Have you ever wondered WHY?
- you are who you are
- you followed the career path(s) you did
- you live where you live
- you married the person(s) you married
- you chose the lifestyle you're living today
- you are exactly where you are in life – right now
- you didn't end up where you dreamed you would
There are lots of why's – including the humorous question asked by a child of a father, “Why is the sky blue, Daddy?” (written with tongue in cheek.)
I've briefly touched on this subject from time to time. I don't dwell on it, but it does cross my mind periodically as I'm crisscrossing this great country, exploring, meeting with people, constantly learning new things and seeing interesting and exciting new places. I know I've said this before, but I'm freer and happier than I've ever been. I wish I had followed my early dreams and did this back when I was getting out of college and graduate school. But, like most people, “life happens.”
Circumstances, often, but not always, beyond our control place us on detours that become permanent routes. Some of those routes are circuitous and often have a lot of bumps and potholes. Most of us will simply accept whatever is ahead. Some will make wrong turns. Some will be fortunate enough to find some really good routes to follow. As the line from an old song goes made popular by Tommy Edwards in 1958, “It's All In The Game.”
Why So Many Whys
“The two most important days in your life, are the day you were born . . . and the day you find out WHY!” Mark Twain
My good friend and college classmate, Greg Cordano, was a career teacher. Both of us earned degrees in Industrial Arts. Obviously, while Greg applied his education in the teaching profession, I applied mine in a different pursuit, the audio recording and live sound industry, the video industry and later the book publishing industry. Two people with the same degrees and we both learned the same bank of knowledge and skill sets. Yet, we both applied the knowledge and skills in different ways. Both of us are at the other end of the career curve and we are different people because of the paths we chose, yet we still relate to each other, just as we did 50 years ago.
Greg says, “Being able to define: 'why you were put on this earth,' is the KEY to both a happy life and a fantastic career! So, the question becomes, 'how does one find out WHY they were put on earth?'
Some people go through life and are never able to answer this question.”
I don't know your whys. Only you can to uncover those. But, I know most of my whys at this stage of my life. I'm going to reveal them, if you'll indulge me. My intent and hope is they will assist you in uncovering yours, accept them and make any course changes you feel will take you down a freer and happier route in your life.
Certainly, my life is not the only route to a freer and happier life and lifestyle. There are lots of routes leading there. And, of course, all routes for everyone, whether free and happy or imprisoned (in prisons of our own making) and distressed, lead to the same ultimate destination. I chose free and happy. I hope you will choose the same route for yourself.
It goes without saying that there is no human on the planet that is exactly the same as any other human, even identical siblings. Each individual, all seven plus billion of us, are unique individuals, one in seven plus billion. No one who has ever lived in the past was identical to us. We are the sum-total of the genetic inheritance and the nurturing and experiences each of us possesses. It's pretty awesome when you think about it. We are “designer originals” all.
As you're reading through this article, you'll notice the photographs. Each photograph represents some tiny facet of who and why I am. There are an untold number of facets and no limitations to the number of facets I uncover, in fact, I'm still discovering new ones every day. How amazing life and we humans are.
While most people tell me they envy my living free spirit and my lifestyle and I appreciate their comments, but most don't get it. M. Scott Peck, who I've quoted before, began his iconic best selling book, The Road Less Traveled, with a three word sentence and paragraph, “Life is difficult.”
Absolutely! There is no denying this. And as we get older and experience more, it gets more difficult. Society is changing and creating more difficult situations, circumstances and living conditions by the day it seems. And to add insult to injury, we think when we get older it's going to get easier. Don't bet on that. There are many things that make life even more difficult as you get older, some of which include economics, health/healthcare and the government.
The recent U.S. presidential election in 2016 and the inauguration of the new president in January 2017 has created such a broad range of reactions. On the one end of the spectrum there is jubilation, enthusiasm, excitement, relief and an outpouring of support. On the other end of the spectrum there is dissatisfaction, distress, bitterness, hatred, vitriol and demands the president step down before he's even had an opportunity to prove himself.
