The Hero, the Bounty, and the Purpose Driven Life.
It was a very tame Saturday night for me. I’ve been hanging with this girl for a couple weeks now and we decided to stay in last night, order Chinese, down a bottle of Pino, and watch the first season of Lost on DVD. I have resisted watching Lost for years but at the insistence of my brother and a couple friends I decided to give the show a shot. She had never seen it either and was into the idea of starting the series from the beginning.
I’d love to tell a story about how 30 minutes into the first episode we were having animal sex on my kitchen table or how her friend showed up and we had a mind blowing three way… but that just wasn’t the case. The truth is we watched eight straight episodes of Lost and passed out on the couch halfway through the ninth.
I could write a whole post about the show.. but being the show is in its fourth season and I’m at the beginning… my post would be old news for most of you, and I’m sure you guys would wind up spoiling a lot of shit for me.
The point of this post isn’t to talk about Lost.. but to talk about leadership. The show begins with a plane crash. Everyone is in panic, confusion mode. Shit is upside down. No one has a clue what to do. Until the main character Jack wakes up from his black out and immediately takes on the roll of the leader.
Jack selflessly tries to help everyone on the island, takes charge, and has all of the survivors looking up to him within an hour of the plane crash. Sure its a television show. But there are people out there just like Jack. And just like Jack these guys get life’s bounty.
Women, money, success… but more importantly a sense of purpose. People are fascinated with leaders. We are so fascinated with them because very few of us have the intestinal fortitude to be one.
Jack didn’t become a leader because he was the best politician on the island. He didn’t get the girl because he sold her on his ideas through long winded speeches and debates. He did it through purpose and action. He obtained the respect of everyone on the island because while they were standing around waiting to be saved… he was saving other people.
In a world so obsessed with “self help” I think we often neglect the fact that the best form of “self help” is the selfless act of helping others. I can’t speak for anyone but myself but there is no doubt times in my life that I feel an overwhelming sense of being unfulfilled. And I’ve had more than I ever dreamed I would. I’ve got more friends than I can count, slept with more women than I care to admit, visited more countries than most people could name, and generally lived on the edge and survived to tell about it. I don’t have any regrets. Yet, watching Lost last night I still felt as if I were missing something important.
I had been following a blog, Rooshv.com where he detailed his six month trip across the continent of South America. And for the longest time that was my dream. I followed his journey religiously, wishing badly it was me trecking on a bus through the Peruvian Andes, having three week flings with Chilean beauties. He’s back now and I recently posed a question to him in a comment, something along the lines of “did you find what you were looking for?” Cause I’m starting to believe that even the soul searching trip I felt destined to make…. still won’t be enough.
I realize that part of the reason I wanted to take the trip was for some form of escape. Some way to convince myself that I was free. To prove to myself that I wasn’t wasting my life away in the rat race, waiting for my slice of the cheese. I was going to take it. I was going to finally live.
But I’m not so sure escape is that easy. I’m not sure freedom is as simple as throwing on a backpack, growing a beard, and waking up in strange places with strange people. Because when it comes down to it, my motives for the trip are still entirely selfish. And when you’re living completely self centered, I think it is impossible to be free.
Many books talk about living on purpose. I recently wrote a list of 5 Must Have Self Help Books and that list included two books by Wayne Dyer. Dyer has written many books about living on purpose. But even with all the books that I’ve read on the subject, it took watching seven straight hours of Lost to make me finally understand what living on purpose is all about.
Living on purpose means getting lost in the moment because there is something greater than your personal desires that needs to be achieved. That is why my South American trip would not have been the escape I was looking for. I would still be stuck in my mind, comparing and contrasting, analyzing, pursuing, judging, and rationalizing the trip’s every minute. I would be waiting for something to happen that would make me think “now I’m really living” but more than likely I would spend six months waiting, and then wake up and decide it was time to go home.
Maybe it was the deliriousness of staring at a television screen until the wee hours of the night, or realizing that the girl sitting next to me was seeing something in Dr. Jack that she knew she would never see in me, or maybe it was me seeing something in Dr. Jack that was inside of me waiting to be released, but I woke up this morning feeling a little different. A little lost.
So understanding that I will more than likely never be trapped on deserted island and have to play the role of savior to a group of stranded castaways, how can I can experience a sense of purpose in my life? Take on the role of leader? What kind of higher goal will transcend me to the next level of living?
I think that my problem with the Dyer books I’ve read about purpose driven life, or the previous movies such as Ghandi, or Braveheart is that I always sort of believed you needed to be inspired by notions like ending world hunger, peace in the middle east, world wide democracy, global warming, curing cancer, or national independence. While these are all noble causes, to date, none of them have swept me away in inspiration. And because of that, I felt it was ‘beyond me’ to live selflessly. I figured maybe I was doomed to a world of ego domination.
But I think many of us have been mislead to believe that to “be great” you must do great things. Most most of will never have the opportunity to deliver a speech like William Wallace gives in Braveheart or liberate a nation through self sacrifice like Ghandi did, but does that mean we have no choice but to view ourselves as less significant, less “great?”
I was at wake this afternoon. The father of my friend’s girlfriend passed away and as I listened to the various eulogies, each speaker recollecting a particular time in their life when the deceased impacted their life for the positive. One of the speakers quoted a line from Its a Wonderful Life saying “no man is a failure who has friends.” Its funny how when you’re running on a few hours sleep, your heads a little messed up from too many episodes of Lost, and you get swept away in the emotion of a wake, how clearly something so elusive can suddenly appear.
Standing there in the funeral parlor I realized we all have the choice on a daily basis to be great. We can be great friends, great role models, great listeners, leaders, and heroes. We don’t need our plane to crash in the South Pacific (if thats really where they are) to give us our moments to shine.
A few of the speakers had given heartfelt thank you to my friend who had stepped in to pull the family together as it became more and more certain that his girlfriend’s dad was going to lose his battle with cancer. He took days off from work, he had long intense conversations with the dying man, and acted as a sense of strength for his girlfriend and her mother when the two of them would continually break down. Everyone in that room viewed my friend as a hero.
Everyday each one of us is presented with situations where we can be a leader and a hero. Its not about waiting for that moment where you can “look like a hero.” Its about deciding to be great this very minute. Its about deciding that every action you take from here on out will serve a greater purpose.
Its been said over and over again that those who live on purpose and relinquish their personal wants and desires, are those who ultimately see the most of life’s bounty.
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About Bobby Rio I'm Bobby Rio, one of the founders of TSB. I tend to write about what is on my mind so you'll find a mix of self development, social dynamics and dating articles/experiences. For a collection of some of my favorite articles check them out.