My stepson, Walt, spent the last year volunteering with Americorps working alongside FEMA on disaster relief projects. In that time he’s seen more of the world than the previous twenty years of his life. His growth and personal development have been extraordinary to the point that we’re considering making Americorps a requirement for the rest of the kids when they finish high school.
Anyway, Walt decided that he wants to make a career of emergency management or disaster relief. Towards the end of his term with Americorps he accepted a position with FEMA working on an as-needed contract basis.
When disaster strikes he could be called up and deployed to pretty much any where in the US or or US territories. In the meantime he’s volunteering at the The Red Cross getting experience with emergency preparedness.
But since early December he’s been pacing the floor, chomping at the bit to be deployed with FEMA.
“I’m just waiting on them to call me.”
For weeks that’s been his response nearly every time I’ve asked what he was up to. Yesterday I asked how many times he had called to check in and ask about being deployed.
“Walt, you have to call them!”
The words that came out of my mouth next hit me like a ton of bricks and have been running through my mind since.
“You’ve reached the point where, from here on out, it’s up to you to create the life you want. Nobody is going to do it for your anymore, and you only have two choices.
You can decide what you want out of life and commit yourself to achieving it, which is what you should do.
Or you can sit back and let life happen to you, which is what 99% of the people on this planet do.”
Am I talking to Walt or am I talking to myself?
If I’ve read one book on living a life by design or controlling your own destiny then I’ve read a dozen. I have watched hundreds of videos and listened to many speakers who have said the same thing.
In fact I’ve repeated a version of this idea to myself and others for years. “The situation you are in today is result of the decisions you’ve made over the last five years.”
So it’s not a concept with which I’m unfamiliar.
But, standing there that day talking to a fresh 21 year old kid with his whole life ahead of him, I realized that I've only known it on a conceptual level.
I have never internalized it.
I have not lived it.
The truth is I got to where I’m at today, for the most part, by letting life happen to me. Further, I have no solid, concrete idea of where I want to be in five or ten years. And since I don’t know, I can’t possibly have a plan for getting there.
Sure, I have the generic plan. I want to be financially comfortable, have money for retirement, maybe a beach house and a boat. But those are just things. They are simply desires and do not equate to clarity around the life that I want to live.
That puts me squarely in the 99%.
I will be 43 years old this month, and I face the same decision as Walt.
I can remain content with letting life happen to me, or I can develop clarity around what I want the rest of my life to look like and then commit to making that happen.
Damn. I’m glad I’m only 43.