Wednesday, November 2, 2016


Purpose! That's what I want to talk about in this article.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary gives these three simple definitions:

  • the reason why something is done or used : the aim or intention of something
  • the feeling of being determined to do or achieve something
  • the aim or goal of a person : what a person is trying to do, become, etc.

Last week I was interviewed by WMSC, an FM radio station in Upper Montclair, New Jersey. This is the station's 50th Anniversary, so they will be celebrating the rest of this year until next May when they have a big party planned. The WMSC party coincides nicely with my 50th Class Reunion.

Why did they want to interview me? You may remember an earlier interview I did with this radio station about three years ago, so you already know the answer to the question. Fifty years ago I was a senior at Montclair State College – 4,000 students (now University – 20,000 students). I founded that radio station. I didn't do it alone, of course. I had a small team of dedicated dreamers who jumped on my star and helped me launch the original station. A half century later I'm still around and . . . my dream is still around, doing better than I could have ever imagined.

Last week I also posted on my Facebook page about having done the interview. My Kiwi buddy in Auckland, New Zealand, Brian Morris, saw the post and immediately challenged me to write a short ebook about how I started a radio station with $100.00. The challenge was interesting, but I didn't start the radio station with $100.00. Even 50 years ago, $100.00 was only a very small fraction of what it cost to launch such an endeavor. Of course, that's before factoring in the value of all the volunteers' time invested to make the dream a reality.

A Dream On Purpose With A Purpose

At first, I put off Brian's ebook challenge. I misinterpreted his “purpose” and began making excuses for why it was too technical and intense to write about 50 years later. He came back to me and said, he didn't want me to write a “how to” book. He wanted me to write a memoir of the experience. He clarified the purpose and the light dawned. I realized I had a definite purpose back then. The purpose I had then led to what is a reality now, with a 50 year history. The story of what I did and how I did it could be an inspirational story for a lot of people with dreams, young and old, who don't know what to do about them.

You see, I was, for all practical intents and purposes, invisible throughout my junior and senior high school years. It's not that I wasn't smart enough or capable of doing many different things. I simply didn't have a purpose. The high school I graduated from was almost as large as the college I ended up attending. I was a little fish in a much larger pond (about 3,000 classmates in high school and 4,000 classmates in college).

I studied and earned my first three amateur radio licenses by the time I was 15 years old. I bought my first car before my 17th birthday, the legal driving age in New Jersey. The day I turned 17, my father took me for my learner's permit and two weeks later I took the driving test and was a fully licensed driver. Most people took much longer to take the test and many failed the first time. I had also been involved in entrepreneurial enterprises since I was 12 years old. I was certainly capable of a lot of things. I just didn't have any purpose in those early school years.

It is my contention that nothing extraordinary happens without there first being a dream. The dream fosters the purpose. The purpose turns into reality when one sets goals and objectives, gains the necessary support and finally puts in the time, energy and effort required. In other words, take action. So, first there is the dream and that turns into the purpose.

Pivotal People, Pivotal Events

I've mentioned my concept of pivotal people and pivotal events in past articles. Everyone has people who pass through their lives and imprints specific ideas, beliefs, skills, connections, etc. Whatever it is, positive or negative, once imprinted it changes your life.

There are people who may be there for just one reason. Once the reason has been imprinted on your life, these people are gone. Next, there are people who may be around for a season of your life. A “season” being defined as some period with somewhat distinct beginning and ending times. A “season” could be months or even a few years. Again, something or maybe several things will be imprinted in your life and then . . . these people will be gone, too. Finally, there are people who will enter your life for a lifetime, either your lifetime or theirs. Their importance and influence in your life will be ongoing. Each of these three kinds of people are easy to identify in retrospect. What they imprinted in you and on your life will be easily identifiable.

Pivotal events are similar to pivotal people, however, an event usually has a defined beginning and ending. It's often a very short period and may only be moments in duration. Once again, it may be a positive or a negative event. It could be the death of a parent, sibling, spouse, offspring, other close family member or close friend. It might be the moment you met the person who will become your spouse or business partner. Perhaps you'll realize a financial windfall or catastrophe. It might be an accident involving a car, work, an avocational pursuit, etc. It could be the moment you made a startling discovery that sparked your dreams of a future profession, vocation, avocation or hobby. You may experience an earthquake, tornado, hurricane, wildfire or even a terrorist attack and walk away to tell about it. It could be an experience in the military or on the job. Perhaps, by some serendipity, you discover you have a life threatening medical condition. You didn't even have any symptoms. Your life is saved. The list of pivotal events that impact and imprint on people's lives is vast. Yours will be different than everyone else.

Dreams, Purpose and Plans

I'm sure you've often heard the quote, loosely paraphrased, from Robert Burns, “The best laid plans of mice and men, often go astray.” Regardless of your current age, if you think back to your early “life plans” (you might call them your dreams) from childhood, adolescence and early adulthood, consider how close you are to where you “planned” to be at this time? If you're like most people, where you are and where you “planned” to be aren't even close. That's not necessarily a bad thing. It's because, again, as we know, life is a journey with many distractions and detours. And remember, more pivotal people and events will continue to influence our lives.

Ultimately, the destination is the same for everyone. None of us will get out of this life alive. My belief is that the objective is to take as long and as circuitous a route getting to the final destination as possible. In other words, see, hear, smell, taste, touch and experience as much as we can before we reach the point where it all ends. Live life on purpose, but realize whatever plans you make, may very well go astray. That's why purpose is so important.

