This is a true story…
“Life is like a roller coaster ride.”
I couldn’t agree more to whoever said that. Life is indeed full of ups and downs… of zigs and zags… of twirls and turns.
Yesterday, you saw people beaming with so much happiness laughing so contagiously and shaking hands or exchanging high fives with everybody around them. Today, the same people maybe crying a river in a desolate room smarting from the pains inflicted by something or someone. How about tomorrow? Nobody knows! They would have already licked their emotional wounds and emerge from that desolate room, learn to smile again and gradually laugh their way out of whatever bad experiences they had. If not, then we could surmise that they may have decided to stay in the shell of their grief and plummet deeper in the unfathomable depths of despair.
Perhaps everything may depend on whatever twists and turns that were laid down by the grand designer of the tracks where our personal roller coasters run. We may desire all that we want to alter the course of our roller coasters and wriggle out of the undesirable whirls in the switchback. But that’s impossible.
Eventually at a certain age, whether we like it or not, we begin to take control of our lives. That’s when the ride starts. Choose a car in the coaster train. There’s no turning back. All that we can do is to make sure that we’re buckled up. Expect the turns, ups and downs. Be ready to be twizzled and twined. Accept that you could not avoid the spirals and the slammers.
Generally, the way my roller coaster zipped through the tracks have both enthralled and frightened me. There were times, when I was younger, that I wished the joys I was experiencing wouldn’t end. There were moments also when I thought I would not be able to wiggle out of the depths of despair and sadness but my faith in God (that I believe exists) and my unwillingness to succumb to challenges kept me afloat.
One of the most difficult parts of my journey in the tracks happened in one eventful week in my life. Those days in my life were both exciting and frightening. Perhaps that stage of my ongoing rollercoaster ride – that chapter in my life – could have been the most emotionally draining and exhilaratingly suspenseful.
It happened when an angel dropped from the clouds and gave me the privilege of becoming his father (and my wife his mother) for seven days. That’s right – seven days only. I wanted it longer. But from up there in the rollercoaster tracks where my car was (and up there I felt enormous joy). I was pulled down. That was a very steep slope. Then I felt passing through a twist and a turn and when my roller coaster made a sudden stop – the angel was gone.
What happened in those seven days?
Allow me to share what happened in each of those days.
“Water the fruit trees and don’t water the thorns.”
“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit.”
That one was from St. Luke and it’s only one of the many quotes where tree and fruits are used figuratively to bring not only beauty to an idea that a writer or a speaker wishes to convey but also emphasis and clarity.
Obviously, the “tree” in that bible verse refers to you and me. And what about the fruits? Well, they are our thoughts, words, and actions and their outcomes. Could there be other fruits? I believe there’s none. The things we think, say, and do and their eventual consequences or results are the fruits of the tree that we are. There’s nothing else that would come from us through which we can be judged or valued as a person.
We think (consciously or subconsciously) first before we say or do something. I refer to it as the “think-say-do” process. After processing in our minds an idea or a situation (or any other kind of stimulus) then we decide what actions to take or words to say thereafter. That’s our response. You may call it decision.
“Each tree is recognized by its own fruits.” Thus, you should be careful of what you think and the decision you make afterward. They are manifestations of the kind of person that you are… and they do have consequences or results. I don’t know if there can be an argument against that assertion.
You have a first hand knowledge of how you think and decide. You are aware of the kind of fruits you produce. What about their outcomes? The fruits you bear results to the reputation you built for yourself in the community where you belong and among your colleagues, peers, friends and loved ones. Imagine reputation as the basket where your fruits – the decisions you made in the past – are stored. What people say (and think) about you is your reputation. Your reputation is the consequence of your speech and actions.
There are times that even if you say and do good, even when we try our best to make the right decisions all the time, some people will treat you negatively. Don’t mind them. Their reactions are boomerangs that would harm them not you.
Whatever you have accomplished at this stage in your life are also consequences of your past decisions. Your resume is also a basket of the fruits you produced. If people would scrutinize your resume, what would they see? What they see are your fruits. Success is one big and ripe apple in the apple tree. It is the end goal of all our personal and professional pursuits.
But there’s a fruit sweeter than success – happiness. That’s what simple people with simple dreams who don’t have a curriculum vitae to show try to grow in their tree. You would even hear people with grand dreams say that they aim for success because they want to be happy. Their success is the source of their happiness while for the simple folks I mentioned earlier, it’s the simplicity of their life and desires that makes them happy.
Reputation, success, and happiness – the products of the decisions you made – are the fruits of the tree you become.
The kind of fruits you would bear depends on the kind of tree you grow into. If you are a good tree then definitely good fruits will spring out of your branches and twigs.
You should know that you have control of the process of becoming who you are. Yes, no one else is in control of it. We call that process self-improvement. The tree that would sprout from that transformation is your “best self.”
Only when you become your “best self” that you will start bearing the good fruits.
