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The Art of Living with Purpose

By February 18, 2014February 5th, 201533 Comments

Note 3.11.14: this post is now also up on Medium.

“What makes your heart beat hardest?”

Answer this question for yourself.  Then move in that direction with every fiber of your being.  Because in truth, nothing else matters.

I have stuff to do.  It was not my intention to write today.  And now I must.  A call to action catalyzed by a series of images, music and a voice so pure and authentic, I am moved beyond logic and choice to remember, embrace and act upon who I am in the purest sense.  A vein tapped.  An indelible, haunting paean that obliges me to transcend self-imposed limitations and artificial glass ceilings.  A panegyric that compels inventory of not just the arc of life but the incalculable power held by every precious fraction of a moment.  The idea that legacy, meaning and purpose reside not in some indeterminate future, but only in the immediate now.

As this piece of evocative, elegiac art unspools, I am immediately captivated by the patient languishing upon the unadulterated weight and majesty of nature. An uninhabitable coastline. Gigantic crashing waves. A journey before time to the primordial stew. Earth in its purest form, perfectly cured of the infectious, predatory foibles of the human condition. An undeniable exclamation point upon the incalculable largess and supremacy of the cosmos, pulling covers on the insane banalities of modern routine. The sheer triviality of our predominant concerns. And the absurdity of our frivolous obsession with the material, a pursuit in madness that drains our souls until we are but empty vessels — listless, and without mooring.

Then the voice.  That flawless, unpolluted and haunting ancient pure Celtic tongue.  A relic of wisdom from a time long since past.  

Open your eyes and heart to the world.

I never set out to become anything in particular, only to live creatively, and push the scope of my experience. For adventure. And through passion.

Heavy waves, waves with weight. They coax from comfortable routine. Ignite the imagination. Convey some divine spark.  Whisper possibilities.

If I only scrape a livin’, at least it’s a livin’ worth scrapin’. If there’s no future in it, at least its a present worth rememberin’. For fires of happiness. And waves of gratitude. For everything that brought us to that point on Earth at that moment in time. To do something worth rememberin’.

Ancient man in the undiluted state of nature, possessed of the heart.  Pursuing his personal truth against odds, impossible cold and the gravity of crushing elements beyond reason, logic, security, fear and the restrictions of the social imperative to approach the core of purpose, meaning, passion.  An adrenaline shot of pure spirit driving an echoing that evokes the sheer irrelevance of everything our calculating minds work overtime to convince ourselves is important.  

Transcendence.

This is the passion and purpose I seek. 

This is the passion and purpose we should all seek.

I am inspired.

But inspiration is easy.  Implementation and action-based change isn’t.  In fact, it’s the hardest thing imaginable. Fear, logic, ego, friends and family dissuade. Every aspect of the thinking mind in revolt. Because pursuing freedom premised on faith and passion isn’t about thinking — it’s what thinking was designed to prevent. It’s not logical in any way shape or form. It threatens every dark corner of selfhood and status quo.  A terrifying reveal of “identity” as pure fiction — mere stories we tell ourselves about who we are and why we do what we do to comfort us against the paralyzing unknowable — that forces us and others to confront the truth about choices made.  

A truly objective look in the mirror usually isn’t pleasant.  Armed in denial, we go to great lengths to avoid this act.  I know I do.  It takes gigantic balls to quiet external noise. Even bigger balls to quell the internal rebellion — the voice of the mind that destroys imagination, levels wonder and clutches to fear and illusion with an impossible death grip.

Faith stands in denial of reason. In order to pursue a life of passion, the mind must be destroyed.  Comfort in unknowingness.  An embrace of the void.

When I first embarked on this heart-based journey, I could have never imagined the life I now enjoy.  Despite advanced degrees from prestigious universities and a promising career track, I was devoid of passion.  Eventually the pain became so great, the only solution was to let it all go or die.  Pain works that way.  It’s a great catalyst for change.

Broke and married with 4 kids, I spent countless hours pedaling a bike, running ridiculous distances or staring at a black line at the bottom of a pool, looking for answers as I trained for the ludicrous endurance-fest known as the Ultraman World Championships.  It wasn’t just illogical, it was utterly baffling in it’s relationship to responsibility.  And yet deep in the recesses of my soul, I knew with every aspect of my being that it was what I was meant to be doing.  Because it’s what made my heart beat hardest.  

