I help young professionals become purpose-driven leaders and creators.

7 Elders Share Wisdom that Guides Us Toward Our Purpose

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I asked people whom I consider elders of our generation to share the personal mantras they try to live by every, single day.

Why? Because I want to know how they go about the world-changing work they do.

Each have impacted me personally. Some have blown my mind with ideas that opened floodgates of insight and changed my entire worldview. Some have touched the deepest part of my heart and soul and transformed my relationship to myself and to life.

As they responded to my ask, I was struck by how effortlessly they could boil down their life’s work to a simple sentence. Each of their mantras carry their unique essence.

They are living their purpose. No doubt.

It is my honor to present to you seven elders that took the time to share with me their personal mantras they try to live by every, single day.

And because I’m a coach and can’t help wanting to make everything actionable, I’ve created a companion workbook you can use to apply this wisdom to your everyday life.

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Make it Actionable

This workbook contains 7 activities and exercises you can do to apply this wisdom to your life.

Use these links to jump down, or just scroll. Carol Adrienne, bell hooks, Guy Kawasaki, Gay Hendricks, Eric Maisel, Rita Shimmin, James Carse

 

Carol Adrienne teaches us how to see through the eyes of purpose.

Trust that whatever is happening is happening for a reason. - Carol Adrienne
 

You’ve heard folks say, “Everything happens for a reason.” usually with a shrug. Doesn’t that piss you off sometimes? Doesn’t it make you want to shake them and make them understand that horrific things happen to innocent people every day, and to say that everything happening to them is for a reason is basically super fucked up?

I agree with you wholeheartedly. But that’s not what Carol Adrienne means. And to dismiss this idea outright is to dismiss something that can profoundly change your relationship to reality for the better.

The key is that instead of using it to explain away something, use it as a tool to see more meaning and possibilities in front of you.

What she means is that the universe is constantly communicating to us, and we can hear it if we pay attention.

This is how I came to know of Carol’s work. I wasn’t looking for her book The Purpose of Your Life. I was looking for another book at the library, but the spine of her book caught my eye. In the midst of hundreds of other self-help books screaming for my attention, it didn’t scream. It spoke. The title was simple. Matter-of-fact. I kept looking back at it while scanning for the book I was really looking for.

I decided to grab it. Why not?

After I brought it home, it sat untouched for weeks. I renewed it because I didn’t have time to return it. So it continued to sit on my desk. Day after day, I saw it and told myself “I should read it.” but then wouldn’t. Then one day I got a notice that my items were due back soon again. I finally decided to read a bit of it, just to decide whether it was worth renewing a second time.

I started it and could not put it down. It talked about purpose in a way that completely resonated with me. Though I had had a vague, intuitive sense of what purpose was, this book put it to words. I felt simultaneously validated and expanded in my connection to not just my own purpose, but our universal purpose as human beings.

Here’s how she describes it:

 
We are born with compasses, names, and coordinates. Our purpose is not a thing, place, occupation, title, or even a talent. Our purpose is to be. Our purpose is how we live life, not what role we live. Our purpose is found each moment as we make choices to be who we really are.
— Carol Adrienne
 

This led me to a huge insight:

Since our purpose unfolds in every moment, the degree to which we are living it or resisting it is what determines our experience of life.

It clicked for me that all the work I love to do as a coach is ultimately purpose work.

The tiniest coincidences can change our lives forever. And Carol’s mantra is a door you can open to start seeing them.


P. S. Your purpose is something that has to be lived, not just reflected upon. Which is why I created a workbook companion to this article. Grab it here:

 

bell hooks teaches us the true meaning of love.

Be guided by love. - bell hooks
 

I can’t count the number of times I have puzzled over the question: What is love? As a kid, love was princes and princesses, magic and sparkly ball gowns. Love was Hollywood: crazy, foolish, dangerous. It was something you died for, killed for, did weird shit for. And mostly, love was white.

My parents never said “I love you” to us growing up or to each other. And when I entered young adulthood and started having relationships, I said “I love you” to people before I had a clue what love really was.

For most of my twenties, what I meant when I said “I love you” was “Don’t hurt me.”

Love was a prostration. A confession of lack. An expectation for someone else to make me whole. And when that didn’t, couldn’t happen, love became a wound I had to protect.

bell hooks’ book all about love changed that for me completely. Here’s how she talks about love:

 
Love is the will to extend oneself for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth. Love is an act of will. Namely both an intention and an action. Will implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love.
— bell hooks
 

Here’s what that helped me understand about love:

Love is not an emotion, though you can experience strong emotions when you love someone.

