It was not an ordinary weekend for America, or for myself for that matter. President Obama was inaugurated for the second time and I was in complete awe as I walked away from a two and half hour conversation with global icon Will.i.am. He shared with me his purpose and love around making and producing music. “Every word I use in my songs,” he explained, “is meaningful. The messages I convey share a story, a history, an emotion, a call to action, or even the expression of the invisible and an outlet for the untold.” He mentioned that the pop songs that hit the charts often contain a different purpose – mostly to “hit” the charts. We look at him now: a global fan base, Grammy nominee and winner, an abundance of wealth. Life was not always like that.
A family of many children, and a single mom. Will explained that despite his hardships in his early life, he had an incredibly powerful passion to do something meaningful. Not only in the way rhythm moves his mind and soothes his heart, but also for spreading a message that dreams can become reality. I thought about how passion can drive how we change things, and who we become. This one conversation got me thinking, maybe it’s not about who we were yesterday or who we will be in the future, but who we are becoming. We’re changing.
As the clock ticks, the birds chirp, as the seasons pass, we change. We are in the process of developing into who we are as a person, who we choose to become. Throughout our lives, we are evolving from caterpillars into butterflies. We live, we learn, we grow and mature: we break out of our cocoon. This transformation throughout our lives teaches us many things. The metamorphosis allows us to crawl away from the past and enter a world of undiscovered destinations. Although it may not be well-defined at this moment when we allow ourselves to change, adapt or grow we gain clarity with a new set of eyes.
These new sets of eyes allow us to see the world with clearer perspectives. With a new body we will learn to fly. Well, we might fail a few times, but eventually we will take flight. We will soar. Some of us may ask, where are we headed? No one has the answer to that, except you. That’s in your hands. It’s up to us. As Steve Jobs said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.” Trust in the journey of life perhaps? We live in a time where the future is ever-changing, and for that reason, we must focus our energy on today. The past is history and the future is yet unwritten.
Yesterday is long gone and tomorrow is not guaranteed. The present, today, right now, this moment in our life is what we have. Consider Walt Disney at age 22 or Debbie Fields who founded Mrs. Fields Cookies in her early 20s, 17 year-old Ingvar Kamprad founder of IKEA, or even Michael Dell who was 19 years old when he founded Dell Computers. They prove that today is our day. Any day is our day when we begin to take initiative. This is our time. No matter our age, young or old, a day is a day and an idea is an idea. I see no reason why age, for example, becomes a barrier to our success.
We can drive social change, we can become the innovators, or the entrepreneurs that generate progress. Life is too short for us to live silently. It seems as though our days are limited, and life is an uncertain length. Well if that is the case, let’s begin to speak up. I can almost guarantee that when that voice comes from within, from our passion in life, failure is not an option. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s. words are still relevant today: “Whatever it is you’re gonna become, become the best at it. If you’re gonna be a garbage man, be the best garbage man. To dream, dare, and do. Don’t ever let somebody else tell you what you can’t do. If you got a dream, you gotta protect it, and if you know what you want in life, you got to go do it.”
There is no reason to wait to become what he describes as the best version of ourselves. When we look in the mirror we must be proud of the person staring back at us, because that’s all we have. Let’s find that person in the mirror and say “I am somebody. I am somebody that this world needs. I’m leaving my mark. I am here.” Our future starts today. In June 2013, I gave the commencement speech at my high school graduation – a note specifically for the youth. The above is a modified version.
It was geared more towards youth entering the university environment. Nonetheless, I believe that what I have described above applies to anyone reading or listening. As the world is changing, we as leaders are changing. Our goals, ambitions and opportunities may depend on our concept of time. Is it here and now that we believe we can reach accomplishment and follow our heart? Or do we wait until those beliefs mature in our own cocoon? Yesterday feeds into today and today into tomorrow.
The common dominator is today, so we ought to begin today.