Last weekend I had the good fortune to meet up with several of my good friends from high school. There were about eight of us that were band geeks and we were a pretty tight group during our high school years. We were brought together by the passing of one of our close friends, Charlie, who always made us smile and laugh in the best sort of way.
During my visit I talked with one friend who is now happily in to his second marriage and about 25 years into his job which has become uneventful. He described to me a desire for something more at this stage of his life.
In New York Times columnist David Brooks’ recent book, The Second Mountain, he talks about how life appears to be a mountain to be climbed. After high school we are told we must go to the best college, find a great job at a prestigious company, to meet and marry the love of our life, to have fantastic kids, to become financially successful, and many other things—all to live a fulfilling, happy life.
Yet, after all these things, many people arrive at midlife with an empty feeling. Is this it? Is this all there is? Why am I not feeling as though I have reached the top of the mountain?
Brooks describes the first mountain of life as a false summit. Once reaching the top we realize that there is something more once we have achieve the basics. He describes the second mountain as very different—it is living for others and giving to others. It is a transformation that some experience, resulting in true happiness. He believes that one is never truly happy until he or she has given oneself over completely to others.
There are many obvious examples of those who have given themselves to others such as Nelson Mandela or Mother Theresa. But you do not need to reach their level of notoriety in order to achieve true happiness (or even do some good for others). Often it is on a small, intimate scale.
I raise this point in this week’s blog not because you need to read the book or start volunteering, but because I think it helps to explain how, over a lifetime, one’s goals can change and evolve.
I consider myself very fortunate to have a great spouse, kids, friends, home, supportive family and job. Because of these things, I am constantly reminded of a comment made by the late President George H.W. Bush. I believe he was asked why, with his family’s wealth and success did he need to serve his country as President of the United States? His response was (I am paraphrasing here): To those who have been given much, much is expected.
As I am cresting my first mountain, I am already thinking about what greater good I can accomplish. And the passing of my good friend Charlie reminds me that we do not have unlimited time to get that done.
Are your goals changing? Do you think you have summited your first mountain? Give us a call. We’re here to help.
Lyman H. Jackson
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