“To love is to act.” - Victor Hugo

Love is not protection. When parents try to shield their kids from any negative experiences or emotions, that is a different act from love.

Love is not simply the absence of pain.

Love does not oppress, abuse, manipulate or enable.

To love is to liberate, not to make dependent or small.

Love lifts up, challenges, and transforms.

To be guided by love means to live with love as your purpose.

And as a coach, I am here to help, but I don’t believe that you need my help. I care about you, but I am not here to take care of you. It’s not you I serve but the life that’s inside of you. I, Eddie, choose to love you.

Jump to: Carol Adrienne, bell hooks, Guy Kawasaki, Gay Hendricks, Eric Maisel, Rita Shimmin, James Carse

 

Guy Kawasaki teaches us the simplicity behind our calling.

Empower people. - Guy Kawasaki
 

To me, Guy represents the epitome of Silicon Valley, complete with a religious love for Apple and a passion for marketing, entrepreneurship, design, and social media. He’s started and sold companies, held jobs working for others, written 13 books, and spoken in front of hundreds of thousands. He’s a giant in his influence, practical wisdom, love of innovation, and sense of humor in business and life.

The other day I watched one of his latest talks. I was not planning to watch the whole thing, but I did. Because I love how his talks make me feel.

Side note: I also love watching him tell an audience full of high-powered white executives what to do, how to think, and what color the background should be on their presentation slides. Baller!

His talks always get me excited about being in business. Particularly being part of the scrappy, crappy world of entrepreneurship.

Guy’s advice:

 
Don’t worry, be crappy. Ship cringe-worthy stuff.
— Guy Kawasaki
 

It doesn’t mean make crap, it means don’t wait until your work is perfect before you put it out into the world. If you’re a perfectionist, the world will pass you by.

My goal is to look back at this article years from now and cringe.

All of Guy’s talks are Top 10 lists. He has one titled “10 Lessons from Steve Jobs”.

Well, here’s my version:

10 Lessons from Guy Kawasaki

  1. Trust your gut. After just two weeks at law school, he decided not to fulfill his family legacy in becoming a lawyer and quit. He forged a new, unknown path and didn’t let rebellion define him.

  2. Know who you are. He doesn’t let success go to his head. He’s a father and family man first. But he WILL take full advantage of any and all perks that come with the job.

  3. Get shit done. You don’t get to Guy’s level without having some solid finishing skills and mastery in self-regulation. This guy grinds.

  4. Be a storyteller. He entertains while he educates. And he takes up the space he deserves.

  5. Find your tribe. I’m guessing Guy’s lunchtime hockey crew is pretty special to him. He gets to be part of a team and count on others to have his back.

  6. Be fearless. He loves what he loves, end of story. He doesn’t get hung up on other people’s judgements. And he’s not afraid of conflict or controversy.

  7. Make failures count. Guy shares his mistakes and transforms them into the relatable, face-palmy wisdom he’s known for.

  8. Have big fun. Be unrelentingly positive. Guy smiles with his whole face. He lives life to its fullest and seems to love every step of the way.

  9. Learn to evangelize. At one point Guy’s job description was to “further the Cult of Mac”. He doesn’t care if it seems crazy, he just wants you to get on board. To him, he’s sharing the world’s best kept secret.

  10. Empower others. He believes in the future but has no illusions. He’s self-taught, and now he teaches others how to learn. Thousands, maybe millions, of people are better off because of Guy. I’m a +1 to that!

Want to get more wise Guy? Here’s one of my favorite stories of his that helps create instant clarity on what you were made to do. It’s on Page 10.

 

Gay Hendricks teaches us how to break through our barriers.

“I expand in love, creativity and abundance every day, as I inspire others who are interested to do the same.” - Gay Hendricks
 

Are you afraid of being too happy? Too rich? Too successful? Do you consistently sabotage yourself from experiencing awesomeness in your life?

You’re probably thinking, “No way. I would never do that.”

Except you do. You do it all the time. And so do I. It’s called the Upper Limit Problem.

In Gay’s book “The Big Leap”, he lays out in embarrassingly accurate terms all the ways that we deny ourselves the love, abundance, and success we claim we want in our lives.

In order to live in our Zone of Genius, where we fulfill our highest potential, we have to break out of the Zone of Excellence.

Excellence is where most of us stop growing because we feel comfortable, are making a good living, and have gained some degree of recognition from society. But despite all that, we still feel a sense that something is missing.

Sound familiar?

We prevent ourselves from taking the big leap into our Zone of Genius because of four hidden barriers based on beliefs we internalized in our past.