So, here's the question. SO WHAT? The dice were rolled and this is the result. So far, it appears the game was played and won fair and square. Yet, people are getting their panties in a wad over something they have little direct control over. The only thing any of us has any control over, and even that's limited in many ways, is our own lives. By allowing something to control our lives that we have no control over, regardless of what it might be, we are allowing someone or some entity to control our time and life. We are giving away our freedom and allowing that person or entity to steal our dreams. WHY?
I don't know about you, but the most important person in my life is ME! Wow! I'm sure self-centered, narcissistic, arrogant, selfish, etc. But, think about it. If I don't take care of me first, can I really help anyone else? Does the president of the U.S., whoever he or she may be at any point in time, actually know who I am individually and what my needs, wants and dreams are? Do any of the people with negative attitudes about the president care about me individually? Do any of the jubilant people know or care about me individually? Absolutely not! They are all expressing their own individual needs, wants and attitudes, collectively as part of “mob psychology.”
You see, if I can define what makes me feel free and happy, then it's contagious and some of it will rub off on others I come in contact with. The same is true for the negative individuals. Put another way, it can go viral. If you smile at someone, almost everyone will smile back. If you have a neutral expression of a frown, most people will not react positively in return. So, what would you rather have, someone scowling at you or smiling and making you feel better.
This is part of my WHY. Why not do everything I can to feel good as much of everyday as I can and then attempt to pass that on to everyone I can to help make their day a little better. I can do it in person. I can do it on the phone (people can actually hear when you're smiling on the phone). I can do it in my emails, texts, social media posts and so on. It's my firm belief, if I can make 12 or more people smile or laugh each day, I've made the world a little better place. There is even a chance, they'll pass that smile or laughter forward. And, best of all, it makes me feel GRRRRREAT as “Tony the Tiger” would say. Don't know who Tony the Tiger is? Look it up.
WHY I Am Who I Am
The simple answer is because I have made the conscious choice to be who I am. As I said earlier, I'm the sum-total of my inherited genetic coding, of which I had no choice in the matter. It is what it is. Who I am was and continues to be influenced by every person I've come in contact with and every experience I've ever had whether formal education or informal experiences. I'm also a product of society, the economy, what I see and hear on TV, radio, movies, the Internet, books I've read and continue to read, etc. I am the product of everything that passes through my five senses and possibly a sixth sense we don't even comprehend.
I take all of these and synergize them, selecting everything about my life I want to represent me. They could be positive or negative or neutral. But, I get to make that choice IF I choose to be in control of my own life and determine the values and characteristics I want to be known by and for. So, why I am who I am is because, I've been making these choices throughout my life and I do my best to be the best ME I can be. It's not my problem how other people perceive or accept me as long as I'm happy with who I am.
WHY I Followed The Career Path(s) I Did
There are many people who know me today, who would find it difficult to believe at one time I believed I had a calling into the Baptist ministry. It's true. Through junior and senior high school I was very active in my church in Clifton, New Jersey. I was a member of the Baptist Youth Fellowship where I held the positions of vice-president and president of both groups. I regularly attended Youth for Christ rallies and I was a member of HiBA (High School Born Againers). Yes! That was me.
I had been involved with photography. I even had a darkroom my father built for me in my early preadolescence and early teen years. By the time I was fourteen, I had changed course and acquired my first of three amateur radio licenses and was communicating with people around the world. Yet, I was still deeply involved in my church.
I was fourteen when I also decided I had a calling to the Baptist ministry and that was the career path I believed I would follow throughout my life. Before I graduated from high school I had started a citywide Christian youth organization uniting the youth groups of all the Protestant churches in my hometown of about 85,000 people. I was even doing some minor preaching.
And then it happened. I applied to and was accepted at four colleges. The least expensive, yet best choice, was the state college 2.6 miles from my home. It was, at that time, the “crown jewel” in the New Jersey state college system. All the state colleges were teacher training institutions. I didn't have any desire to be a teacher when I entered the school and still didn't when I graduated. Remember, I had planned to be a Baptist Minister.
