This fireman & the Buddha say, “cut the strings”
You won’t believe whom he pulled out of that crumpled car.
It all started when he was in elementary school.
“I always wanted to be a fireman,” he said. “In elementary school it was a problem because at that age everyone wanted to be a fireman. But I really did want to be a fireman. As I grew up I couldn’t wait to leave school to join the fire service.”
In his senior year of high school one of his teachers asked the class what they were all planning to do when they left. Almost everyone talked about going to college. He said he was applying to join the fire service.
The teacher told him he was making a big mistake; he was smart and had a bright future ahead of him. A career in the fire service would be a waste of his life.
He was embarrassed and felt humiliated in front of his friends. But he stuck with his plans and enjoyed a thoroughly fulfilling career for years.
Then, one day his unit was called out to a car wreck. He ran up to the crumpled car, dropped to his knees, peered inside, and was shocked to see who was inside.
He pulled out the unconscious driver. When he saw that the man wasn’t breathing, he quickly administered CPR. The driver gasped and came to.
The fireman then dragged the driver’s wife out of the car and saved her life as well.
That real-life fireman is a hero, not only because he saves lives, but because he listened to his inner calling when people told him he was crazy.
Howard Thurman said,
“There is something in every one of you that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself. It is the only true guide you will ever have. And if you cannot hear it, you will all of your life spend your days on the ends of strings that somebody else pulls.”
That fireman saved two lives that day because he was not a puppet; he was in touch with his genuine self.
My point is this: Don’t ever let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do. Don’t ever let social scripts, like puppet strings, determine the course of your life.
If you know your Authentic Purpose, go after it with all your heart and soul. Trust that inner voice; it will never lead you astray. Ignore your critics. Tear yourself away from the crabs who try to drag you down into the bucket of mediocrity.
Don’t know your purpose? Go find it. You won’t find it in books. You won’t find it in life experience or from mentors (although they can give you clues that point you in the right direction).
You’ll find it deep within your own heart through prayer, meditation, introspective journaling.
As the Buddha said,
“Your purpose in life is to find your purpose in life and give your whole heart and soul to it.”
When you don’t know your purpose, you spend your life serving, promoting, and building the purposes of those who do — a purposeless puppet dancing at the end of their purposeful strings.
Consider your job or career. Why are you doing it? Is it the purpose you were born for? Does it keep you awake at night and launch you out of bed in the morning? Is it worthy of your gifts? Does it draw out the best in you, call out your greatness?
If not, why in the world are you doing it?
Don’t tell me because it provides for your family. Yes, providing for your family is honorable. But the absolute best thing you can do for your family is to live your authentic purpose with passion and power.
You’re not serving them by drudging to work every day in the name of “responsibility.” You’re teaching them to settle, to sell out, to give in and give up.
Give them an example to be proud of and to aspire to. Let them see you at your best, and they will be inspired to strive for their best.
And when you become who you were born to become, your example will also confound your critics.
Take it from that fireman. That driver and woman he pulled out of that crumpled car and whose lives he saved? It was his old high school teacher, who had humiliated him in front of his friends, and the teacher’s wife.
The fireman said, “I think he thinks better of me now.”
*The story of the fireman can be found in Ken Robinson’s book, Out of Our Minds: Learning To Be Creative.