The journey into becoming your “best self” begins with one simple step – the rejection of any excuse to not become the tree you wish to be and bear the fruit that you desire.
Education comes next. We nourish the tree called “self” through education. And it’s going to be long and tedious. It’s actually lifelong. Remember what Aristotle said, “The roots of education is bitter, but the fruit is sweet.” But with education, I don’t mean just formal schooling. Schools are not the only place where learning can be had. Learning comes in many shapes and forms.
Learning makes your better than you were yesterday.
Sometimes we feel discouraged when all the efforts we are putting into self-improvement is seemingly not bearing fruits. We need to be patient. Rousseau tell us that patience is bitter, but the fruit is sweet. To that Moliere added, “The trees that are slow to grow bear the best fruit.”
There’s one more fruit that your tree would eventually bear – wisdom. You know it’s there when you come to a realization that the growing of the tree is more exciting than harvesting its fruits. What you will become – your best self – is beyond your reputation, more glittery than success, and more overwhelming than happiness.
“Find your why and you’ll find your way.”
– John C. Maxwell
“What is your why? Why did you even get out of the bed this morning? Why did you eat what you ate? Why did you wear what you wore? Why did you come here?” These are the questions Howard Inlet, the character played by Will Smith, asks his employees at the beginning of the movie “Collateral Beauty.”
Should you be asked the same questions, would you be able to answer unequivocally? Do you have definite answers to at least the first two questions? If your answer is yes, good for you. Way to go! I wouldn’t be surprised if eventually you’ll succeed in your personal and professional pursuits, or I may not know it but you have already succeeded. But if your answer is no, I would suggest you do some soul searching because seemingly you have been cruising through life aimlessly. It is very likely that you don’t know your purpose. You are sailing in the sea of life using a rudderless boat.
Purpose is a powerful driving force in our quest for a better self and a better life. Purpose is the reason why we do what we do and why we exist. They help us have a meaningful existence. Thus, we should strive hard to know (or establish) our purpose and be driven by it. We need to live life purposely.
The question is how. How to live life purposely?
Simon Sinek gave the following suggestion – “Start with why” (which is also the title of one of the books he wrote). He (Sinek) explained that the WHY is your purpose, cause, or belief. Although the said book focuses on organization and leadership and how having a WHY helps the leader succeed in bringing progress and prosperity to the organization, the WHY principles that Sinek articulated apply to individuals as well.
It’s not only organizations and leaders who should have (and be very clear with their) WHYs. Every person should have them, whether or not they belong to an organization, whether or not they are leaders. Each individual needs to determine and establish their purpose, cause, and belief. It’s not only organizations and leaders who should know why they do what they do and why they exist. Each of us should have a clear understanding of these things.
Two of Howard Inlet’s questions – “Why did you eat what you ate?” and “Why did you wear what you wore?” – may, at first glance, be considered inconsequential. But as one of the owners of that advertising company in the movie, Inlet wants to drive home a very important point – that every member of that organization should be aware of the reasons why they do what they do.
This is one thing we ought to be doing even in a personal level also. We ought to be asking ourselves why we do what we do.
I presume (and I hope my presumption is right) that you have set goals in the different areas of life – family and relationships, career and business, personal growth and development, and fun and recreation. It is possible that you may have subdivided your life into areas differently from the way I did. But one thing for sure, just like me, you have goals in the different aspects of your life no matter how you may have structured it. Those goals are the manifestations of your purpose or purposes in life, causes you defend and advocate, and the beliefs you hold dear.
The answer to the question “Why did you even get out of the bed this morning?” should be as simple as – to pursue the goals you set in the different areas of your life. Right?
But how many out of 10 people set goals? How many do live a life driven by a definite purpose? That may be difficult to answer. The one thing I noticed though about estimates on how many percent of people in a particular society or country are successful in their chosen endeavors and fields of expertise is that none of the statistics went above 10%. Actually, majority of the articles I read on the topic claimed it’s only 2% to 5%. So, if goals correlate to success, given all the aforementioned numbers, is it safe to assume that approximately only 1 out of 10 people set goals?
Granting that my estimation is accurate, only 1 out 10 people know their purpose, cause, and belief. The great majority of human beings wake up in the morning not knowing what are they going to do and where are they headed to. I hope that you’re not one of them.
And those questions that I said earlier are seemingly inconsequential are necessary questions to ask to remind you that even the simplest things you do everyday should contribute to the attainment of your big goals.
Purpose-driven people constantly ask themselves this question – what consequences do my words, actions, and thoughts bear on the goals that I set.
Bear this in mind all the time – that your WHY is your north star. It gives you a sense of direction. It is the rudder boat needs when you sail. Not having a clear purpose is like looking for something that you don’t know. You’ll never find it. It is like walking aimlessly not knowing where to go. It’s living life randomly, not purposely.
When you finally decide to take control of your life and chart your own destiny, the first order of business should be knowing your WHYs upon which you will anchor the goals that you will set.