My wife — bless her soul — agreed.  In fact, she pushed me to continue when faith faltered and the mind strove to reclaim the reins.  My biggest cheerleader, she could tell my drive emanated from a place of pure passion.  That despite all that is rational, my life depended upon this particular brand of physically and mentally excruciating soul exploration.

Somehow I found the means to cast aside the endless chatter of the thinking mind. To be fair, fear retained a foothold of precious real estate in my consciousness. But I found the wherewithal to nonetheless move forward in the face of it.  And ignore the often unbearable social pressures relentlessly driving to derail me.  I focused on the heart.  I relied on faith.  I got comfortable with the uncomfortable.  I embraced the mystery of not knowing what the next day might bring.  And at every turn, I focused on how I could be of service to others.  Because there is gigantic, undeniable truth in the edict that when you give, you get back tenfold.

As a result, I have somehow persevered. Broken through into a new life.  An impossible astounding life beyond what I previously thought possible.  Today, I’m a bestselling author.  An in-demand public speaker.  A popular podcast host.  An accomplished athlete.  A respected wellness advocate.  And over the last year I have been paid handsomely to travel to exotic places I never imagined I would ever lay eyes on, investing in service and experience. Creating a legacy. And yes, I remain a happily married family man.  But more than anything, I am content.  Comfortable in my own skin, with a deep knowing that I am exactly where I am meant to be.

I’m not saying this to brag.  Nor to suggest that you ignore real world responsibilities.  Only to share that the limits we impose upon ourselves are generally illusory.  And driven primarily by fear.  Fear of failure.  Fear of success. Fear of the unknown.  Fear of discomfort.  Fear of financial insecurity.  Fear of what others might think.  All told, fear of everything.

And fear is not your friend.  Not now, not ever.

To be clear. I’m also not promising anyone that a heart-based life will result in financial reward or notoriety.  Only that it will infuse your life with meaning and purpose.  Happiness — not in a blissed out unicorns and rainbows sense — but rather a deep satisfaction that your life has value.  A value that can be shared.  Passed on as inspiration in service to others who feel impossibly stuck. Imprisoned by a life not of their choosing but compelled by circumstance; and the perils of the thinking mind — an organ wired to prioritize comfort, security and avoidance of fear and challenge over adventure and the depth of experience.

And so the question I pose is this: What are you doing with your life?  And more importantly why are you doing it?

This is your call to action.  Delve deep within.  Do the internal work to embrace the child hidden deep inside — the child before your parents told you to be quiet and your teachers told you to sit down.  Do whatever it takes to find and unlock that thing that makes your heart beat hardest.  Then take the leap.  Invest in experience.  Unleash that inner artist cowering inside yearning to be expressed in whatever form compels you.  Embrace the mystery and challenge of the untrodden path.  

Then watch as a better, more authentic self begins to surface.  Fertilize that sapling like your life depends upon it.  Because it does.

I’m here to say it’s worth the journey.  And at the end of the day, there is nothing but the journey.  Because destination is pure illusion.

In the words of Mickey, do something worth remembering.

This is the art of living with purpose.

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33 Comments

  • Regular Steve says:

    This is great. Nice work fella!

  • Pema Lemos says:

    My heart was beating harder when reading this. Thanks for the light!

  • Luke Jones says:

    Love this.

    It’s scary, but it’s well worth taking the leap of faith, going after what you feel drawn to. It’s the only way you can really live an honest life, being true to yourself.

    I’m kinda at the start of that path now. Uncertain exactly where I’ll end up, but quietly confident that everything will turn out fine if I keep following my heart.

    Big fan of your work Rich. Keep inspiring people.

  • Elena Takla says:

    Awesome. Pretty much what I needed to hear when I needed to hear it. Funny how that happens!

  • This is why I love running long, it’s what I was immediately drawn to, even after I did a 27mi long run, after only 5 weeks into my marathon training plan. I still love seeing how far the body can push itself and showing others that they can accomplish so much more running than they ever thought they could.

  • Lee Grace says:

    Beautifully said Rich. A really inspiring piece, from a very inspiring individual.

    By the way, thank you for pushing the plant power way, it’s a slow but gradual transformation that i’m making towards going fully plant based.