The majority of people are conditioned from childhood to conform to the societal “norms” and mainstream value systems of the society in which they live. Many take that to the extreme and function as little more than organic automatons. Their lives and time are scheduled around someone else's demands and requirements to meet someone else's dreams and purposes. The industrial age model has existed and been the economic foundation in western, developed countries for hundreds of years. In reality, there are parallels with early feudal societies. There are a few who control and parse out the necessities of life to the many. And, in a capitalistic system, this is what makes it all work.

There is another, much smaller group of people who live life vicariously. They have very loose and flexible lives. They take each day, each hour and, perhaps, in some instances, even minutes, as they come along. They may know where they are at an exact moment, but may have no idea where they'll be tomorrow. Their purpose, much like mine, is having as much personal freedom and control over their own time and lives as possible. They live their lives on purpose to realize as many of their dreams as possible. They choose not to conform to mainstream society's accepted “norms.” They play life by ear. They learn to roll with the punches. They seek out the things that give them personal pleasure based on their own belief and value systems.

There is another quote, very loosely paraphrased from the Book of Proverbs in the Old Testament. “A man without a dream is dead.” That's pretty direct and to the point. You can go off on many tangents with this idea such as a man with no imagination or creativity or purpose and so on. And, just to be clear, the reference to “man” refers to both men and women.

Studies and research have been conducted on various levels to test these hypotheses. They appear to be true. Those with dreams, imagination, creativity and a purpose seem to have more fuller, happier lives. Don't misinterpret what I just said. It doesn't mean these people are necessarily better off financially. In fact, they may actually live simpler, more minimalist lives than those who buy into the more traditional mainstream lifestyle and value system or the “norm.”

People who are living for their own purpose have realized reaching for the “brass ring” doesn't fulfill their personal needs or purposes. That brass ring doesn't result in a satisfying, free and happy life. They prefer to experience life more organically. Their preference might be to sit on a free beach or on a mountain top watching eagles and hawks soar. Compare that to spending, perhaps, $1000.00 or more per person for a four day pass to see everything in Walt Disney Worlds parks in Orlando. Florida including transportation, accommodations, food and incidentals. Is it worth it? It, of course, depends on your value system. By the way, you can't see everything in the four Disney World Parks in four days.

The Results of Purpose

The dream is what you envision your life to be. The purpose is how you focus to accomplish the dreams. Without a purpose, it's not likely you'll begin to make an effort to see the dreams become reality. And, the plan is the part that injects action into the purpose. Then, one day, 50 years later (or whatever your time frame is), you'll be invited to do a radio interview (or whatever) about why you did what you did years earlier. You may discover your purpose impacted hundreds of thousands, perhaps, even millions of lives over those years. And, you'll be invited to attend a big celebration party.

The pivotal people in my life, at that time, were the catalysts for me to dream and develop a purpose for my life at that college, besides earning a college degree. That little radio station and the project of making it a reality helped establish the future purpose for just about everything I've accomplished in my lifetime. The pivotal event was moving from high school to college where I became visible and found the door of opportunity opened by my pivotal people. My purpose at the college was to connect the nearly 75% of the students, who commuted to the college, with their college life. The dream was a spark in my sophomore year. By the beginning of my junior year, it was my purpose at the college. The plan was developed that year. The plan was implemented to fulfill the purpose and the station was launched in the second semester of my senior year, 50 years ago, in January of 1967.

Do you have dreams? Have they created a purpose for your life and what you do? If the dream exists and you can make it your purpose, you simply have to develop the plan to channel the effort and it will very likely become a reality. It can and will change your life. By the way, even if you fail or only partially fulfill your purpose, you'll still be miles ahead of where you'd be if you had done nothing, and you'll still likely impact untold others lives.

Live free and be happy. EH


Lois said...

Very interesting post, Ed. Finding out that something you were instrumental in creating 50 years ago, and that had it's beginnings even earlier than that, is certainly awesome and inspiring for those people who benefited from your dream and the resultant purpose. There's no way to even begin to calculate the reach your "community connector" had and is still having. Good on ya!

For me, the last few years have felt like I have had no purpose, no dream, no plan. The life events that colluded, seemingly all at once, to upset my apple cart impacted me in a way that I'm only beginning, right now, to understand. Somewhere in this past few years, I got the idea that I now needed a plan for my life, although in retrospect, I've never really had one. The energy I've spent trying to get my plan together is at least part of where I find myself now: spinning my wheels and thinking I need a plan, because doesn't everybody have a plan? If not a plan, then at least a purpose? It has recently occurred to me that I don't need a plan or a purpose any more now than I ever did; and yes, if I'd had one of those things prior to now, I might be better off financially, relationship-wise, health-wise, etc. but I've made it this far without one and I'll make it the rest of the way to the end as well, even if that means I'm a solo, penniless, house-less, happy nomad. Since deciding that I didn't need a plan or purpose, my blood pressure has gone down, my stomach is not as upset as it was, and my headaches have subsided. Of course, it's only been a few days so maybe more will be revealed but I'm happy to announce that today I feel better about the future than I've felt in a long time. And that's a good thing! Thanks for the reminder!

And congrats again for being the creative influence behind this most amazing project - you are indeed a treasure to many, many people, and I'm happy to know you!

Lois said...

PS. This just showed up in my inbox and I thought it was apropo:

"It's far better to follow your own path imperfectly than to follow another's perfectly." - The Bhagavad Gita

You've certainly done that!