Saturday, April 8, 2017

Live Passionately!

31 million people between the ages of 44 to 70 feel unfulfilled in their chosen jobs, want an encore career, and seek something that provides greater meaning and impact.

“The Path to Purpose: How Young People Find Their Calling in Life” ~ William Damon

70 percent of all employees are dissatisfied with their jobs and actively disengaged in their work.

“The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters." ~ Emily Smith

Intentionality is a quality that keeps us focused on what matters most, requires being true to our self, and is deeply rooted in personal values and aspirations. It means paying attention to the meaning we give to our everyday life.

Image by Aaron Draper

Living an intrinsically meaningful life; knowing what issues we would die for, what passions we live for; how passion, aligned with purpose, creates a life of meaning - are not lessons we acquire in the early stages of our lifelong learning journey.

As someone expressed about this passage of self-transformation; "I used to be driven, now I am called."

There is a moment in life when the heart longs to pursue the mysterious source of potential joy, calling us to find and follow our bliss. The invitation to say goodbye to ordinary life to respond to a calling usually involves a disruption that takes us out of our comfort zone, leads us to cross a threshold into the unknown and, if we are courageous, to return from this journey, transformed.

Answering this calling inspired Nipun Mehta to embark on a transformational journey, leaving a promising career in Silicon Valley at the age of 25. After a visit to a homeless shelter with the intention of giving with absolutely no strings attached led to building a website for the nonprofit, Nipun started an experiment that has grown to a global ecosystem of over 500,000 members delivering millions of dollars in services for free.

On his honeymoon, Nipun embarked on a sacred journey, shedding his belongings to take off on a walking pilgrimage through India with his wife.

Walking 1,000 kilometers with the intention of "using our hands to do random acts of kindness, our heads to profile inspiring people, and our hearts to cultivate truth," they lived on a dollar a day, depending on the kindness of strangers for food and shelter, letting compassion guide them in unscripted acts of service along the way.

Walking with intention gave them the courage to live like pilgrims and to experience what it meant to be the change they want to see in the world. Transformed by this experience, he started a movement he calls "giftivism," changing the world with one act of kindness at a time.

Nipun founded ServiceSpace.org, a nonprofit incubator leveraging web technology, volunteerism and spirituality which has become a platform for collaborative and transformational giving.

ServiceSpace projects include online portals DailyGood and KarmaTube, offline movements like Smile Cards, a pay-it-forward rickshaw in India, and Karma Kitchen restaurants in three cities across the US.

True philanthropy isn't about giving money, it is an expression of who you want to be in this world. It is the gift of who you are, the fullness of your humanity, a manifestation of your bravest and most authentic self.

For Nipun, this gift of self translated into a universal message of "giftivism," inspired a movement of over half a million activists and created a network for change.

We don't have to do something remarkable like spawning a massive movement. We can also do "small things with great love," as Mother Teresa taught.

In my work as President of the Russell Berrie Foundation, I have had the privilege of meeting generous human beings who taught me that being alive means transcending my comfort zone.

Responding to an invitation to visit a homeless shelter, I was about to enter an unmarked door of a nondescript building in the middle of New York when I heard a man behind me say: "I wouldn't enter that door if I were you."

Inside was a warm haven that provided respite on a cold winter day, tables and chairs, a kitchenette to avail of a hot meal, bathrooms and showers with clean towels and soap, lockers to store possessions. Some people were sprawled over tables, taking a nap in a safe environment. I was surprised to meet sociable, polite people who greeted me "good morning" and "have a nice day!" Simple niceties that did not fit my stereotype of the homeless.

My host, whose marketing company requires a lot of traveling, brings home all the hotel toiletries and deposits it in a bin at his office where co-workers are expected to do the same. I instantly resolve to send him my accumulating hoard of airline and hotel amenities, instead of taking it home for myself!

While moved by the encounter with recovering homeless in their facilities for interim and long-term housing, my life lesson came from this man, who travels 109 days a year yet finds the time to take people like me to meet radical "others" who would otherwise be invisible. He taught me that being with the homeless is not scary but real as it is easy to forget that by a mere stroke of luck, we could be in their shoes.

He asked for the gift of time, so his "guests" could experience what it means to be treated like human beings, to help them normalize with conversation and social contact. Such a simple act of humanity!

I was once the recipient of a memorable act of humanity from a homeless man I found sleeping on a sidewalk in Soho. I normally walk right past but something squeezed my heart and, feeling generous, I put a hundred dollar bill in his cup, waking him up in case someone would come by and take it.

When I went into a store nearby, I saw he had followed me around the corner and shyly asked the sales manager to give me an offering of red carnations. I don't know how he managed to get them but it was the most heartwarming thanks I ever received!

We all receive calls from the universe that evoke feelings from deep within us. Not all of us choose to respond as it often involves disrupting our life. Leaving our comfort zone is not easy - giving up a lucrative job, getting out of an unfulfilling relationship - putting our life on hold to go on a passion quest is not what we are expected to do.

But there are moments in our life when we can just say "yes!" and follow our hearts, to respond to the poet, David Whyte's call to "live passionately, for whatever doesn't make you feel alive is too small for you!"