It is 3am and you wake up suddenly, hearing the beating of your heart echoing in your ears. The clock ticks slowly by your bed, and darkness blankets your windows.
“How am I going to do this?” you say to yourself.
Finding a way to make your mortgage payment, living through a tense day at the office with an unreasonable manager or hitting the pavement to look for clients feels like too much.
Your stomach tightens. The air thickens in your lungs as you feel pressure on your chest like a slow vise.
Thoughts quickly turn into poison, and they flood your body with fear.
After a fitful attempt to go back to sleep, you wake up, go downstairs and make a cup of coffee. Bad television or cute YouTube videos take the edge off of your anxiety. You are thankful for your Facebook friend in London who is awake and willing to banter with you.
As the house wakes up, your anxiety eases and you fall into a familiar routine.
Coffee. Teeth brushing. Lunch packing. Mascara.
You look in the eyes of your beloved, or your children, and you get motivated to go out the door one more day and make it happen.
“It is important to take care of these people,” you say. ” I love my life. I adore the paint color on my walls. I want to feed my dogs. I want to go to the grocery store without worrying if my debit card will work.”
The need to provide is a strong and noble reason to work.
And, it is not enough.
If you are trying to get your motivation just from the need to survive financially, you will feel emotionally anemic.
You need a deeper root of meaning to fuel your career or business.
Why are you doing this (business) (parenting) (difficult project) (job)?
What will happen if you succeed?
Will it be worth it even if you fail?
Why does it matter?
What will you regret not doing?
What will you rejoice leaving as a legacy?
My martial art teacher Kelly Fiori makes a good living teaching small children, teens and adults at East West Mixed Martial Arts. He is skilled at teaching kicks and punches and knows how to quiet a room full of squealing kids in an instant. But if you ask him what is at the root of his work, his passion becomes visible on his face, and resonates in his voice. “I don’t want any child, anywhere, to suffer from bullying.”
Amanda Wang thinks it is cool to train for the Golden Gloves. She also realizes that it is a fight for her life. As someone diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, she knows that her root is not only to get through the day with a positive mindset, but to equip other BPD patients and their families with “The courage to lead. The strength to endure.”
Erik Proulx is inspired by the city of Detroit, and likes to make films. But his root is seeing the force that creativity plays in remaking difficult, even impossible situations. Watching Lemonade Detroit, you understand that the city is a giant metaphor for the rebirth of anything we have written off, ignored or feared.
Carlos Aceituno loved Brazilian culture and music. He was a skilled music and martial arts teacher. He could dance. But his root was using music to uplift, to heal, to strengthen and to inspire. Kids who learned with him felt love and family through his teaching. Adults found their life force, and spirit. He is dearly missed, but the roots of his work continue to grow through the kids he taught.
My Dad started the first curbside recycling program in Marin County, California in 1971. He spent thirteen years as a volunteer, recycling aluminum, glass and paper for his town of Port Costa (alongside my Bonus Mom Dee). He tore a rotator cuff lifting a garbage can over his head. You might say he has a thing for trash. But his root is much, much deeper than that. His root is believing that individuals, and communities, can be transformed by service. He knows that steps we take today to care for the health of the earth will reverberate for generations. I knew his root was growing when my 4-year old daughter got incensed by trash left on a street corner near my house. “Don’t they know that this hurts Mother Earth?!?” she said with extreme seriousness.
Know your root.
If you don’t know it, search for it.
The power, strength and creativity that comes from it will blow your mind.
Coincidentally, my friend Chris Guillebeau released an ebook today about legacy. Love the synchronicity. Get it here. It is free. http://chrisguillebeau.com/3×5/the-tower/