My job does not define me.
Like most others in today's economy, my occupation, position, or role changes frequently and my work is no longer for a single employer, but for many clients, teams, and includes many side gigs. Answering the question, "What do you do?" seems more convoluted than ever. In the past, when people asked me about myself, I would often respond by telling them my title and stewardship in my full-time job. Likewise I'd describe my family, listing off the stats and cursory details. "I am married to my wife Brooke, we have 3 girls and 1 boy, etc." These details, although important aspects of my life, don't describe who I am or what makes me unique. They don't lead to any form of real conversation either. I feel like I know people less from these types of surface level encounters than I would by looking them up on social media having never spoken to them face to face. So I've decided instead to start introducing myself with my purpose, one which transcends all my jobs and duties.
Like most others I've struggled to find balance in my life. I've always felt pulled in so many directions to meet the needs of my work, my children, my marriage, not to mention myself. These efforts have always seemed to compete with each other, but now instead I have found a unifying purpose that connects all of my efforts. That purpose is...
To help people develop relationships, learn, and contribute while making each of these pursuits empowering, meaningful, and personalized.
These three pursuits, if done right, are never done at all.
Our learning, if we seek wisdom, should be lifelong.
Our contributions, if we seek fulfillment, should be enduring.
Our relationships, if we seek happiness, should continuously be cultivated.
For many, these lifelong aspirations feel more like tasks to be completed. Often, instead of finding purpose in them, we try to limit them and simply look forward to their end; the graduation from our education, the retirement from our work, and we start seeing our relational connections as transactional.
The only way we would tolerate never reaching the end of these three journeys would be that they offer something that inspires or lifts us, that we find useful now or relevant to future success, and that meet our individual needs or are tailored to our personal interests. These shifts from the mundane and traditional views of education, work, and connections will make any learning, contribution, or relationship worth continuing.
This purpose is pervasive in my roles as an educator, administrator, spiritual leader, husband and father.
I will actively seek to create and promote opportunities for students to be empowered by their learning, applying what they learn to make meaningful contributions, all while working with caring adults and developing the relational skills to work with others.
I will lead other educators to feel like their expertise and continuous learning is highly valued, their work is tailored to their skills and their contributions are meaningful to me and others, and that I have a personal relationship with each of them that is more than about making them productive, but ensuring they are supported and cared for.
I will guide those I serve in religious settings to seek inspiration and uplifting learning daily, to serve and contribute to the wellbeing of the downtrodden, and to be develop familial and heavenly relationships to buoy them throughout the storms of life.
I will partner with my wife as we learn to parent together and love each other more completely, to support and make contributions to the success of our children, and to rekindle the fire of our romantic relationship regularly.
I will be a father who fosters a love of learning, a desire for meaningful contribution, and has a deep personal relationship with each child so they know they can always to turn to me when they are in need and know I love them without condition.
These characteristics of empowerment, meaning, and personalization now drive all aspects of my own learning, my own work, and my own relationships. This allows me to find fulfillment in life regardless of my role, job, or title, and introducing myself in this way, leading with this purpose, will remind me to act on purpose daily.
The Empowering Future of Education
Are the things we value most in schools designed to empower our students for a successful future or are they based primarily on the nostalgia of our past? Should our focus be to prepare students for state and national standardized tests that assess the knowledge and skills which machines are increasingly automating for us? Or instead, should our focus be to prepare students for life by developing essential skills like communication, collaboration, and creativity as they tackle local issues applicable to them? In this TEDx talk I propose updates to our traditional educational values to help us avoid this tragic automation of education by inviting us to empower students and teachers as we place them at the center of our designs for a much more relevant and personalized education model.