Ctrl-Alt-Delete: The power of reset
I was a ‘dot commer’ once. In early 2000, I moved to the emerald city of Seattle like a gold prospector with a pocket full of stock options and the allure of something bigger and better. Up to that point, I had enjoyed a successful but uninspiring career in the media business. I was ready for a reset, so I took a chance on a dot-com start up and moved cities. Nine months later, my stock options were worthless and I found myself living in a new city with no job and few prospects with the dot com bubble having burst wide open. With mounting bills, uncertainty about the future, and a bad economy, stress and worry crept in.
What I did have at the beginning of 2001 was time. Each day I took myself to coffee with a blank page and the question ‘what now?’ But the deeper question behind that question was the more important one…the existential query that all of us wrestle with at some point – ‘what is my purpose?’ As I've come to learn, it’s a question that has an ever changing and ever evolving answer.
Bill Gates’s dream house was being built at that time in Seattle and as I would drive across Lake Washington and look at the massive construction project, I would ponder what it must be like to be him. In doing so, my ‘what’s next’ question morphed into ‘If I were Bill Gates, what would I do every day?’ It occurred to me that Bill Gates, despite being the world’s richest person, went to work every day, which he still does to this very day. It’s not enough to have the comfort of fancy houses, cars, or planes; it’s making a difference that matters. For Bill Gates, changing the world for the better whether through technology or philanthropy has been his life’s mission. I’d say he’s doing pretty well.
Back in 2001, in my Belltown apartment I pondered my own Gate's like existence, refining my list of purpose driven questions. As I readied myself for new challenges personally and professionally, the following questions evolved:
*What do I want to do every day?
*How can I contribute in a greater way?
*How can I get healthier and express my best self physically?
*How can I express my genuine nature and true qualities to the best of my ability?
The answers to those questions brought new and old purpose driven insights into my life – Personally and creatively, a love of the arts and specifically writing and acting. Professionally, a love of fitness, wellness, and the marital arts and the desire to share that passion with others. Spiritually, and perhaps most importantly, the willingness to wrestle with the Divine and search for meaning.
Those questions have become an ongoing dialogue and what started as a question in 2001 has continued on as a quest in 2016. As I now hit 'contol-alt-delete' yet again and embark on a new chapter professionally, I find myself again circling back to the all-important point about making a difference.
Making a difference has been something I have pondered personally for the past 15 years while at the same time helping others do the same in my professional existence. As I have seen first hand, a state of fitness and wellness can seem elusive to many. From my experience, many say it’s because of lack of time or desire. The ironic thing is that there are ultimately only two universal truths in life:
1) You always have time.
2) You always have a choice.
The fact of the matter is those are the only two freedoms we have - The moment in front of you and the ability to choose your attitude about that moment. You can always hit reset and you can always make a new choice. As Viktor Frankl pointed out in Man’s Search For Meaning, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” As a neurologist, psychiatrist, and someone who survived a Nazi death camp when his family and life’s work did not, Frankl was uniquely qualified to make such a statement. Frankl had no human freedoms, but he did have freedom of thought. In his thinking, Frankl chose hope instead of hate and love instead of fear.
I’ve hit that re-set button now several times in my adult life - New cities, new careers, a failed marriage, health traumas - you name it. I have learned along the way, as Frankl did, that I also ultimately have just two freedoms – the moment in front of me and the choice that follows. Resetting sometimes is as simple as taking a few deep breaths and taking a moment before responding. Sometimes hitting reset means the courage to make a massive life change. Either way, I know that if I choose an attitude of openness, humility, and wonder in the moment, I’ll take a small step toward the purpose driven life. Of course, I don’t always make that choice, but I know if I keep asking the right questions, I’ll end up on the right path.