Discover your purpose. Realize your passion.

Welcome To My Blog . . .

The journey toward maximizing human potential begins with realizing our personal purpose and putting it into action. We were created for a unique purpose. We are challenged to discover what this purpose is and how we can make the most of our lives through putting it into action. When we realize our special purpose and push our time toward it---we truly become most alive. This is a lifelong journey toward becoming our best self where we can achieve personal fulfillment, happiness and most importantly make positive contributions to the world we live in. Tom Vansaghi created this blog to share his ideas on what inspires him— principles and ideas that define positive, personal growth and development; individuals or entities that embody a strong sense of personal purpose and who have put it into action; the quest toward achieving a life of balance based on core principles; and general thoughts, stories and ideas about our journey toward happiness and making a positive difference. He invites you to read, react and respond to the posts that follow . . .

Latest

Who Loves You Baby? A dedication to my friend Bill Dizney.

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I’ve been thinking lately about someone who made an impact on my life while I was in college: Bill Dizney.

Bill was an assistant dean of students at Northwest Missouri State University. He was a wiry, little man who always wore a bow tie that was as big as his smile and had contagious enthusiasm for life. Bill taught my friends and I a valuable lesson. He taught us the importance of expressing to others how much you care about them. When we would run into him he’d ask intently: “Who loves you baby?” We were forced to meekly and embarrassingly reply—“you do”. This was his way of reminding us that he cared, life was short and that it is okay to express to others our appreciation, joy and love for them. Not a romantic expression but a genuine expression of gratitude that someone has come into your life and made a difference.

I have a close friend who recently and suddenly lost his wife to a stroke. I surprised him by dropping in on him several weeks after the funeral to just be with him. I knew that the reality and loneliness from suddenly losing his wife of over 60 years was hitting him hard. It was a remarkable visit where he was especially attuned to the importance of expressing joy, love and gratitude to those who are most important. We shared stories, laughed, cried and told each other what an important difference we made in each other’s lives. Despite this being a sad meeting it was an authentic and meaningful moment that might have been difficult had Bill not taught me this important lesson.

Bill Dizney has been gone for many years but I’m grateful that he was a part of my journey and he made an important difference in my life. He helped me grow.

Who loves you baby? I do, Bill.

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The Swarm: Chaos can lead to a new order.

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I am a relatively new bee keeper.   I started a hive about a year ago.  I acquired the requisite boxes, bee suit, smoker and purchased a package of 10,000 bees.  I spent last summer tending the bees and the hive grew and flourished.  I decided not to extract honey at the end of the summer to ensure the bees had enough to sustain themselves and make it through the winter.  This turned out to be a good decision as the hive survived one of the coldest winters in record.  We saw cold winter days with lows of -15 degrees Fahrenheit in the Midwest.  So, this spring, I was excited to watch my hive continue to grow and expand over the coming summer and envisioned extracting large amounts of honey this fall.  That is why I was so dismayed and confused when I got to my hive this past Sunday to find things in a state of chaos.  Thousands of bees had taken flight above the hive and hundreds more were crawling all over the hive.  The bees were collectively making a strange, high pitched engine sound.  At first I was confused and even scared.   Armed in my bee suit and with smoker in hand, I went to the hive and opened it and added another box and stepped back and eventually retreated.  An hour later, thousands of bees had amassed on a nearby cedar branch causing it to droop to the ground because of the weight of the bees.

Later, I checked my books and web sites to figure out what was going on and learned that my bees had swarmed.  This is a natural phenomenon triggered by a young queen in early spring where she releases a pheromone that instructs half of the hive to leave to establish a new colony.  What appeared to me as a total state of chaos and confusion was a natural phenomenon to enable bees to reproduce in greater numbers and ensure their survival.  This is obviously a critical thing for bees these days given the huge numbers mysteriously dying off across the country.

This reminded me of Margaret Wheatley’s writings about how “disorder can be a source of new order, and that growth appears from disequilibrium, not balance.  The things we fear in organizations—disruptions, confusion, chaos—need not be interpreted as signs we are about to be destroyed.  Instead these conditions are necessary to awaken creativity and new growth”   (Wheatley, Margaret J., Leadership and the New Science, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., San Francisco, CA, 2006).  This idea of growth through disruption and even chaos is true not only in organizations but for us as individuals.   While un-welcomed and feared, when we have identified and strive to live with a clear purpose or mission, the swarms and storms of life can deliver us to a higher level of existence.

Wild Geese

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I work in a six story office building along a green-space with trails, woods, open fields and ponds.  It is home to many Canadian Geese who nest in the fields and swim in the waters.   Geese fly by my window each day and I watched them this past winter happily lying in the frigid snow covered field below.

During a recent conversation a friend of mine shared the following poem titled “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver:

“You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees,

for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.

Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

 are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting—

over and over announcing your place

 in the family of things.”

 

This poem has many messages and can be interpreted in different ways.  What strikes me as most relevant is that it gives us permission to not be so hard on ourselves.  We don’t have to push for perfection or feel like a failure when we fall short.  We can  find peace by focusing on what we love most—our purpose—such as our family or occupation.  Meanwhile, the world goes on with or without us and we will eventually fade away.  However, while we are here we have the opportunity to offer our creativity and strengths through our purpose—whatever that is.