They are:

  1. Feeling Fundamentally Flawed

  2. Disloyalty and Abandonment

  3. Believing that More Success Brings a Bigger Burden

  4. The Crime of Outshining

One of those beliefs hit me especially close to home:

 
When we’re stuck behind the barrier of Disloyalty and Abandonment, our unconscious mantra goes like this: ‘I cannot expand to my full success because it would cause me to end up all alone, be disloyal to my roots, and leave behind people from my past.’
— gay hendricks
 

I realized that deep down, a part of me believes that my choice to start a life coaching business goes against my parents’ wishes and my culture’s norms.

It flies in the face of all the sacrifices my parents made for me so I could establish a “normal” life - one of stability and security. My culture rewards that life by threatening shame on those who rebel or stick out from the crowd.

In this paradigm, reaching my highest potential means rejection of my roots and abandonment of my community. And since belonging is one of my deepest core needs, I will always unconsciously try to prevent that rejection and abandonment from happening, even if it costs me success.

So as long as I view my success as a way to “prove my parents wrong”, I will never get beyond my Upper Limit.

Seriously. Deep. Shit.

This insight sent me down a rich inquiry. I asked myself what it means to be a good son to my immigrant parents. Why it’s so important to me that my parents understand what I do and that I’m great at it. And what’s beyond the seeking of or rebellion against their approval that can still connect me to them in pursuing my purpose in this life.

In the end, I understood that becoming the greatest expression of who I am and doing the work I am most suited to do is the ultimate way to honor the sacrifices my parents made for me.

When I realized this, I felt a tightness I didn’t even know was there suddenly release. And I cried with gratitude for my parents and their gifts.

I embraced the fierce love and hope that all immigrant parents feel toward their children. Represented not always in words but in the daily grind of working, cooking, and cleaning, so that their children can focus on growing and adapting to a new world.

I do this work for them. I do this work for me. Because I am their legacy.

Jump to: Carol Adrienne, bell hooks, Guy Kawasaki, Gay Hendricks, Eric Maisel, Rita Shimmin, James Carse

 

Eric Maisel teaches us that our purpose is created through daily choices and actions.

“Do the next right thing.” - Eric Maisel
 

I picked up Eric’s book Life Purpose Bootcamp a while back because I wanted to find my purpose. What surprised me was that this was not a manual for how to find your purpose. It was instructions for how to create it.

Eric taught me that meaningfulness is an experience - a psychological state. We can’t manufacture it, but we can put ourselves in situations where we’re likely to feel it. So when we figure out what’s important to us, and keep our eye out for opportunities to do those things, we can eventually create a life full of meaning.

To be honest, at the time of reading his book, I was not ready to accept that as true.

I was still clinging to a story that my purpose was someTHING that I had to discover. Like a glowing orb at the top of a mountain or hidden in a forest. And that once I discovered it, my life would magically become meaningful...effortlessly.

But I realize now that that was simply a wish for life to be easy. And a denial of reality.

Here’s one way Eric describes purpose:

 
There are no life purposes to seek (as if we were sheep who had lost our way). Instead of seeking, we must decide. We must decide whether the phrase even interests us, and, if it does, what it means and implies. To repeat, life purpose is not a given - it’s a decision.
— Eric Maisel
 

Although living your purpose is a path full of meaning, joy, abundance, creativity, and happiness, it’s also one of the hardest things to do. Why? Because you’re battling a lifetime of social conditioning, thousands of years of cultural conditioning, and 100,000 years of biological conditioning every, single day.

All conditioning is designed to keep us safe. And that shit is relentless.

If it were purely up to our conditioning, we’d create a life where we never felt uncertainty and nothing unexpected ever happened. We’d live in constant anxiety, fear, and paranoia in our never-ending quest for control of a world that is inherently uncontrollable.

To live your life purpose means to decide to step outside of that life. And to prepare to go into unknown where there is no promise of safety but where anything is possible.

Now I get why Eric titled his book “Life Purpose Bootcamp”. It is not for the faint of heart.

Feeling overwhelmed?

No matter how crushing your conditioning feels sometimes, or how daunting it sounds to live a life of purpose, ultimately all we have control over is this moment right now.

So gather up all your clarity and strength, ground yourself in the goodness of your soul, close your eyes, listen for that quiet voice inside, and “Do the next right thing.”

Jump to: Carol Adrienne, bell hooks, Guy Kawasaki, Gay Hendricks, Eric Maisel, Rita Shimmin, James Carse

 

Rita Shimmin teaches us how to become our full selves.

