On October 17th, 2015, I had the opportunity to lecture at our Men’s Basic Training, at Art Silver Center on the Wright Graduate University Campus in Elkhorn, WI. I’d like to share some of the highlights and background that stemmed from this inspiring and rousing session.
Philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre talked about man’s great freedom and individual experiential journey. Throughout his philosophy he discussed approaching life as a project, harnessing your intent and embracing your authenticity and experience—in other words, your journey.
He likened this Life Project to a mountain. Whether the mountain is law or medicine or business, some hike a path up to a stream, they view things along the way, then go back and report, “I’ve been to the mountain and it was lovely.” Yet, they have not “climbed the mountain.” Others go up to the tree line, they look out at the surroundings, and they go back. They have not climbed the mountain.
There are very few that make it to the very pinnacle of the mountain—that tackle their Everest. The mountain becomes romanticized, lofty and unattainable.
When it comes to our own Life Projects, making money is the easy part. We’ve all got a few irons in the fire and at least one area that we’re working on, but very few of us will max out the journey and make it to the peak.
Harnessing your intentionality, dedicating yourself to your vision, choosing and being cognizant to handpick the next challenge—that will get you to your peak. Many people get out of Harvard, Wharton or another big-name college and think they’ve already reached the top of their mountain, but they’re still way back at the first stream….they haven’t even made it to the tree line. They walk out of school with an MBA or PhD and expect the world to be at their beck and call. They expect that climb to be an easy elevator ride to the top.
Then you have those who’ve had some success—they’ve made it to that first forest and beyond. They’ve made some money and they have it in the bank…and then they spend the rest of their life hording and protecting it, never pushing themselves to keep going and growing.
At Wright Living, we get these falsehoods shaken up and cracked as we go along. There’s a new approach to the mountain, which is in embracing the climb, the struggle and enjoying the Life Project as a journey. We delight in the good fight, the conflict, the engagement and the new experience that comes along the way.
Our entire research is about learning to embrace this conflict, delight in this fight, and stop feeling sorry for ourselves, licking our wounds. It’s about pride in the battle scars and taking up these marks, and supporting each other in harnessing the strength of experience and wounds.
We create this community of life-long learners who view the Life Project in the same way—who are willing to embrace the fight with us. They will continually go to the next challenge, ready to tackle it and overcome the fear.
This intentionality is critical—to understand our fear and still stand up in the face of disaffirmation. It’s about embracing life and going out to meet it as you climb higher on your journey.
When you meet a master, a winner—Pablo Casals, one of the finest cellists at 87 years old or golfers Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus—you realize that people who are on top of their game are willing to stretch themselves. They are highly competitive. They push themselves, and still they practice every single day. They love what they’re doing and they understand their drive and motivation. They embrace it and allow it to propel them forward.
When you study students who learn instruments early on or great athletes who have aptitude toward their sport, yes, some of that is skill but more of it is drive. If they put in the hours and the time and practice and hone their craft, they can harness their intent and use it as a springboard for success.
The question you need to ask yourself today is: Who is the person I want to be? Are you willing to settle for viewing the trees, then turning around and saying, “Well, that was a lovely mountain,” or do you want to go all the way?
As Plato said, “We live in a cave, just seeing a vision of the outside world from the light leaking in.” Realizing your vision and gaining a full understanding of your Life Project will push you to your peak. You will engage, embrace your conflict and let go of fear. You will push yourself through in ways you didn’t think possible and continue to tackle life with intentionality and the support of others who are focused on making it to their peak as well. It’s a journey we will take together.
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Wright Living is a division of the Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential, a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.