The other day an old friend got in touch with me via facebook. The last time I heard from the guy, we were both really into skateboarding, freestyle rapping, and partying a little too much. He must have been sort of facebook stalking me because he seemed to already know what I was up to, even though I hadn’t talk to the guy in over five years. His response was not trying to one up me or even fill me in on what he had been up to. He simply asked me for help. He said that it seemed like I was doing so much in my life and he said that he just felt “stuck”. He asked me if I could meet with him and “be a life coach to him”. I commented back jokingly but he made it clear that he was serious.
Upon realizing that he was serious, I thought about my life and really wondered what I had to offer. With reflection, I realized how blessed I truly feel to be: married to the girl of my dreams, doing what I most love to do in the world, and am able to honestly say that I would not trade places with anyone that I know (and I know a lot of great people). I truly feel like I am living the “Good Life”! My wife and I recently bought another home in a very tight knit community after having our first little baby. We have been meeting our neighbors and I have had a chance to have some deep conversations with some of the guys in the neighborhood. In one conversation that I had today, I asked the guy if he felt like he was living the “Good Life” life and he said straight up: “no”, when I asked him what it would look like for him to live it, he could not even give me a solid answer. This is when I started to realize, wow maybe I do have a few things that I could share with folks who are feeling “stuck” or can not answer what the “Good Life” means for them.
The first thing I would say to someone that has no idea on what they want to do, is to volunteer in a way that allows you to serve someone or a group of people. In my experience being in a situation where you are asked to serve and get the focus off your self, allows you to begin to become more aware of the needs of others. Sometimes we are so wrapped up in our own lives that we don’t realize how blessed we really are and how much we have to give. Even more than this, if you are lucky you will quickly find yourself in a position where you are in over your head. This can be good because it can cause you to realize what you can do well and what areas you need support from others in. No one is great at everything, and it is important to know your strengths and weaknesses. This leads me to my second point…
2) Find out what you do well and learn how to become your best at it. Notice I didn’t say that you have to be “the” best, just “your” best. Living the Good Life is not about competition with others, but really just being your best authentic self and being able to play to your own unique strengths. Once we find what we are good at, we have to find others who are better at it and be open to learn from them. The great Picasso discovered he had an aptitude for art and he allowed himself to be mentored by the great artists of his time. He would work with them until he mastered their technique, he did this with several mentors then finally developed his own technique and style, which was groundbreaking. To go from good to great, it always requires mentorship and support from others It is important to be open to mentorship and to learn as much as possible, but in the end you have to develop your own unique style and walk your own path.
3) The third point is to be humble and willing to learn from anyone. What I have learned is sometimes the Creator (some call him God or the Universe) will speak to you in places you least expect through people you would think the least likely. This maybe be a foreign exchange student, an elderly person, a child, or even someone who is severely disabled. It is in the context of relationship with others, especially others who have a very different background than us that our world views can begin to open up and we can begin to be open to ideas and realities beyond the small bubbles of our lived experiences. This is important because our purpose may be to do something that is connected to another place or people group than what we may have ben exposed to previously. They key to a rich life partially relies in having diverse relationships with a wide variety of people.
4) My fourth piece of advice is that we need to embrace our pain. Too many people have been emotionally wounded through relationships and they never take time to truly heal from those wounds. Instead of continuing their lives from a place of peace and well being, they live life from a place of pain and brokenness. I have learned that doing the hard work of healing is important for two reasons: 1) some of our greatest insights about life come from facing our pain and learning the important life lessons that come from those experiences. These insights can very well be the very things that link to our purpose. 2) Seeing the hurt that others can cause can make us more aware of the powerful effect of our own words and actions. Understanding this power can make us more empathetic in dealing with others, especially others who we see that are wounded, and can allow us to become powerful wielders of hope embodying the possibility that pain can become propane for living a better life. This leads me to my last point…
5) We all have a purpose that is unique for us and that allows us to most come alive. This purpose or what I call the “Good Life” is something that first off cannot be defined by MTV, any media outlets or marketing firm. It is something that must be defined by us. This most often times is something that combines our own life experiences (both good and bad), our strengths, our social capital (relationships), and the powerful insight we have gained from our pain. Although this is unique and special for each person, it is consistent in that our purpose is linked to using all the good and bad that we have experienced to make the world a better place; to leave a positive legacy. You don’t need to be hyper spiritual or religious to recognize that our actions (or inactions) have an effect upon others. Ultimately our purpose is linked to our ability to leave a positive legacy that reflects our true selves living in this world and leaving it in a better condition then when we found it.
I believe that if someone were to follow these five concepts, they will be on the right track to walking in their destiny and living “the Good Life’. What I have learned is that it is sometimes the very things that have hurt us the most, are the very things that we are called to address and change. I was hurt through my experience with schooling, and told that I was “LD” or learning deficient. What I have learned is that I just “learn differently” and that my purpose is connected to reforming educational spaces so all people from different backgrounds and learning styles can be engaged. I use my strengths, my social capital, and my unique insights from doing the hard work of healing to guide me to doing this. I am convinced that if I can do it so can you.
Roberto Rivera created his own major at UW-Madison entitled: Social Change, Youth Culture and the Arts”. He also started his own company that combines his passion for Hiphop and education and creates innovative curriculum that teaches leadership, relationship, and citizenship skills to youth using media, movement, and music. He recently was named one of the top change agents in America by the Search for The common Ground Coalition, and is a global partner in the Unreasonable Institute. He speaks publicly and can be reached through this website: Www.thegoodlifeorganization.com