There was a point in time when I had lost my passion for life. I had lost that spark that had driven me for so many years. I can still remember it to this day. It didn’t happen overnight. It had been kindling in my subconscious, brewing and smoldering for years. I wasn’t happy with what I was doing. I wasn’t sated with the life I was living. In fact, not only had I stopped following my passion in life, but I was devoid of hope and in the expectation of good things to come.
I had thought, this was it. There was no more left for me. I had no chances to live the life that I felt I deserved. I was stuck in the monotony of routine, unable to extricate myself from that situation. I still remember it so clearly. I remember thinking about how trapped I felt. I couldn’t extricate myself; I couldn’t escape.
But one day that all changed. I had flown to London to visit some friends during the holidays when one of the worst snow storms in decades had hit the town. I was trapped in the city, waiting out the blizzard in a hotel. Wandering into the hotel bar one evening to grab a meal, I met an old man. But this wasn’t just any old man; there was something about him that I just couldn’t place.
The first thing that grabbed my attention was that he was dressed in a blue pin-striped suit. He must have been in his mid-seventies, but you never would have thought it by looking into his eyes. There was a sparkle there. Even in that dimly-lit bar as he sat there drinking a cup of tea and reading the paper, I was drawn to him like a moth to a flame.
I know it sounds strange. But there was this vibrant energy that i couldn’t place. I sat a couple tables away and ordered a steak dinner. We were the only two people in the whole bar. The entire hotel seemed empty and desolate because it was the holidays. Yet, we were stuck there because no flights were leaving for the foreseeable future. The airport had been shut down and the city was at a virtual standstill.
For one reason or another, he struck up a conversation with me. After the niceties and introductions, he told me this story that I’ll never forget. Maybe he had seen it in my eyes, Maybe he had just sensed it as I walked in. But he knew that there was something lacking. He knew that I had lost my passion in life. So he started to tell me a story.
That story changed me forever. It inspired me and juiced me. It made me excited for the future and the potential for opportunities that existed out there if I had just stopped and opened my eyes and looked. I wasn’t following my passion in life because I had been so shrouded by this cloud of negativity and doubt that I was unable to see anything beyond that. Until that day when he opened my eyes.
Before I tell you the story of what he told me or how this chance encounter during the holidays with an old man in a near-empty hotel in London, a city behest and blanketed by a torrential snowstorm outdoors, I want to tell you something.
Everything in life happens for a reason. God puts challenges in our paths and we bear witness to tremendous pain for a reason. There is a reason for everything that is happening right now in your life. You might not come to realize it now, days from now, weeks from now, months or even years from now. But you will realize it in time.
You see, without pain, there could be no pleasure. Without sadness, there could be no happiness. Without a loss of hope, there could be no thrill or expectation of good things to come. Without a sense of loss, there could be no commitment to follow your passion in life. There’s a delicate balance that exists, a push-and-pull if you will, which allows us to see the antithesis of anything that we’re experiencing.
Here’s that old man’s story. I hope that it will change the way you think and feel just like it did for me…
It was winter 1965. I was homeless. The police had just kicked me out of an alley where I had holed up before a snowstorm, very much similar to this one, had hit. Three years earlier, my wife, my two sons, and my daughter were killed in a horrific crash. A big truck had run a red light and slammed into the passenger side of the car. I was the only one who survived.
That was a really painful time in my life. I remember questioning everything, wondering what the purpose of my existence was. Trying to come to terms with that loss was the most difficult thing that I had ever endured. Needless to say, I couldn’t focus. Not only had I lost my passion for life, but I had lost all hope. I couldn’t think, concentrate or work on anything.
At the time, I was working as a salesman for Xerox. I was one of their top producers. Life was good. We had just bought a house and were planning on our fourth child. That’s when tragedy struck. I never thought that I would be the one in that situation. I never thought I would have to grapple with an experience so painful, that it literally felt like my innards were tearing apart bit by bit.
Needless to say, every ounce of passion I once had for life and the expectation of things to come had vanished into thin air. This feeling of guilt beset me, like a thick fog that lingered low to the ground. I was unable to see anything beyond the pain. I had questioned my life and felt so awful that I just didn’t want to go on anymore.
‘Why was I spared?’ I asked God that question over and over. I cursed him so many times, I couldn’t even recall the countless thousands of conversations I had with him where I was just yelling and screaming. In fact, I had questioned his very existence at that point.
Because my passion had all but vanished, including my desire to go on with life whatsoever, I stopped going to work. I turned to alcohol. That led to drugs. Eventually, I lost my job. They were supportive at first, but after a few months of me being a no-show, they canned me. After that, I lost my car. Then my house. With it, my sanity and my dignity.
I was living on the streets. And I didn’t care. I didn’t want to be alive but I was too much of a coward to end it all. I had tried so many times in the past, but could never get around to it. Something would always happen, a flicker of a thought would cross my mind and I would just pause to reflect on it.
But there was this one time, in 1965, when I was standing outside a pawn shop and looking into the window, when I really felt like I had reached the end of my proverbial rope. That was it. There was a 45-caliber revolver in the window and I had just enough money to buy it. Or I could just break the window and grab it.
I pictured myself blowing my brains out. I knew that no one would care. It was just another homeless guy — another tragedy for the books. I wouldn’t have even been an afterthought. But then a snowplow drove past and it jarred those unnerving thoughts. I still remember the loud whooshing sound as it moved through the darkness of night, blanketed by snow, streetlights making their feeble attempt to shine through the thick, heavy snow.
