The Third Most Important Day of Your Life
It is said that the two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why. The saying speaks to the almost universal notion that each person comes into this world with an essential calling along with the duty to discover what it is. In Indian philosophy and religious traditions, this is known as dharma. The Greek philosophers referred to one’s essential reason for being as entelechy. The Japanese have a wonderful term, ikigai, which translates into “the reason for getting out of bed in the morning.” In our current culture, we often refer to it as one’s purpose. I believe there is perhaps a third most important day in one’s life – the moment someone else sees in you the reason that you were born. The primatologist and anthropologist Jane Goodall tells the story of when she was four years old and staying at her family’s farm. Even at that young age, Goodall was fascinated with animals, particularly the mystery of how a chicken could lay an egg. One morning she decided to wake up before her family and hide in the barn unnoticed so she could see it happen with her own eyes. As she sat quietly for hours, she didn’t realize that her family had woken and had gone into a panic when they couldn’t find her. A search and rescue mission was assembled. Little Jane’s persistence and passion paid off as she witnessed the hen lay her egg. She immediately ran out of the barn to a relieved crowd of townspeople. Her mother, who could have easily chastised the child, had the wisdom to see that this was a moment – perhaps the third most important moment in her daughter’s life. As Goodall tells it, “Despite her worry, when mum, still searching, saw the excited little girl rushing toward the house, she did not scold me. She noticed my shining eyes and sat down to listen to the story of how a hen lays an egg: the wonder of that moment when the egg finally fell to the ground.” I was reminded of this story this weekend as I had the chance to see my daughter perform in her university’s production of a new musical. Her day of finding out why she was born happened years ago as a little girl who loved nothing more than to sing, dance, and perform. As I sat and watched her do just that, I remembered how my wife and I, from the very beginning, never wavered in our complete celebration, support, and love for what she had discovered as her calling. We had seen her shining eyes at a very early age. While I beamed with pride for my daughter, I was also proud of me and my wife. We have done a lot of right things as parents and made our fair share of mistakes, but what a gift we had given to our daughter, I thought to myself. And what a gift we and the rest of the world had received in return. As we approach the upcoming holidays, there is no better gift than seeing and naming the genius in each of our friends, family, and colleagues. It is priceless. Perhaps we can do the same for ourselves. What an incredible holiday season that would be. Tuesday Tips
There may be no better book on purpose than Stephen Cope’s The Great Work of Your Life. It’s where I was first introduced to the Jane Goodall story.
I commend David Brooks for his courage in taking on the topic of abortion in his recent New York Times opinion piece. As usual, he treats a complex subject with the humility, maturity, and nuance that it deserves.
A quote I revisited this week: “Find out who you are, and do it on purpose.” Dolly Parton