Finding your Sky Anchor
Think - I’m thinking about Ikigai
Last week we set out to work on commitment by establishing a goal—any goal—and keeping at it. In the coming weeks and months, we’ll talk a lot more about goal setting. But for now, I hope you achieved your confidence target and put one in the win column.
One of the greatest limiters of performance lies in believing that you are powerless to change the course you are on. That you have reached the limit of your potential. That you have ‘peaked.’
But it’s impossible to get trapped in a fixed mindset when you can see growth, even if it is only a week’s worth.
Now, we could rely on the same technique to add another small goal and build from there, but we risk falling into the trap of ‘random acts of self-improvement.’ Collecting habits like vintage salt and pepper shakers and putting them on display to impress visitors.
If we want to get better at getting better, we need a point in the distance that we can keep our course by.
In the jungles of the Pacific in WWII, the Marine Raiders knew three things without a doubt:
· They knew the Japanese were tough
· They knew they were tougher
· And they knew that if they became disoriented, they could look to the night sky and find the Southern Cross constellation and use it to guide them.
It became so crucial to the Raiders that it found its way onto the patch they wore. I’ve read that the Māori refer to the constellation as the Sky Anchor. This is a term I love and have adopted.
The stars in the constellation that form your sky anchor are the things you would be working on if you didn’t have to work. If you had no limitations. They are what the Japanese call Ikigai or ‘reason for being.’
Once your sky anchor is fixed in the heavens, it becomes a simple matter of plotting a course for it. If you can see your sky anchor it’s easy to ask yourself if what you are doing -or planning to do- is guiding you towards -or moving you away from it.
Your Ikigai rests in the center of the venn diagram answering these four questions:
What do you like to do?
What does the world need?
What are you good at?
What can you make a living at?
For those who don’t speak Japanese, and would prefer not to butcher the language, I call these the Four-Ps:
To get started identifying your passion, pull out your notebook and make a list of things really care about. Things you would spend all your time doing if you could.
Here’s a tip from the study of creative problem solving: Diverge then Converge
Commit to divergent thinking-brainstorm.
Go for volume.
Withhold judgment, there are no stupid answers.
Push yourself to come up with a list of at least thirty items.
When you have your list, converge - start putting like items together. Maybe you have a lot of items that have to do with animals, or nature, or children, or food, or video games, or sky diving. It doesn’t matter what they are, they are your passions. Spend some time this week thinking about how to turn these passions (things you love) into your purpose (something the world needs). We’ll talk more about that next week.
Read- Since we are talking about purpose, I’ve got to recommend Man’s Search for Meaning, by Victor Frankl.
Frankl said our meaning could come from three things: purposeful work, love, and courage in the face of difficulty. After enduring the horror that was Auschwitz, Frankl quoted Nietzsche, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” He also recognized that those without a why didn’t make it long, saying, “Woe to him who saw no more sense in his life, no aim, no purpose, and therefore no point in carrying on. He was soon lost. The typical reply with which such a man rejected all encouraging arguments was, ‘I have nothing to expect from life anymore.’ What sort of answer can one give to that?”
Even if you have read Man’s Search for Meaning before, I suggest a re-read.
Write- The chapter I’m working on in my memoir is proving vexing.
Well, they all prove vexing, but this one is especially so.
This is the first chapter where I’m writing about events that I was largely not present for. But they are events that need to be understood to know how they shaped the Iraq that we walked into in 2004.
The overarching theme is ‘jus in bello’ -or - right conduct in war.
Two weeks before we landed in country, four Blackwater contractors (one of them, former SEAL Scott Helvenston whom I had worked with) were ambushed by insurgents and murdered in Fallujah. Their bodies were burned, then pulled apart by a mob of civilians and hung from a bridge spanning the Euphrates.
Several weeks later, the story of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib broke. We had dropped off detainees there on several occasions and handed them over for detention. Regardless of what these people did, in U.S. custody they had the right to expect to be treated according to the Geneva Convention.
Then came the kidnapping and beheading of American contractor Nicholas Berg by Zarqawi and his cronies. Videoed and blasted across the internet. Less than two weeks after his headless corpse was discovered on an overpass by a vehicle patrol, we conducted a raid to capture one of the men involved.
The research into these events has been easy enough. There is plenty of information available.
The difficulty comes in the writing. Being honest, and reconciling the feelings I have now with those of a much younger man. Alternating between the desire to ‘take the gloves off,’ and fight like the insurgents, and knowing that as U.S. servicemembers we had committed to honoring the laws of armed conflict and international humanitarian law.
I have also come to understand that adhering to these laws does more than ensure that we remain “innocent” and committed to the ideas we profess to hold sacred. It enables those who are sent into harm’s way to return with their honor intact.
War is ugly. There is no escaping that.
The trick is to keep it from turning you ugly too.
Repeat- From those who said it best:
“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” – Mark Twain
“The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.” — Fyodor Dostoyevsky
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” — Maya Angelou
“You don’t need to know all of the answers, you just need to be courageous enough to take the first step and trust where it leads.” — Bronnie Ware
In case you weren’t aware, each weekday I share a quote I find helpful on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Linked In as WalkingPointOrg.
I appreciate your comments, questions, and thoughts.