“The most important thing about a man is not what he does, it is who he becomes.”
I was at a gathering of leaders recently. It was a faith based weekend and there were about 75 of us there. About a third of those were in a “facilitator” role and the rest were attendees. As we were preparing for the weekend, they encouraged both constituencies not to talk about their vocations all weekend. They wanted our identities for the four days to be completely based on the journey we had taken and the we had become.
It was wildly disruptive…for me, and for everybody else.
I would have told you that my identity transcends my vocation. That what I do is far less definitional for me than the story I have lived, the restoration I have found, or the man that I have become. Nonetheless, it was pretty disorienting.
But after a while, it felt…like a rescue.
Walter Mitty’s entire identity is his job. He is a negative assets manager for Life magazine. In other words, he is the guy behind a lot of the great photographic imagery for which the magazine was known. But he has a new category that he wants to also define his life. He would like to be the romantic interest of his co-worker, Cheryl Melhoff.
He puts together an online profile and calls the dating service because he is having problems leaving a “wink” to indicate his interest in Cheryl. Todd Maher, the rep assigned on his account, becomes a little incredulous as he tries to help Walter “beef” up his profile in order to catch Cheryl’s eye.
Walter hasn’t done anything “noteworthy or mentionable,"
or been anywhere “noteworthy or mentionable.”
As you know from the movie (Wait, you haven’t seen this movie? Fix that!), he makes a few small decisions that sweep him into a much larger adventure and story. Through that process, he becomes a new man.
One of the movie’s final scenes has Walter and Todd Maher actually meeting in the Los Angeles airport. Todd says, having known Walter only via phone…
“You are so not how I pictured you…I pictured you as a little gray piece of paper. But now I see you...and it's like Indiana Jones...decided to become the lead singer of The Strokes or something like that.”
The man he encountered several weeks before has become a completely different man. The most important thing about him is no longer what he does, but the man he is becoming.
Our lives are completely shaped by the questions we are asking and the decisions we are making as a result. The kind of men and women we become have huge implications for those we love and those we lead.
- What kind of questions are you asking: Do I have enough for a good retirement? How am I uniquely created to make the world a better place? Why do I exist?
- Is there anything noteworthy or mentionable about your life?
- Would others describe you as a little gray piece of paper or something far grander?
- Are you partnering with your Father to find out who He intends you to become?