I’m reading All the Places to Go… How Will You Know?: God Has Placed before You an Open Door. What Will You Do? By John Ortberg. Near the center of the book, the author makes a challenging observation:
You’ll be defined by your biggest problem. You can choose, if you want, to devote your life to the problem of “How can I be rich?” or “How can I be successful?” or “How can I be healthy?” or “How can I be secure?” Or you can devote yourself to a nobler problem.
Your identity is defined by the problem you embrace. Tell me what your problem is, and I’ll tell you who you are. (Page 116)
Have you considered your defining problem? What is the problem you would like your life to have addressed? What issue will be your identity?
I’ve also recently read Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy and as a result of the activities suggested by the authors, I wrote a eulogy for myself. It seemed a bit narcissistic and self-focused, but it helped me identify what is most important to me. The exercise sharpened my clarity regarding my purpose and my problem.
I believe we are created for a purpose, or, another way to say that would be that we each have a problem to solve.
A number of years ago, I decided to try to understand, to the best of my ability, what Jesus was about. As a result of that pursuit, I decided to align my life with the teachings of the Bible, although I must admit that I often don’t succeed very well. The Bible teaches we were created for a purpose. We lost our ability to know our purpose because we’re born thinking we’re in charge rather than thinking God is in charge. We believe we’re the boss and, as a result, we choose our own purpose. But we get the opportunity to recover our original, created purpose when we decide Jesus is God and he is in charge.
“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.” Max DePree
Max DePree famously said that a leaders first responsibility is to define reality. We don’t need a leader to lead same. The reality we define may be our view of the world once our problem is solved. Our purpose is our problem. Our most elevated purpose is our greatest problem. Our mark, our character, our impact, will be the dent we made in the problem we were created for.
Regardless of your thoughts on Jesus, think about how your biggest problem makes you come alive. Certain issues, problems, challenges create instant energy for you. As you get nearer to your most elevated purpose, you find your best energy and you experience your greatest impact. It can be taking care of a sick relative or rescuing animals. Or it can be serving a non-profit or volunteering at a homeless shelter. Your greatest energy can come from any type of problem.
Your problem marks you as a leader. You’re a leader because, regardless of your position, you have a problem. No problem… no leadership required. The problem demands a leader.
Character-based leaders avoid the temptation to tune the problem out. They address the problem, scratching the itch, and make a difference. Stuff the problem long enough and abandon your purpose. Embrace the problem and your leadership character comes alive.
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who are fully alive.” Howard Thurman
So, what’s your problem? Care to share? Maybe someone reading this post can help!
Thank you for sharing this perspective. My problem is how to create leaders that don’t disparage, disengage, and dispirit. We seem to be in a world of creating gaps rather than coming together to create a better future in work and life. For me, I am working to find my purpose and next chapter in solving this problem. It is a struggle to find the right path, but that is part of the process, I believe.
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Jon, thanks for the comment and for sharing your problem. We need the kind of leaders you’re working to create, those who build up, engage and inspire. Anyone interested in a similar problem to Jon’s can connect with Jon or check out his website by clicking on his name above or his avatar. Mike…