What the World Needs is People Who Have Come Alive

I came across an interesting quote in my early-morning reading of Wild at Heart today, and it really got me thinking.

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.

So as I headed out the door for my morning walk, I asked myself (repeatedly) “what makes me come alive,” but I couldn’t come up with a decent answer. It was all just fuzzy stuff.

I like accomplishing things that really mean something to me, but what consistently matters to me? What am I regularly (or irregularly) doing that actually means something to me. I’m just surviving. I do most anything that comes along that will put food on the table and keep the lights on.

I like working from home, sometimes at least, but there are many times during the week when I wish I could get away from the noise and interruptions of the house so that I could focus and actually get some work done.

I like working for myself, except that I still have to answer to each of my clients, who each want their project to be top priority, and the fact that we’re now living below the poverty level, trying to figure out how to pay our utilities and dreaming about paying off all our old debt.

Something is clearly not working, here. Perhaps it’s my mindset, and I don’t mean that in a sarcastic or cynical way, either. The past few months have been so hard, so grinding, that my whole view of the world has shifted to just dealing with my family’s survival. I mean, there are 12 mouths to feed around here. I’m finding it extremely difficult to take a longer view of things, decide what I want for the future, make long-term plans, and then start taking positive action. For an introspective guy, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of introspection going on right now.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid

I feel like I’ve fallen down the pyramid of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. While attempting to move into Self-actualization (by becoming an entrepreneur), I’ve taken a nasty spill back down to Biological and Physiological Needs, and I’m having a hard time climbing back up again. I seem unable to put things into perspective while living hand-to-mouth.

So, I wonder after thinking and writing about all of this for a while this morning, is it possible for me to now come to a better answer?

What makes me come alive? Not what do I like. Not what are my preferences! What do I deeply, passionately love to do, that when I’m doing I come alive and loose all track of time?

When I was young it was art. If I was drawing or painting or sculpting, I would forget to eat or blink or sometimes breathe. I was enraptured. But now? What captivates me in that way? It’s not art, as such. I occasionally sketch or doodle, but it doesn’t really hold my attention. There must be something else…

Ah, there’s a thought. I may have stumbled onto something: writing. Although I’m not enthralled the same way as when I was a child (I’m almost always aware of time, no matter what I’m doing), I can spend hours writing, once I get going. It’s a creative outlet that I can throw myself at and spend hours absorbed in. When I need to get my head back on straight, I write 3 continuous pages, and by then end my clarity has usually returned. But more than that, I love to write for the benefit of others. That’s not to say that I think I can bring about World Peace® by blogging, but I do hope to encourage other fathers to move towards self-reliance by starting a business—to grab life by the horns and wrestle with it through the sweat and dirt and blood until they emerge victorious. In fact, that’s what I want for myself.

I just realized that there is something else that also makes me come alive: creating beauty. Although I express it differently now, I’m still an artist at heart, but now my medium is graphic design. I love to create delightful, expressive web sites that help businesses (or individuals or non-profits) connect with their customers—where they can truly help each other, exchanging real value. I’m sure that many will think this is silly or even vain, but the world is much more pleasant when our surroundings are beautiful, even when those surroundings don’t physically exist.

It seems that my writings are frequently self-exploratory. When I start down a particular path, I don’t know where it will eventually lead, but maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be. I began this entry frustrated by not knowing what makes me come alive, and ended understanding that I’m on the right path, at least partially. I’m already creating beautiful web sites to help clients connect with their customers (though I need to find a way to better monetize my work), and I’m working on writing more here. And truthfully, those 2 things are about all I can do right now.