“Purpose crosses disciplines. Purpose is an essential element of you. It is the reason you are on the planet at this particular time in history. Your very existence is wrapped up in the things you are here to fulfill.” – Chadwick Boseman
For the most part, 2020 has felt like I’m a boxer in a title fight getting knocked down every round.
The death of Chadwick Boseman last week levied a particularly harsh blow.
Boseman was such a talented actor. He played Jackie Robinson and Thurgood Marshall. He grooved and sang and gave us a gift in his portrayal of James Brown. Then, in 2018, he became Black Panther.
Not only was Chadwick Boseman the first black superhero, but he was also a superhero in a really good movie. As someone who has watched almost all of the Avenger films, that wasn’t a given.
Hands down, Black Panther is one of the best Marvel films to date. So his loss still feels like one punch too many to me.
Adding to the upset of this loss, we learned that Boseman did some of his most notable work while fighting colon cancer. Colon Cancer. T’Challa was likely throwing up Wakanda Forever signs between chemo appointments and oncology visits.
Just the thought of it makes me wonder whether I would have that much courage and conviction in the face of such hardship. Would you?
After staying up way too late re-watching Black Panther and listening to the soundtrack, what I take away from his choice to keep working is that the real-life Black Panther was committed to his purpose.
In his 2016 Howard commencement speech, Boseman said this of purpose:
When you have reached the hilltop, and you are deciding on next jobs, next steps, careers, further education, you would rather find purpose than a job or career. Purpose crosses disciplines. Purpose is an essential element of you. It is the reason you are on the planet at this particular time in history. Your very existence is wrapped up in the things you are here to fulfill.
Boseman recognized that his purpose was to use his talents to tell stories that portrayed black people in new ways. He died proving that he wasn’t going to let anything get in the way of that.
So here is my question for you today—Are you living in your purpose? Or, at the very least, on your way to getting there?
If someone had asked me that question 5 years ago, I probably would have stretched the truth. I had achieved the goal of becoming an attorney, and I was a working, professional adult. So I checked those boxes.
But I wasn’t happy. More than that I wasn’t fulfilled. I felt like I was missing out on my real life, and deep down, I wasn’t sure if I had what was necessary to pursue it.
Many people feel like this. We are in friendships, careers, jobs, relationships, and addictions that aren’t serving us or our purpose. Yet we stay in those positions week after week and month after month because figuring out how to live our lives on purpose seems too hard.
We look for ways to solve our problems in every possible way that doesn’t require vulnerability. We up our productivity game, read lots of books, talk to friends about our insecurities, take vacations, breathe, and go to yoga.
These aren’t bad things. They just aren’t the things we need to do to live on purpose, and we know it.
Unless we hit “rock bottom,” most of us will never do the things that genuinely expose us to uncertainty, risk, or emotional exposure. We never have the conversation. Never submit the resignation letter. Never pack up and move on. Never break up and move out.
But we talk about doing those things a lot.
In living our lives this way, we fail to reach that essential element of ourselves or begin to know why we are here, as Boseman noted in his commencement address. That’s why we feel like we aren’t living the lives we were meant to live.
Now I know this note is starting to sound a little lofty and woo-woo. I also know this certainly isn’t the message you were expecting to hear when I told you on IG to get my list to read it.
When most business owners say something like that online, they are offering a new program or reporting on some fabulous life event like they made 6 million dollars in 6 months. Messages like that are tasty bits of gossip, and I love a good snack. But ultimately, those updates from someone else’s life distract us from our real work, following our purpose.
My purpose as a coach is to help people find and follow theirs. It’s the reason I love to coach and why it has become so popular today. Coaching accelerates change.
It moves you to the vulnerable edge of your purpose. It helps you to take risks and leaps into the unknown without the years of thinking about it, talking about it, and dissecting the dangers in your journal. Coaches support you in taking those leaps and that support gets you to your goals faster.
The risks you have to take to live on purpose never get easier. You’ll still be afraid, but you know that you’ll make through to the other side by continuing down the road less traveled. And you’ll get there a lot faster with help.
It’s my sincere hope that you never have to face a terminal diagnosis before discovering your purpose. Hitting “rock bottom” isn’t required to start living your life the way you want. What is needed is vulnerability and an unwavering commitment to purpose.
As our superhero explained to us, “I don’t know what your future is, but if you are willing to take the harder way, the more complicated one, the one with more failures at first than successes, the one that’s ultimately proven to have more victory, more glory, then you will not regret it. This is your time.”
Are you willing?