How many of you reading this right now, at this very moment, on the train, in the office, in a coffee shop, at home or elsewhere are totally in control of your own lives? Go on, have a moment and truly think about this. Are you the master of your own destiny, your own future, your own existence?
It’s a powerful question and one that, at certain times of our lives, comes into sharp focus. However, when you are living your life and there is nothing to sharpen this focus, that is when you can end up living someone else’s dream for them. That is when you might catch yourself living in order to serve someone else’s wants, strategies or vision. Is that really what you want on your gravestone? ‘Here lies Jim – loving father and cherished son: fairly typical and rather pedestrian’. I’d rather have something a little more awesome! Wouldn’t you?
I just love the old Frank Sinatra song My Way. It is one of his top five I would say, and one that I recall my old dad singing at weddings when I was younger. Sinatra was a pretty amazing dude. Watching some of the behind-the-scenes stuff he did when working with big bands and cutting records was masterful and, despite some criticism, he had a terrific voice. Mind you, there are always critics out there. In My Way, Sinatra finishes the song with the following four lines and I shamelessly reproduce them here, for you, as you ponder my opening gambit about being the master of your own destiny. They go like this:
For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught
To say the things he truly feels, and not the words of one who kneels
The records shows I took the blows and did it my way
If we look back in history at men and women who spoke out and would not heel to others’ tyranny or power or fiats, then this quote becomes even more powerful. True pioneers and authentic people who did not hide behind money to make them appear real and be loved. People like Nelson Mandela, who stood up for what he believed. People like Rosa Parks, a simple seamstress, who when travelling home on a bus, refused to give up her seat to a white male. People like Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head three times by the Taliban simply for speaking out about education for girls. Her quote on life is amazing and again one that is inspiring and hopefully will ignite in you, thoughts about your own destiny - “I don’t want to be remembered as the girl who was shot. I want to be remembered as the girl who stood up.” Wow, how amazing is that?
This week I met many people, mainly men, who are of a certain age – at or near 50. Some had left high-powered jobs, some had run big businesses and were now at the end. Some were about to finish big projects and take their cash and think about retiring. But, the really interesting common denominator I observed as I spoke with them all was a need to do something special with the next 10 years of their lives. No-one was talking about retiring to the golf course or the villa in Spain. No-one had given up the ghost and was ready to go out to pasture. They were all very much alive and it was as if something has sparked in them that they had now woken up and wanted to put their own dent in the world. What I saw were people who wanted to be masters of their own destinies.
So, my question to you, is how are you going to do it your way?
Fitting in and playing the game works well for many. But that does not move the dial forward in any way, in anything, in any endeavor. You will recall that last week I wrote about Brigadier Ian Gardiner of the Royal Marines. When he fought in the Falklands War for us he could not ‘do ordinary’. He had to take control and shape his battlefield his way so he could win through. This was extraordinary. This is exactly what I am talking about and perhaps one way for you to think about this. There is much uncertainty about these days. And it’s easy to get buffeted about in others’ waves as you sail your little boat. But, maybe, just maybe, it’s time for you to shape your own battlefield, so that you get to live the life you want and not the one others prefer ... for their own ends.
Coming back to that gravestone, what do you want written on it? Maybe think about writing a pre-mortem and think about your contribution to this life right now. There is no doubt that life is precious and time is one thing that you cannot get back. So, my ask of you today is to be a little selfish and think about who you are, what you’d love to achieve and how you can do that in a way that allows you to put your dent in the world.
Frank Sinatra most definitely did it his way. Will you be able to say, I did it my way?