You get up in the morning and go to work. You could die on the way. People in the World Trade Centre in 2001, all went to work expecting to come home but didn’t.
So, is your work worth dying for? Usually not. Your company want you engaged at that level. However, unless you own the business it’s more likely that the money you earn, and the house you build from it, or the love you share with your children comes from it. Work is rarely worth dying for.
If you’re a management consultant flying to change a business in London, and your plane goes down, was it worth dying for? Somewhere deep inside you do know that 10 minutes after you leave this earthly plain, you’ll be replaced, life goes on. Even as a parent, children survive without you.
The Milking Syndrome
When I first went to work and my kids were very young, I went to work to feed and house them. If I’d died on the way to or from or at work, the effort was absolutely worth dying for. They are the love of my life and making life safe for them is important to me. But eventually, I saved enough, built, bought and sold enough houses to have the wealth to say that if I died the kids would be ok. After that, work took a turn for the worse.
My wife at the time didn’t appreciate that my work had this hidden but underlying motive. I’d arrive home with a sense of purpose and meaning feeling really good that I’d made more headway in the wealth creation for my kids. It seemed to everyone that the mission was profit but it wasn’t. I loved my work, but I loved my kids more.
When the critical mass of being able to say “my kids are safe and will be secure through their education and teens” I started what I’ve come to call, milking. Truly, we had enough money, I had enough money to do what I’d always dreamed of. I was 25 years old, had build and made a small wealth and things started to go pear shaped.
In order to try to get more purpose and meaning out of my work I worked harder, took risks, created business plans to expand the company, make more money, be more profitable, out play my competitors. We bought a bigger house, I drove a BMW instead of a Holden and my wife had a Range Rover instead of a Ford Falcon. I also started chasing excitement outside of work and home. Trips, holidays, new horizons. All in the attempt to milk some sort of meaning out of a life and dreams already fulfilled.
Everything got bigger. The house with a pool, trips, affairs, alcohol … simply trying to milk life for meaning that was lost when the mission was exceeded by reality.
The Self Sabotage Process
When I outgrew my purpose for work, and started milking life for a sense of meaning, I also turned to meditation. Another profound method of creating nothing out of nothing, and solving nothing. I wallowed in sweet blissful purposelessness by meditating. In retrospect I wish I could reclaim the lost hours sitting in nana land thinking I wasn’t thinking. It was not a solution but rather another way of avoiding the question… “what’s my purpose?” What am I willing to die for? And as Martin Luther King Jnr says, “when there’s nothing you’d be willing to die for there’s nothing you’d live for.”
I thought I had the answer. I mean, I’d be willing to die for my children, but how did that justify me going to work, struggling with ugly people who wanted to tear my business down? How did that justify my late nights and financial battles with suppliers and customers day after day after day.
We are never off purpose. But if we feel like there’s no meaning no purpose we begin slow suicide. We self sabotage. Nature destroys anything that doesn’t fulfil its purpose. And what isn’t told in all the text on life is that the thread of purpose is revealed our goals. More accurately, the thread of purpose must be revealed in our goals otherwise we have no resilience to the challenges and repetition.
Nature’s Unconditional Love
Behind every accident, drama, disaster there is a story. A story of lost meaning, milking and purposelessness. If one is to believe anything at all in this life, it must be that the Universe under which we sit, is Unconditional in its love for us. Hence, there are no accidents.
Accidents sound like spontaneous bursts of chaos. Accidents like divorces, an depressions and lost jobs and sickness sound like some arbitrary organisation or human being somehow stepped outside the universe’s order and created a pain without love.
As the years of my “milking” continued into Yoga, Meditation, Business, Education, Relationships and Spirituality the “accidents” increased in frequency. I got more angry that those I loved wouldn’t feed the system I’d created to replace meaning. I tried to love people in order to cause meaning but they proved to me that love is free and whether it comes from me or someone else, it’s no real purpose for work or life.
My health got “accidents” as did my bank account. I was now divorced, the kids were financially protected, I couldn’t claim purpose and meaning from this any longer even though, the real mission was accomplished 10 years ago. I sold the business, went back to uni, and struggled with the “Milking” process for the next years. The longer this went on for, the more the truth that “nature destroys anything that does not fulfill its purpose” became real.
Catching a Feather – Stroking the Cat
Have you ever tried to reach out and pick up a cat? Usually the result is a scratched hand. The best way to stroke the cat is to allow it to come to you and sit, on your lap, waiting for a smoochy cuddle.
Catching a feather is the same. The more you grope for it, the more likely the wind of your palm will push it away.
I flew to Nepal to become a hero. I had invested $400,000 to become a legend. My friend had become a legend in National Geographic, why not me?
After six months training, and untold warning signs that I was not being Real, I arrived in Nepal for the 30 day wilderness expedition. I told the world, or those who needed to hear it, that I, Chris Walker, was about to do something amazing. So, with this massive build up, the trip began in a remote part of the Himalayas.
Three hours. Yes, let me repeat it, not 30 days, or 3 days – three hours into the trip I sat on my pack and cried. I did not want to die doing this. Finally, the milking was over. I was shattered. I had no meaning, no disguise, nowhere to hide, no relationship to mask the feeling. I was alone, in the wilderness with no real reason or purpose to be there.
I flew back to Kathmandu by emergency flight. Gave away the food and paid my guide. With the tattered remains of my ego, someone suggested an easy 20 Day walk to Everest Base Camp. I did it. Smashed my ankle, hurt my knee, stayed with monks and nuns. Wrestled with an overweight back pack and finally, in the shadow of Mt Everest I found something.
I can’t put words to it. I found something amazing. Maybe it was love or unconditional love. Maybe it was grace or enlightenment or simply happiness. I can’t label it in words but I do know what it feels like. When I got back to Kathmandu I knew that I’d love to take people that I loved up to the Himalayas and, like me, experience this “thing.” This heart and soul. I called it Innerwealth.
And I said to myself “if I die taking people to this place would I be happy with that?” and the answer is “ABSOFUCKINGLUTELY”
Since that day I’ve written shit books about it. I’ve taken 50 groups to Nepal to experience it. I’ve done over 3,000 keynote presentations about it. It’s my purpose. If I die doing it then I’m ok with it. If I die swimming Bondi beach, I’ll be pissed that I was not giving my purpose to those who need it – unless I say “by swimming Bondi beach I become stronger and therefore I can carry my mission further.
I’ve been criticised and outed from some parts of my family because I don’t follow the “milking” rules of life. The simple thing is that I can’t. Once you find something like a purpose or meaning it dictates so much of our choices. And that, for the mass, is hard to understand. Milking is the norm.
The cost of it is enormous.