My family doctor, Matthew Sheft, MD had a cousin who was the co-director of the Audio-Visual Center at Montclair State College. To this day, I credit my father, Dr. Sheft and Ted Sheft (at Montclair State) with steering me in the direction that ultimately became my future. I was awarded a work scholarship in the Audio-Visual Center before I was accepted by the college. My ham radio experience, my involvement in the A/V club in high school and Dr. Sheft's over exuberant endorsement of me landed me the position in the Montclair State A/V Center. There I became the student supervisor of the department upon showing up the first day of my freshman year.
I didn't do the typical and normal A/V things like moving projectors and running them for the professors. I was assigned all the projects like running the live concert sound for the touring artists who came to the campus to perform concerts, cutting records for the speech department, providing a variety of recording services as requested and similar. It was through this work that I discovered my passion. The evening I provided sound for the Count Basie Orchestra (and, illicitly recorded the concert) was the precise moment in time and in my life when the die was cast for my future career.
The recording and sound industry was where I found my true passion. The ministry was no longer on the table. By the time I left Montclair State, I completed a degree in Industrial Arts with a BA and teaching certification for Kindergarten through 12th grade, but no intention of ever being a public school teacher.
However, I had also founded the campus amateur radio club. I did sound for numerous touring and campus groups. I produced my first lp record album. I was a member of the prestigious international Audio Engineering Society. I founded the campus radio station that is celebrating its 50th anniversary this spring and has seen thousands of students pass through its doors and hundred have had successful broadcasting careers.
That station, my dream, is now part of the curriculum of the School of Communication and Media, a school that didn't even exist 50 years ago. And, that small state college (4,000 student enrollment) is now the second largest university (22,500 student enrollment) in New Jersey. The station broadcasts to a potential listening audience of millions in the northern New Jersey, New York City metro area and is heard around the world on the Internet.
I had summer jobs in the video industry. I earned a masters degree in Television & Radio from one of the top two universities in the country in that field, Syracuse. I went on to serve in the U.S. Air Force under the Secretary of the Air Force in Washington, DC. My job was producing, what was, at the time, arguably, the most widely syndicated musical radio show of that period. I eventually owned several recording studios, several high speed tape duplication businesses and the list goes on and on. I also produced many video productions. And then, through a series of events, I ended up owning a book publishing business with books distributed around the world sold by all major and independent booksellers.
The WHY was because I found my passion. Other than some part-time jobs and my time serving in the U.S. Air Force (during which time I was still operating my business on the side), I ended up as an entrepreneur all my life in the industries I was passionate about.
Too many people, perhaps, a majority, I don't have statistics, never discover their passion and end up accepting employment because they make choices that don't allow them to seek out their real passions. They get married, have families, buy homes, cars, etc. This places economic burdens on them before they can seek their true passion. Of course, I can't condemn nor condone any choices anyone else makes. Everyone makes their own choices for their own reasons.
After reading the story of how I found my passion and turned it into a career, you may be thinking I was just lucky. Well, as Major Jack Oswald, the man who helped me land my Secretary of the Air Force Office of Information job in Washington, DC, told me the day I met him in a TV studio in Syracuse, New York, “You make your own breaks, no one makes them for you. When you seek them you'll find them and then you have to grab the opportunity.
It wasn't about luck. It was about the fact that I was out there continually pursuing my passion and seeking the opportunities. Once again, a choice we all get to make. My friend, Greg Cordano, who I quoted earlier, didn't have the kind of parents or connections I had. Yet, he made his own breaks and grabbed the opportunities and lived his passion. My Sunday School friend, Chuck Serwedes, didn't have the opportunities from his parents that I had, but he, too, found his passion and found the way to enjoy a fulfilling career.
WHY did you or are you following the career path you're in? Did you choose your passion or did you allow economic expediency help you decide? Do you love what you do or are you one of the, roughly, 70% of the working people doing something they don't particularly love or like or possibly dislike intensely? Did you choose it because you allowed the economic requirements to override your passions?
This is the end of Part I of this article. In Part II I'll continue discussing my WHYS and hopefully you'll find some inspiration to uncover and examine your own WHYS as to why you are where you are. Frankly, I hope you are living your dreams and passions. That would be a big positive. But, if you're not, it still may not be too late.
Until next time, remember to live free and be happy. EH