What is your “why”?

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“Purpose is the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.” ~ Dan Pink, career analyst

The other day I came across a powerful ted talk that asked “why do you do what you do?” and it got me thinking. What a powerful question. I think many of us go through life doing what we do but not necessarily knowing why we do it. Is it because other people are doing it? Is it driven by society? Or did it come from our soul?

I guess I have always been searching for purpose but when I seriously thought about it, it brought me back to around this point last year where I unofficially began my true search for purpose. I had gotten to a point where I felt good about being an “adult”. I was finally figuring out how things worked and how to present myself in most adult situations. However, I knew something was missing, and I kept thinking “OK, now what?” What is the purpose of all of this? Getting rich? Starting a family? Retiring? Those answers seemed more to me like life events than purposes.

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Eventually, something made me decide to go to Half Price Books for no particular reason other than to kill time. At this point I probably hadn’t read a full book since high school or earlier. But on this particular evening, I went to the book store and left with two books. One was the Steve Jobs autobiography and the other was a scripture book called “The Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren. Both books were integral in initiating my quest for purpose. Steve Jobs was an innovator who overcame adversity to lead his teams and company to accomplish feats that were never thought possible. He lived his life with a purpose of disrupting the norm and that has been Apple’s motive since. The book by Rick Warren uses scripture to lay out the purpose God has given us with the constant theme of giving, serving, and spreading love to others.

I wanted to know that what I was doing daily had a deeper purpose but purpose was still abstract to me at this point. A major turning point in my life and the moment when I started to realize some of my purpose was when my dear friend passed away last summer. As I started to reflect on his life and our friendship, I realized all he had ever done for me was positive. He helped get me my first job out of college at the company I am stilled employed. He brought me to his church, where I hadn’t been before. He reached out, mentored me, and served as a pseudo big brother when I needed help.

After his passing, I realized he wasn’t just that way with his close friends. Because I was one of his closest friends in Austin, I served as a conduit for people who were grieving and wanted to speak about him. Through these conversations, I found out he had left a mark on so many people. Everyone had specific examples in which he went out of his way to help them. This wasn’t the typical “he was a good guy”. People had stories of him dropping what he was doing to really help them out when they hadn’t even asked. I then realized that I was blessed to have this person in my life and was amazed by the legacy he left at such a young age.

That made me look deeper within myself and I realized that I would love to be spoken about in such a manner whenever I go. I found that part of my purpose is to contribute, help, and serve my family, friends, the needy, and all that I can. I realize that I’ve always wanted personal success but even more now I want to positively affect the people I know or meet, businesses I work in, and causes I believe in. My heart smiles when I see other people succeed and even more if I was able to help them at some point along the way.

My biggest realization of this thus far is with my little brother who is priming himself to be the next big thing in college football. I was always in awe of his abilities at a young age and wanted to do anything I could to help. Whether it was throwing the football, running fake plays in the back yard, doing drills or making highlight videos. One of my proudest moments was seeing him become a D1 athlete and a nationally ranked one at that and to know that I had something to do with it warms my soul.

Upon realizing what I believe to be at least part of my purpose, I decided I will  worked hard to learn how to improve myself and thus my ability to help others. My goal for this blog, my job, my workouts, my music, my relationships, and my life is to contribute however I can to help others achieve what they want in life in any way that I can. The more people I know and help to succeed, the more enjoyable life will be when we all make it.

This is why I do what I do. Let’s go!

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About the author

TJ Olonilua

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4 Comments

  • This is a thoughtful, wonderful post TJ.
    Thank you very much.
    I am much older than you, and I’ve had a rollercoaster life. Up and down is normal, or it is for me, and I think most people. Then there is the “cruise” time, where nothing is really going on, and everything is quiet. There have been times in my past I’ve wondered “why am I here?” As you say, what is my purpose? The only thing that keeps coming up is that I am here to make people smile. I’m here to be supportive to family, friends, strangers. People always comment on how happy I am, sometimes when I’m not happy on the inside at all. I smile and say thank you, but it has happened my entire 65 years. So, I have to think that people perceive me this way because it’s what I’m here to give. Yesterday I was at the dermatologist. She thanked me for being “such a pleasure”. I was doing what I always do, which I suppose is to see the glass half full. Any insights are welcomed.

    • Patti, you might not always be “happy” but you are always friendly and that goes a long way. I am always happy to see you!

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