  • Russell says:

    A great read – broke up the afternoon at the desk job. Certainly makes you think. Love your work Rich, keep up the podcasts too, they’re inspiring!
    You need more female guests though 😉

  • sarah says:

    Hey Rich, What kind of meditation do you do?

  • ElaHG says:

    Thank you for this. You’re showing me how it’s done. I love the elegance of your words and the passion of your voice. At a time that I’m sincerely seeking to connect with and identify my true calling and passion, I feel blessed to be inspired by you this afternoon.
    with love,
    Ela

  • Justin F says:

    Wow Wow Wow! Absolutely Amazing! Rich, your writing is brilliant and penetrates through my soul. One year ago today I started my own plant based journey, and it was your book that propelled me forward to live a healthy lifestyle, become a plant based endurance athlete, and retire from my 10 year career in corporate finance. Like you, I was a corporate burnout and I knew deep in my soul that there was something greater out there waiting for me. By the grace of the universe, and faith in myself, I was able to shut off the noise between my ears and move beyond my limits. Reading this today sends chills through my body and shines light on my soul. I’m grateful for everything that you do, and that your podcast showed up at just the right time in my life.

  • stu says:

    thanks rich. this is golden. thanks for sharing with us, from man up to the art of living with purpose, you’ve always been authentic, vulnerable, courageous and original. thanks.

  • Robotra says:

    “Believe deep down in your heart you are destined to do great things” – Joseph Vincent Paterno

  • coachbyron says:

    I love this post. Rich… Dude… you continue to inspire me. Thank you for your example, and for authentically sharing your journey with us, my friend. Your life over the past few years has been a case study in living the journey with humility, elegance and grit. Thanks for allowing the stronger version of you to emerge and take the lead. It provides us all another beacon that points to the road less travelled -the road we must all take. Awesome my friend… simply awesome!

  • GG says:

    Love this Rich perfect timing, reminds me why I love being a photographer too! Definitely would love some more female interviews 🙂

  • Scott Ormond says:

    I find my purpose
    through ultra trail running. Thanks Rich. You are a pretty good egg. scottyO-Aspen

  • Paul Chappelle says:

    Wow, really what I need to hear. Fear of failure, dissappointment, ect can have such a hold on our lives. Very inspirational read. Thank You

  • Pam says:

    This is so beautifully written and inspiring. It has entered my consciousness on a daily basis. What makes my heart beat hardest? Running, and the ocean in my sea kayak. Thank you so much, Rich, and Micky.

  • Barbara Loftus says:

    This is one of the articles I bookmark and read again and again. Thanks Rich….great inspiration.

  • Vanessa says:

    So inspiring. Thank you so much for sharing what was on your mind. Between the video and your article, I’m left with goosebumps and no words!

  • The Lucina Movement says:

    I think I speak for us all when I say – Boy am I glad you followed that thing that made your heart best hardest! Thank you for your wisdom, your inspiration and for sharing your journey of ups and downs. What I love most about your podcasts (which have become my daily medicine) is not only are they hugely informative and beautifully inspiring but they are HUMAN!

    Also YES to more female guests! We need to hear from the woman doing great things in the fields of wellness, creativity, science, sport, art etc. Their voices more than ever need to be heard!

  • Dan says:

    I’m 44 years old, and still haven’t been able to cover even the basics of food and shelter on a regular basis. Though, if those ever come together, and I can get a positive cash flow going, then I look forward to living my life like this…

  • Rich – your writing style above is a reflection of your message. Starting in poetic form (inspiration) and turning into prose (our conscious daily actions) which drive the outcome of our existence. You captured the delicate balance, which we can only come to know ourselves when we take care of our mind, body, and spirit. When you live with purpose, the Universe conspires around you. This is how we change ourselves and the world. It’s so easy to forget, which makes it all the more important to keep our daily practices (for one, mine includes reading pieces like this) and recognize the inspiration, and repeat the cycle.

  • Hey Justin… Thanks for sharing. I can definitely connect with you. I share a similar story…. Running into Rich’s book and what he writes on this blog has been huge

  • Christophe Barrucq says:

    pfff, amazing, inspiring… you’re a king Rich, you got it.

  • Matias says:

    Russell, just read it , about to leave office, and exactly the same comment.

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