It was freezing outside and I realized I had been shivering. The bottle of cheap whiskey covered in a brown paper bag I had been drinking was finished. My fingers felt numb so I wandered down the street, disoriented because of the snow. Everything was covered and it was hard even moving just a few blocks. I figured I would just freeze to death out there.
But then I came upon this public library. I knew I had passed it countless times before, but it had faded into the background. For some reason, I noticed it that evening. Maybe because it was freezing cold and I was stuck outdoors in a snowstorm with nowhere to turn. The lights were on inside so I went to the door. It was locked so I kept knocking on it.
After a few minutes, an elderly lady came to the door. It was like a ray of light. I felt the warmth rush out as I stood there shivering. She took pity on me and let me in. There was a large limestone-encased fireplace with a roaring fire in it. I cozied up there and we got into a conversation about life, what I had been through and how I had lost my passion, my family and my will to live.
God put me there for a reason. That moment changed me. She forever altered my view on things. What’s more? There was a utility closet with a bed. She offered that I stay there for a few weeks while I got myself together, and even gave me a janitorial job cleaning the library. So in the evenings, I would just read and read. I must have read hundreds of books during that period.
What I came to realize was that there was a rhyme and a reason for my life. While defeated and embattled, something was lit inside of me. Maybe it was all the inspirational content that I consumed. Maybe it was divine inspiration. Call it what you will, but it altered and shaped my life forever.
Not only did I learn so much about myself, but I found my passion in life again — I had a calling, if you will. I wasn’t willing to waste away anymore. I no longer thought about ending it in some alleyway or being some obscure homeless person drifting from one street corner to the next.
No, I was no longer willing to live that life. I had a renewed sense of purpose. And I realized something that forever changed the trajectory of my life. I wanted to do something for the world, to contribute something meaningful. I didn’t just want to take home a paycheck. I wanted to follow my passion in life. That was the beginning of the birth of a renewed sense of spirit for me. It all started at that meaningful realization.
After hearing his story, I felt charged. I looked at him not thinking that this was a man who had once been homeless. We talked and we talked and I took so much away from that conversation. What I also learned was that he had likely had similar encounters with others in my situation — others who had lost hope and meaning, devoid of passion and lacking a sense of purpose. It was truly transformative.
What I took away from that conversation, aside from the life-altering experience that forever shaped me, was that we all need to follow our passion in life. We all need a sense of purpose that’s driving us, something that we want to give to the world and help to deliver to others. Without it, our lives lack meaning.
I never got his name — that old man. The next day, when I went to go search for him, I wanted to thank him profusely. But he was nowhere to be found. I asked around the hotel and they wouldn’t give me any information or be able to divulge any details about other guests for privacy reasons.
All I wanted to do was thank him. I wanted to send him a note and tell him just how much that conversation had affected me in a positive way. I wanted to thank him, not only for inspiring me, but also for helping to instill that passion back into my life. It was a chance encounter that I’ll never forget.
But what I took away from that conversation wasn’t only the inspiration and the spark that I had been missing. But I realized that there were so many reasons to want to follow your passion in life. Here they are:
Life is short. It’s fragile and its delicate. It’s here one moment, then gone the next. It’s never okay to just settle because we aren’t here for a long time. As humans, we have a shelf-life. And although our energy will live and carry on, we are only physically here for a brief period.
Following your passion in life gives you a sense of purpose to exist in this world. It also helps to instill something bigger and greater than just yourself. As long as what you’re pursuing moves beyond just the selfish reasons and really attempts to contribute value to the world, it will help you fulfill something far greater than you could ever imagine.
When you follow your passion in life, you’re happier overall. You’re more sated with yourself and the decisions that you make, and not weighed down by the common stressors that come along with not doing what you love. Overall, you feel more uplifted and have a far greater piece of mind.
Following your passion in life and doing what you love for a living won’t feel like work for you. You won’t open your eyes dreading another day at a life-sucking 9-to-5 job. You’ll wake up with energy and enthusiasm to start another day pursuing something that you really want to do rather than an endless array of things you’re dreading having to do.
Anytime you’re doing what you love to do in life, you’ll also desire to add value. It’s because you’re so passionate about doing it that you’ll throw yourself into it entirely and end up delivering far more to others than is expected to you. That comes naturally whenever you pursue whatever it is that you love doing.
When you follow your passion in life, slowly but surely, your dreams manifest into reality. When you’re doing what you love, you’re already realizing a dream, but it also helps you to not lose focus and drive over time when it’s a deeply passionate project.
It’s easy to give up when we’re pursuing goals that aren’t as meaningful to us. But when we’re working towards something that we’re passionate about, it’s a natural occurrence to be more persistent. We don’t wake up thinking about giving up; we wake up thinking about how we can push forward, and naturally develop persistence in the process.
By following your passion in life, you’ll build up character. It takes true strength to go after what is you truly love to do in life. And, naturally, you’ll reach new understandings about life, love and the people that surround you, which will help to further foster and develop your character.
It’s easy to allow negative people to get you down, especially when you’re pursuing your dreams. People will always try to chop you down and tell you how to think and to be realistic. Many of the most famous failures in life had to endure this very thing. But, when you love what you do, you’ll learn to ignore those naysayers and push past the negativity.
When you begin to follow your passion, and work to overcome the hurdles that might arise because you’re pursuing your dreams, you’ll come to the realization that the timing was and never would have been perfect to ever do what you love. You’ll wonder why you waited so long to pursue what had been burning deep down inside of you for so long.
When we’re children, we envision following our passion in life by becoming a firefighter, an astronaut or a doctor. We think about ways we can help others or go adventures of discovery. As we grow older, we become more realistic. But as you follow your dreams, you’re filled with that childlike sense of joy you felt long ago.
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