Everyone has their own cross to bear, and their own tears and sorrow. I was born without any fingers, and for a time, that cross seemed unbearable.
The physical hardships of my condition—being very different—came with the great emotional pain. My condition made me question the purpose of my own life. It also led to questions like, “why can’t I simply be like everyone else?” Surely, there had to be a reason why I was put at a disadvantage. I eventually stopped calling my condition a disadvantage, but more about that later.
Purpose evolves over time
Eventually my purpose evolved—in order to help myself and to support others in finding their own purpose —and I became dedicated to inspiring others to live through faith and perseverance. Sometimes people ask me whether my sense of purpose is something I developed or something I simply found. It was a bit of both. In my experience, purpose will reveal itself to you if you look for it, but it takes time to develop a perceptive eye.
Don’t let circumstances define you
You can never let your circumstances define you. It is not about the hand you are dealt, but what you make of that hand. Perseverance allowed me to face the many challenges that came with my condition. Acquiring perseverance was not easy. It was a muscle I had to develop and nurture. It is through perseverance that I would no longer care about the labels given to me by others. No longer does it matter to me what others think I can accomplish or not. Scott Hamilton, a great Olympic skater and gold medalist, famously said, “the only disability in life is bad attitude.” I couldn’t agree more.
Don’t enable self-pity
My parents played an important role in helping me build my character. They would not enable my self-pity for one single second. Whatever I wanted to accomplish, they told me to pursue, and never did I hear from them that something was not a possibility because I had no fingers. Their contribution to how I built my moral character, to how I acquired perseverance, was invaluable. They taught me that living life isn’t about trying to be like everyone else. It’s about learning what your purpose is and then using it to serve others.
I tend to say nowadays I do not have to live my life without fingers but get to live my life without them.
Purpose should be simple
The mission statement you develop for yourself does not need to be a complicated thing, and anyone can easily get to work on his or her own mission statement. If we apply the principle of Occam’s Razor, we will not make complicated what can be simple. This applies to many things in life and it also applies to our own purpose.
At National Land Realty, the company of which I am proud to be the President, our mission is to make things grow. In an earlier iteration of that mission statement, we made things way too complicated and could not even recite back to people what our mission statement was. The mission of National Land Realty is underpinned by our core values which are to find opportunity in every obstacle, treat people right, be coachable, love what we do, and strive to get better every day.
I feel very good about these values to the degree that I let them inform and even lead the way I live my personal and professional life. Covid-19 created massive problems for many people and it was easy for all of us to see the things that went awry in the past year. However, I have been adamant about seeing opportunities in obstacles and helping my colleagues realize that the glass was as much half full as it was half empty.
Being able to live life through faith and perseverance is made possible by being optimistic and seeing opportunities where at first there are only obstacles. I already mentioned how I had to evolve from feeling sorry about myself to embracing who I was, what life had to offer me, and the impact I could make on others.
There was one pivotal moment in my life of profound lucidity, a moment where my life made a turn for the better. I was in my freshman year of college driving down the interstate. I had the radio off and was in deep thought. I found myself in a conversation with God. He told me he had heard all my prayers asking Him to simply make me “normal”, everything I had told Him about my hardship, my physical and emotional pain. He told me he would do whatever I wanted. And I told God I did not want anything. I was happy just being me. I’ve learned not to dwell on perceived disadvantages. Instead, my focus is on daily movement towards advantage. I tend to say nowadays I do not have to live my life without fingers but get to live my life without them.
Seek growth in discomfort
Society now tells us that to live right we should seek the life of comfort. It seems that this has become the Status Quo. Instead, I view challenges as opportunities that lead to durability which is created by first suffering and then overcoming. This durability is what allows us to be content in all circumstances. This level of contentment leads to a joyful life, not one of fleeting happiness which is the result of seeking comfort. It’s a level of mental preparedness that can only be accomplished by pushing yourself beyond limits.
Getting to that level of knowing what is important from what is less important does not come easy for anyone, it takes training and as you develop your moral character, your values and you become lucid about your own purpose, you get to a place where the filter through which you see life enables you to make the important calls easily. I view my core values as guardrails which serve to protect me as I accelerate towards accomplishing my mission. My mission is the course of action taken to achieve my articulated purpose.
Faith is the belief in something greater than yourself. It’s belief steeped in trust and confidence without a need of proof. It’s the foundation of purpose. Someone once told me that I was better prepared to deal with life’s challenges because of my physical handicap. That’s not true. I can deal with what life throws at me because of my faith in Jesus Christ. There are different roads to get to this place of clarity for sure. My road is steeped in my Christian faith, for others it could be different as long as it’s rooted in a belief in something bigger than you. It’s your mission and core values that will provide you with the bricks you will need to build your own road of a life of purpose. Brick by brick and ending with a virtuous legacy inspiring others to seek advantage through faith and perseverance.