Purpose through Pain

iStock_000000735111Small“I do need pain and I look forward to it. I love those long, dark nights alone in the middle of nowhere racing with a headlamp—having only my demons to spur me on.  There’s growth in discomfort, and that is why I like ‘ultra’ anything so much.”

This quote from ultra marathoner, Meredith Dolhare, captured my attention.  It is part of her story featured in the February 2014 Runner’s World article titled “One Tough Mother”.  Dolhare’s journey involves her being raped in high school, a drug and alcohol addiction, recovery and how she “re-created” herself through becoming an avid runner and cyclist.  In 2012 she developed a serious spinal condition that resulted in surgery but this did nothing to hold her back.  Since, she’s competed in Ironmans, ultra marathons, multiple 50 mile races and intense cycling competitions including the Furnace Creek 508 bike race in Death Valley.  Dolhare’s thirst for pain is extreme but it reminded me of how adversity can trigger commitment to personal purpose and enable growth.

I’ve lived a blessed life.  But, I’ve lived long enough to recognize that personal adversity or the metaphoric “long, dark nights alone in the middle of nowhere racing with a headlamp” periods in my life were the times when I experienced positive growth and a sense of purpose in my life much more so than when things were rosy.   Most of us, thankfully, don’t “need pain” or personal hardship to motivate or spur us forward but when these moments come—and they will—there is at least an opportunity to reflect on our purpose and become more energized to commit to it.

How far will you go to champion your purpose?

In my last post I discussed the importance of being internally clear about our purpose before we can externally advocate for it.  Once we have clarity around our purpose and the need to champion it, we can determine how far we are willing to go to fight for what we most believe.

Adam Seaman, a longtime friend and founder of Positive Leadership conceived of the following model to frame the degrees possible in standing up for our cause:

Degrees of Advocacy

  • Superficial is where we say we believe in something but don’t really care that much about it.
  • Comfort is where we push our boundaries of comfort in advocating our purpose.  This might involve making a financial contribution to an important cause that makes a noticeable impact on our bottom-line.
  • Safety is where we risk our personal safety to champion our cause.  An example might be going to a dangerous neighborhood to feed homeless people.
  • Survival is where we are willing to literally risk our life for our purpose.  Examples are the men and women in the armed services who risk their lives in combat fighting for our country.

In summary, it is not only important to clarify our purpose, determine whether we are willing to stand up and advocate for it but also know how far we are willing to go to champion it.

 

 

Advocating Purpose

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This past week I was invited to do a presentation on advocacy to a group of parents who lead a public policy council for Head Start in Overland Park, Kansas.  I’ve spent more than 20 years advocating for political and public policy causes, mostly focused on higher education and more recently primary care research.  As part of my introduction to the Head Start group, I thought it would be helpful to introduce the topic by talking about advocacy in general—not just advocacy to influence government or elected officials.

In putting my thoughts together for the presentation, I realized that standing-up for and taking action on anything we passionately believe in starts with internal clarity.  We must have inner lucidity around what matters to us first, before we can externally express our thoughts, feelings or desire for change.  This inner clarity is about defining our purpose clearly and simply.  It is possible to believe strongly in a purpose without ever becoming an advocate for it.  Articulating what we most believe to others, whether they are family members, friends, co-workers, citizens or members of the U.S. Senate takes courage.  It can be uncomfortable or place us in harms way.  But this is the next logical step in moving purpose forward.  There is risk to putting yourself out there.  Obviously, the risks can be worth it and many people sacrifice their lives standing up for their purpose.

Bobby Kennedy summarized the possibilities when we take risks and stand for our purpose in the following lines:

“Each time a person stands up for an idea, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he or she sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

The Clock Paradox

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The changing of the seasons and the biennial shift of the end of daylight savings this past weekend has me pondering the concept of time.  I’ve been reading Revolution in Time: Clocks and the Making of the Modern World (1983) by Harvard scholar David Landes, who passed away this past August.  Revolution in Time traces the history of the modern clock with its origins in Western Europe during the 12thCentury.   First used as a device to keep busy Medieval monasteries running efficiently, clocks alerted monks to ring bells to signal their brethren to go to “the chapel, the library, the writing room (scriptorium), the fields, the mills, mines, the workshops, the laundry, (or) the kitchen” (page 68).  From the dawn of time, the majority of souls had absolutely no need to measure time.  They simply moved in natural, circular cycles and seasons such as “daybreak, sunrise, noon, sunset or darkness . . . the sequence of tasks filled the day and when night fell and the animals were cooped or stabled, parents and children ate their evening meal and went tired to bed, to wake the next morning with the birds and beasts to start another day” (page 1).

 

Time measurement is not a natural phenomenon.  It disconnects us from our natural rhythms and forces a sense of living outside of the “moment”.  We can lose ourselves in the race to meet deadlines, achieve results or just keep pace.  However, without the widely agreed upon system of time measurement—the industrial revolution and modern world we know today would not have been possible.  Little could be counted on, measured or completed with any precision.  Mass productivity would not be impossible.

 

This tension between our natural rhythm or living in the moment and modern precision and productivity is a paradox.  Those of us good at managing our time only end up doing more and more and end up (usually) neglecting the people or purpose that is most important to us.  Clocks and the concept of time were profoundly important to the development of the human race but have also contributed to the loss of the human soul.