“Everyday I experience a part of myself that I have internalized judgement about, ranging from mild dislike to disgust and revulsion; and I tell that part ‘ I see you, I love you, and I will take care of you’.” - Rita Shimmin
 

You know that feeling you get when someone sees your weakness, ignorance, and flaws and loves you for showing them while also seeing the infinite world of possibility you are beyond them?

That’s the feeling I get when I’m around Rita.

And after years of her teaching, disrupting, seeing and loving me can I finally feel that way towards myself. Nowadays taking care of the parts of myself that I hate is one of the only ways I know how to truly love myself.

But it wasn’t always this way.

Fun fact: I used to dislike and avoid Asian people.

They didn’t look right, smell right, talk right. They were too boring, too awkward, too quiet. They looked foreign and out of place. They just didn’t seem to belong. I didn’t like being seen as one. And I definitely did NOT want to date one.

Whenever I received newsletters in my college dorm mailbox from Asian American student groups, I would throw them away without reading them. Anytime I was in a room with another Asian person, I pretended I didn’t see them. I purposely sought after non-Asians to be my friends. I never ordered Asian food at the dining hall. I didn’t want any Asian-y looking stuff in my room.

I was being racist against Asians, and I had no idea I was doing any of it.

That all changed when I joined the Untraining and met Rita. I learned about something called internalized racism and oppression.

I realized I had created a white standard in my mind and was constantly measuring myself and others against it. I had picked up information from my family, surroundings and the media about how to be white. So I worked hard to wash all the Asian off of me. And it worked. It helped me survive, even thrive.

But at some point it started hurting me.

It was preventing me from making friends and building intimacy. It prevented me from building community and being close with my family. It became harder and harder to pretend to be someone I wasn’t.

My Asianness refused to continue being oppressed.

So I tentatively, awkwardly began facing and healing my internalized racism. I learned to tell the parts of myself I was disgusted and revolted by: I see you, I love you, I will take care of you. I’m now part of an intentional, precious, beautiful community of People of Color doing the same.

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Say Hello to your oppressed parts.

And practice becoming whole by giving them attention, love, and care.

(Pg. 19)

 

 James Carse teaches us a powerful truth about life.

“There is only one infinite game.” - James Carse
 

Several years ago I was gifted James’s book Finite and Infinite Games. I immediately recognized the importance of this framing of the world, culture, and spirituality to my life and the lives of my clients.

It’s one of those books that can be read over and over and never get old. Each sentence is crafted, each word carefully chosen. Most pages contain several insights. Reading it felt like popcorn in my brain.

Here’s the premise:

 
A finite game is one you play to win. An infinite game is one you play to keep the game going for as long as possible.
— James carse
 

Note: James takes this idea and applies to everything from our psyches to our history, religion, and culture. It’s a timeless, universal framework of understanding, and I’m only scratching the surface with the example below…

Many people suffer in the game of life because they are playing to win.

Because no matter how much you win, there’s always that pestering question in the back of your mind. A question you dare not ponder too long. A question you stuff down during the day, and drown out during the night:

What happens when I lose?

This question makes you jump anytime your boss asks to meet with you. It makes you horde your best ideas. It makes you scared to say something stupid. It makes you defensive, jealous and vigilant.

Because no one better see that you’re dispensable. No one better out you as the loser you’re afraid you are.

 
The more we are recognized as winners, the more we know ourselves to be losers.
— james carse
 

Better to work your ass off and get that big break so you can retire early. Better to over-deliver so epically that no one ever questions you again. Better to go out in flames. Do or die. Kill or be killed. Win. Or lose.

‘Til tomorrow when you do it all over again.

No wonder you’re burned out. And scared.

The moment several years ago when I realized that approval from my bosses and colleagues no longer fed a hunger inside of me, I felt starved. And when I looked inside myself, I saw zero resources for feeding my own soul.

I was an empty shell. A casualty of the finite game.

What I didn’t know at the time is that there was an entirely different game going on outside.

A game with no winners or losers, only players. A game where new boundaries and rules are created every day, and players embrace surprise, even seek it out. A game that lets us access the genius of life itself.

Life is an infinite game. Instead of ladders to climb, there’s a horizon.

It goes like this:

No matter how far you travel, the horizon is always there as far away as ever. So you learn how to let the horizon blur as you focus on the path in front of you. Sometimes you sprint, and it’s exhilarating. Sometimes you pause, and it’s peaceful. Eventually you grow to love the vast, never-ending journey, and you settle in to your own unique pace.

You finally become OK with never getting “there”. And thus are always arriving.

Jump to: Carol Adrienne, bell hooks, Guy Kawasaki, Gay Hendricks, Eric Maisel, Rita Shimmin, James Carse