Two days ago I was listening to my Dad, Dan Miller, on a live radio show. The topic was the newly released book he wrote with my brother Jared, “Wisdom Meets Passion.” In discussing wisdom, my Dad quipped that the way he found wisdom was by…doing unwise things.
People become famous for their successes. Most people know my Dad as a best selling author and fount of wisdom on careers, life balance and more. As a kid, he taught me much and gave me exposure to loads of wisdom through the cassette tapes, seminars and books of people like Carnegie, Ziglar, Tracy and more. It was invaluable teaching and the benefit to my life has been priceless.
At the top of my gratefulness as a kid is he loved, respected and believed in me, was devoted to my Mom and gave me the foundation of Jesus Christ. But in regards to living a life of purpose and service to others and not settling for mediocrity the best gift he gave me was = Failure. Getting to see, experience and live through failure.
My Dad went after his ideas, desires of his heart, passions, service to others, a life of consequence and meaning. Amidst that, he made a LOT of mistakes. Some things did work, but a bunch of things did not.
Some kids grow up in military families and move 20 times. I grew up in an ‘idea, purpose, meaning & self-employment’ home and lived the roller coaster of feast or famine. Some years there were fun trips, new clothes, upgraded furniture and Cadillac Eldorados. Other years…we didn’t leave home much, old jeans got patches on the knees (even ‘Toughskins”), furniture was repaired and we drove embarrassing clunkers (I remember a Volkswagon Bug with rusted out floor boards where you could see the passing pavement underneath, and a bungee cord kept the stick in 4th gear).
In my late teen years, Dad made a really unwise decision to buy a health club and lost his shirt. Actually, he lost pretty much all our shirts except the ones on our backs. I think it was my junior year in high school that the new clothes Mom and I shopped for, I paid for. They didn’t have the money. Of course the only reason I had the cash was due to Dad teaching and enabling me to work and earn an income.
Regardless, we never went hungry. We never lacked for anything except frivolities. We always had peace in our home. Playing Scrabble on an old faux wood dining room table was no less fun than on a fine, $1,000 oak table. We played, laughed and worked together. It gave me faith on a silver platter, and strength to weather storms.
What would have been a regrettable upbringing for me in hindsight? If Dad had a ‘secure, responsible job’ and I would have gotten to experience…nothing. Nonstop security, comfort and safety. That would have prepared me for, again…nothing. No highs, no lows, no victory or defeat. NO HEART. NO PURPOSE. No meaning.
Incredibly worthy to note is my Mom was of the same spirit here. I’m sure she would have liked more financial security at times, but she had a bigger vision for life and us kids as well. If she had not, I imagine Dad would have buckled down and gotten the j-o-b and provided money instead of the other wealth of provisions he gave us.
So now I’m 41 and have 7 of my own kids. For them and my wife, my instinctual inclination and pride wants to make sure they lack for nothing and never have any worries. I understand the desire. But it’s not a goal I believe in. I’m responsible for the basic necessities of healthy food, warm clothes and a solid home. But safety, security and comfort? Why? So they’ll never…want? What is that preparing them for, other than a life devoted to more…safety, security and comfort? If I want them to follow their heart and serve others, they better have some strength and faith and abilities to overcome.
I sure don’t try to fail in order to artificially give them hardship. The very hint of pursuing meaning and purpose naturally includes challenge and trial. And I’m here to provide them with a full experience of life, not just a paycheck and comfort and ease. As it is, I fear they are far too sheltered for their own good and I’m actively questioning how to better teach, guide and prepare them for a life of true worth.
Every day I get inquiries for my business, Free Agent Academy, from people whose hearts are dying due to lack of purpose. Their souls are suffering from days, weeks and years spent doing meaningless activities to earn a buck solely for…safety, security, comfort and buying stuff. They fill out our free agent inquiry & questionnaire and question #23 asks: State your greatest fear(s) in pursuing free agency.
#1 answer = Fear of failure and resulting financial stress or lack.
So…the greatest fear is my greatest gift. Hmmm…
You may have to vacation at a state park instead of Disney World. Might have to get new clothes for the kids as hand-me-downs. You might have to make due with that crappy blender or [fill-in-the-blank] instead of running out to buy a new one. The kid might wait another year for braces.
But what DO you get? Inspiration. Heart. Purpose. Legacy. Joy. Heartache. Overcoming. Faith. Strength. Character. All sorely lacking in the average American home. Today the path of heart has earned my Dad a most enviable position. Wealth and freedom that few people will ever, EVER experience. A true legacy. He ventured down in the valley while everyone else stayed safe on the plains. Now he’s on a mountain top and most of his peers are…still on the plains. The excitement of their day is the new iPhone5 purchase. Whoopee. But they stayed safe. Secure. Comfortable.
So when someone has the idea to pursue a passion and a purpose and they get the pushback from friends, family and culture to be ‘responsible’ and stick to the job so as not to jeapordize financial safety, security and comfort, maybe we should question what is truly responsible.
Thanks Dad, and Mom. Thanks for doing the MOST responsible thing and letting me experience true life.