Part of any leader’s job is to check for alignment between our work and our purpose. Doing so gives us the experience to help others in the discovery of their developmental needs. After all, we believe that a life well lived is one where purpose is found after the stability of alignment is attained. Frank Sonnenberg describes 7 ways to live a life with purpose in his blog – the first 3 steps particularly resonate with me: live by your beliefs and values, set priorities, and find your passion.
Over a decade ago, I came to know an associate who operated equipment and stocked inventory at one our stone yards. Gregory Howman was a nice fellow, 6’ 5” and strong. We wanted what was best for Greg and often asked him and each other what flipped his switch, what inspired him. During one of these conversations, Gregory remarked that he always wanted to be a Marine. The devastation of 9/11 reminded him that this was a goal never fulfilled. He said that there were Marines in every generation of his family going back to their formation in 1776 and that he wanted to contribute in this way. I replied that this was a great company and we were all nice people, but we were not the Marines. The only way for him to truly find this inspiration would be to wear the uniform.
Pushing his late ‘20s, Gregory first had to get in much better shape. He achieved that goal, and soon after he did enlist in the Marines to continue the legacy of service and honor that his family had produced for 200 years. After a deployment to Iraq, Gregory visited us at the stone yard. He was certain his mission was making a difference and he was so excited that he had accomplished one of his dreams, becoming a United States Marine and serving our country. It was a short visit as he had to return to base and prepare to deploy again.
On September 15, 2004 Lance Corporal Gregory Howman was killed while on patrol in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. I wondered if there was a point to this. Not why he was sent or where he was sent, but to what degree did Gregory’s sacrifice contribute to living a life with purpose. Thoreau once said, “I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor.” What is so special about Gregory Howman is that he elevated his life by consciously achieving those things he found to have purpose. Gregory wanted to uphold the purpose and value of family traditions by serving as a Marine.
In honor of those who sacrifice their time and energy for our safety today, we can strive to live by our beliefs and values, set priorities and find our passion. So that we too can live a life with a purpose that is ours alone.