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Your job in life is to surrender

When I was in my late teens and early 20’s, I wanted to be rich and famous, to build a Fortune 500 company, and to convince as many people as possible to volunteer in the developing world.

In fact, I believed so strongly in volunteering globally that the first program I developed for Ignited Leadership was designed to motivate people to do exactly that. But if I’m being honest, I’m no longer convinced that volunteering in developing countries makes sense for the vast majority of people.

Most of the organizations that run volunteer programs, though well intentioned, are only marginally effective, at best. The academic studies on international development suggest that it’s making a disproportionately small impact in relation to the dollars and hours invested.

Today, my ambitions are much quieter: to improve a few people’s lives, to connect with the people I love, to take good care of myself so that I can give back, and to enjoy the process of living along the way.

This illustrates one of the biggest mistakes that I see emerging leaders make: holding themselves hostage to versions of who they were, as though their 28 year old self must be consistent with their 18 year old self.

A lot of the people I work with, especially the young adults with massive potential, get worried about finding the purpose of their lives: to be a graphic designer, to enter Christian heaven, to make their parents proud, to be “successful” in business, to create transcendent art, whatever.

But the truth is, most of us don’t have just one singular purpose that will stick with us for our entire lives; our purpose evolves as life expands and the world shifts shapes around us.

Maybe after 15 years of being a doctor, you’ll wake up one day to face the fact that medicine and the human body no longer inspires you. Or maybe you’ll build a stable life in a city that you love only to realize that you need to pack your bags and move on to the next locale, the next circle of people, the next adventure. That’s where I’m at right now as I write.

This can feel impossible, heartbreaking, and confusing, yet inspiring, energizing, and life-affirming all at once. In fact, if you’re doing it right, it will feel that way. And that’s ok. Your job is to stay true to yourself, even when 18-year-old you would be perplexed by who you’ve become at 28.

If you’re able to step out of your context and truly feel the way you feel, you’re doing something right. You’re alive.

When you find the courage to follow your internal compass, you start to strip the protective layers of yourself back and back and back and you get closer to your specific truth. Your power grows as you allow each experience that shaped you yesterday to create a new experience that shapes you today.

This isn’t to say your new iteration is totally without context – ideally, you draw on your past versions and purposes to animate the present version of yourself. For me, the insane partying of my early 20’s gave way to my interest in meditation and my interest in creating a deeper connection with the world. The years spent onstage doing magic equipped me with the skills I use to be a professional speaker. The experience with international development taught me to be critical of how we improve other people’s lives, both locally and globally.

And your job, as impossible as it seems, is to surrender. Surrender the old you, the old purpose, the old vision, to allow space for the new you to gain more power, clarity and truth in the present.

For me, this phoenix process of destruction and creation happens every couple of years. I think that’s normal. Maybe one day, I’ll get to some singular purpose and spend decades working on that. But until then, I’ll accept that my obligation in life is to peel back the layers.

Because each new purpose, direction, and iteration of you becomes better equipped to shape your life and serve the people around you.

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Hat tip: the structure and arrangement of this article was notably influenced by my friend and editor, Meredith Whitfield. Thanks Meredith.

Photo credit: “Rebirth” by Alice Popkorn

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8 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Your job in life is to surrender”

  1. Isaiah Collier November 5, 2014 at 3:00 pm

    Jason,
    This blog really spoke to me in many different ways it was like I was reading parts of my life. I believe we are like a onion full of layers, some layers make us stronger an others make us cry. I believe one of the true beauties of life seems to be the ability to evolve. if you don’t like a version of yourself then you have the innate ability to change it. Most people won’t find one singular purpose in life, many will keep chasing past versions of themselves. If you can accept the version of you today and make a conscience decision to be a change agent in your life then I believe you are on a great journey. Please keep writing these articles they inspire me to look at life through a different lens many times.

    • Jason November 5, 2014 at 5:11 pm

      Thanks Isaiah, really appreciate the comment. I learn a lot from you as well. And sharp insight. You’re right: walking that line of accepting who you are as well as knowing that it’s ok to evolve. Good stuff as always my friend. Thank YOU for sharing.

  2. Yogesh Koirala November 5, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    Keep on Inspiring us Jason. I really admire your writing and thoughts. I am glad that I met you during mines MAC event and subscribed your writing.

    Best,
    Yogesh

    • Jason November 5, 2014 at 5:08 pm

      Yogesh, thanks so much for the kind words, they are much appreciated!

  3. kylee November 6, 2014 at 2:29 am

    I particularly liked this reading on Ignited Leadership.It was as if you could read my mind or had a doorway into the last 20 years of Kylee.
    I am as you say peeling back the layers of myself to display a new and better more wiser version of myself.
    I keep reinventing myself my ideologies and career path. But my most precious job which will never change and has always been close to my heart and my heart is being a mum to 3 amazing children.
    But besides that, your words are true and inspiring.
    Actually,after months of deliberating my life and decisions and where I am headed, I woke up this morning with an epiphany of which road I have to and want to follow.
    Is this ironic , a coincidence that I read your message today? But thank you , it has confirmed my decision and I’m going full steam ahead.
    You are a very inspirational man who makes a whole lot of sense.

    • Jason November 6, 2014 at 4:53 am

      Kyle – first of all, thank you. Your words have made my evening (I’m in Texas at the moment, just before 11:00pm). I’m not a parent but I’ve heard that when you do it right, your family becomes your singular purpose for many parents. That sounds nice. And I can honestly tell you that I don’t think it was a coincidence that you woke up with clarity on your new direction, and then stumbled across an article that resonated with you (and I’m honored that it was mine). I tend to think that the universe gives us little winks and nods to encourage us when we are moving in the right direction and it seems like you’ve found one. Good luck with your new direction, and thank you for reading.

  4. Becky Bronson November 6, 2014 at 2:40 am

    Love this blog Jason! You have some great insights and are very inspiring to read. I hope that whatever direction your new self decides to take, it includes blogging!!!

    • Jason November 6, 2014 at 4:54 am

      Thank you so much Becky, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the encouragement. One of the reasons I’m changing direction a bit is so that I can write more lucidly and with more consistency. 🙂

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