To be or to do

Spark of the day:

"To be somebody or to do something. In life there is often a roll call. That's when you have to make a decision. To be or to do?"

This quote come from a book called The Return by Dave Danelo. I haven't read the book, but have read a long excerpt from it, quoted in this blog post. The book is written for returning veterans but interestingly, it contains many passages that are highly relevant universally. I loved the entire passage that was quoted in the blog post, and I encourage you to click over and read the whole thing. Meanwhile, today, I wanted to highlight this small section, which I particularly liked:

In 2008, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates offered some advice during a speech to a group of senior U.S. Air Force officers. “One day you will take a fork in the road,” he said, paraphrasing Air Force Colonel John Boyd. “You can be somebody. You will have to make compromises and turn your back on your friends. But you will be a member of the club and get promoted and get good assignments.
“Or you can do something—something for your country and for yourself. If you decide to do something, you may not get promoted and you may not get good assignments and you certainly will not be a favorite of your superiors. But you won’t have to compromise yourself. 
“To be somebody or to do something. In life there is often a roll call. That’s when you have to make a decision. To be or to do?”
Forget about what it means to “be somebody.” It just doesn’t matter. Instead, look for opportunities to do valuable things for your community, your country and yourself. No organization, corporation, or client will compensate you to be anything. They will, however, pay you to do something. 
As a veteran, do you want to be a victim? Of course not. No man or woman who wears the uniform does so hoping others will pity them for serving. But go one step further—why worry about being anything at all? Instead, consider what you will do in the limited time you have on this earth. What of value can you offer to the world? 
And in the process, you may find yourself being somebody anyway. Somebody very important. 
You will be You.
It took me a minute to pare away the military references and see what he was really saying, but once I did I just loved this message.

In the work I do writing my novel, I am focused on the doing, with absolutely no expectation of external recognition or reward. I do not expect to "be somebody" as a result of the novel that I write. And I think that's helping me find the fortitude and courage to keep going. If it were about the outcomes, I'd never get there. It's just too improbable. I'd have given up long ago. The odds are too long. But for the joy of the process? For that, I'll keep going.

In the thinking I've been doing about a possible new path toward teaching and coaching, I'm thinking of the value and service I could offer, rather than thinking about external recognition or rewards. I feel so grateful and blessed to be in a position to focus in this way.

At some point in most people's career, I imagine, there is a shift from striving and proving to seeking and serving. Where we finally see that the reward is in the doing -- the process -- not in the outcomes. The sooner we can see that and live from that place, the better the world will be, don't you think?
Hope it sparked for you too!


Spark of the Day is a blog series where I document and share the ideas that spark (i.e. resonate with) me. They are usually either ideas I come across during my day, or ideas I have as a result of my work and personal writing. Spark is the "one little word" I have chosen for 2015.

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