer.  I had fallen into the mechanics of living, breathing, moving, and working, but it was without direction or purpose.  My friend challenged me, write down the statement of your purpose and define your mission.  It was transforming.  I suddenly had a compass and a light to guide my path.  I was writing the script instead of letting the script author me.  Meaning and clarity brought gifts of peace, passion and proactive planning. I knew where I was going and how I could shape the epilogue of my life.

What is your purpose? What do you want to leave behind?  What is the reason you get up each day?  If you haven’t done so already, I challenge you this week to write down your purpose and mission. Make it aspirational. Like mine (see here) it won’t  be perfect and you will tune it over time.  But from your purpose, you will develop your mission and steps that will guide you in your work, family, community, career, faith and leisure.  We don’t get to write our own epilogue but we can shape it.  Invest in eternity, starting today, by pouring yourself into your purpose and be the person you were always meant to be.