“What do you do for a living” is a common question folks ask when meeting for the first time. My answer to that question: I’m a mortgage guy. (That is even one of the questions on the loan application for gosh sakes – how ironic).
The challenge for me, in a performance based culture, is that the question of “what you do” actually goes deeper. I actually have the ability to attach my sense of value to what I do and how well I’m doing it. Anybody with me here?
We cling to the value. We are tempted to allow it to describe and define us.
When things are going great, I feel better. When I’m struggling, I feel worse than I’d prefer. Somehow we connect to how or what we’re doing or have done. Our sense of value can rise and fall based on our performance.
We all work in industries that celebrate the successes. It’s the social norm. The more and better you do, the more value you add to the organization. The less you do, the more dispensable you are if cuts need to be made.
The value system has legitimate merit, but it’s a slippery slope for the human heart and soul. It’s dangerous to allow yourself to believe that you are your success, your struggle, or your failure.
In fact, it’s deadly.
It can cost you your marriage, your relationship with your kids, or your reputation. It can cost you your soul. Why? Because at the core, we’re talking about pride and shame. Pride believes that you are your success—the ego swells and we start to believe that we are, in fact, ‘da man! Shame, on the other hand, connects you to your failure or your struggle. The weight is debilitating and we can actually believe that we suck.
You don’t have to buy this line of thought, you know. It is, after all, a lie. Sometimes society is wrong. Sometimes what becomes a social norm is actually a wide and well-travelled highway to hell with countless on-ramps.
I offer us a better question today in the hopes that you’ll experiment with it, that we’ll try this question on and see if it points us to a truer north.
What do you do to bring life to the world?
Trade in, for just a day, the question what do you do for a living and trade up for the better question what do I do to bring life to the world.
Try it tomorrow. Go to sleep tonight asking yourself what you can do to bring life to the world. What will you do that is life-giving to those that you know you’ll encounter? What will you do to set down the temptation to be defined by your current (job, status, struggle, etc.) and commit to doing that – setting it down for a day.
Yes, we need to go do our thing tomorrow so don’t think we get a day off. Claim the day as one where we will bring life to it versus letting life be defined by it.
A favorite scripture of mine hangs over my heart today. May I share it with you as I close?
Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. Romans 12:2 (Message)
Let me know how your day goes! Thanks for choosing to bring much needed life to the world.
Special note busy leaders out there (like me):
We are capable of fueling and feeding the big ‘ol lie that if you don’t succeed today, you don’t matter as much. Dude! No. The people that work with/for us, and the kids that we are blessed with, they need to believe that they are NOT the sum total of their success and failure in life. You and I – we need to build into our lives, families and organizations the truth of what we’re talking about here today. We’ll give deeper life to others AND ourselves, our homes and organizations and the value proposition we represent if we do.
But first we have to believe it ourselves. We are not our success or failure. We are just us and, accordingly, we matter.
Stop to thank and connect with others today. Take time to rest and replenish in healthy ways. Stand firm – don’t settle, capitulate or cave to the urgent. Get lots of wins, for sure, but arrive whole and healthy with those who follow you. They’re counting on you.