"What Are You Missing?"

Robert L. Veninga, Ph.D.

I want to tell you an amazing story. On January 12, 2007, the Washington Post newspaper conducted an experiment. The editors asked Joshua Bell, one of the greatest violinist in the world, to stand on a street corner in the heart of Washington, DC and play some of the greatest classical music that has ever been composed. How many people would stop and hear the beauty of the music? How many would realize that they were in the presence of greatness?

Mr. Bell played for forty-three minutes. 1,074 pedestrians walked by as he played. Most were oblivious to the music. Many were on their cell-phones. Others were drinking their lattes. Most everyone was in a rush. Only seven people stopped to listen. That's right, only seven! The rest missed a moment of utter beauty.

Now the questions are these: How do you make sure you don't miss that which is important in life? How do you ensure that you don't get wrapped up in the noise of life so that you miss the music? Here are four suggestions:

First, you will not miss anything in life if you keep your sense of humor. Show me a person with humor and I'll show you a person with friends. Show me an organization where employees laugh and I'll show you a staff that can handle adversity. Show me a religious organization that has a spirit of joy and jubilation, and I'll show you an organization that is growing in numbers and in depth.

What is the key to nurturing humor? Stay humble. Because when you stay humble, arrogance won't trip you up. Can arrogance really trip you? Consider a pilot who was transporting two passengers in a private plane. One passenger was a 8 year old boy; the other a world-famous professor. Suddenly the engine quit and a crash was imminent. The pilot turned to the two passengers and said: "We are going to crash and we have only two parachutes." The professor quickly grabbed a parachute and before jumping out of the plane said: "I am the world's smartest man and the world needs me." Only one parachute remained and the pilot told the boy to use it. The young boy replied: "There is no reason to worry for we have two parachutes. The world's smartest man jumped out of the plane with my back-pack." Be humble. You'll never regret it.

Second, you won't miss anything in life if you remember these words by Billy Joel: Do what you love, love what you do - the rest is a waste of time.

It is a fact that many Americans do not like what they do for a living. It is estimated that only 25% are working in their "sweet spot", fully utilizing their skills and abilities. That's a tragedy for the other 75%.

There are three orientations you can have to your work. It can be a job. Then you receive a paycheck. It can be a career. Then you measure your success against familiar benchmarks such as the amount of money you earn or the number of people you supervise. Or your orientation can be reflected in the Latin word Vocatis, which means "vocation". And the vocation is the footprint you leave on this world and the lives of other people. You won't miss a thing if you frame your life's work as a Vocatis.

Third, you won't miss a thing of importance in life, if you have a friend who will tell you the truth about yourself - in love. I say this with conviction and passion: At every point in your life you need a friend who will speak the truth to you in love. It will keep you honest. And it will keep you focused on what is important.

Finally, you will not miss a thing in life if you affirm that you are in the safe-keeping of God. The first time I heard the term "safe-keeping of God" was when I interviewed 125 older Americans about the state of their health in retirement. The last question in my interviews was this: "What is the most important lesson you have learned about life?" Almost all respondents discussed the importance of family and many discussed their careers. But often the conversation would turn to faith. One 86 year old gentleman said: "The most important lesson I have learned is that I have been in the safe-keeping of God through 86 years of living. I would not have made such as statement several years ago for I have had quite a few disappointments. But looking back, the pieces of my life finally fit together. I realize that God was with me in difficult times, even though I wasn't aware of it. And I know God was with me in the best moments of my life as well."

I recognize that every person reading these words as their own perspective on life. But if you can affirm that no matter what happens in your journey that you are in the "safe-keeping" of your Creator, you will not miss a thing.

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