Follow Your Star

I’ve been off the grid for a while. I needed time to reflect and think about what I’ve been doing with my life and what I’ve been doing with this website as well. In effect, am I still going in the direction I want to be going in? During this downtime, I’ve been anything but…

I’ve been off the grid for a while. I needed time to reflect and think about what I’ve been doing with my life and what I’ve been doing with this website as well. In effect, am I still going in the direction I want to be going in? During this downtime, I’ve been anything but inactive. I actually got a full time retail job about 15 minutes walking distance from my house. It doesn’t pay much but it covers my basic bills and my other co-workers are some of the nicest and most caring people I’ve ever worked with in my life. The work itself is pretty intense, leaving you exhausted at the end of the day and wiped out at the end of the week (both physically and mentally). That said, I do love the social interaction with the customers we get, as I have a naturally affinity for helping people out.

Over the past couple of weeks though, I’ve been getting more and more frustrated with myself because I just haven’t had any considerable time to research my passion and purpose. Don’t get me wrong, I’m always jotting down notes and thoughts but I really haven’t had that much time to reflect and think about them in detail, primarily because I’ve been so exhausted. That all changed yesterday when I decided to finally read a book that I’ve been wanting to read for quite some time. The book is entitled The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Reading the first few chapters at night, before I went to bed, got me quite interested and in the morning I proceeded to voraciously read the rest of the book. By the time I was done, something noticeable had changed within me.

You see The Alchemist is a fable about a boy who in search of a treasure in a distant land discovers a more important treasure within himself. What might sound strange though is that I was already familiar with the story before I even began reading it. Not because I had heard of the story from someone else but because the story is the same story of my own life. And even more so, the universal truths relayed within the story are many of which I firmly believe in. So if anything, the book for me was a validation and an iconic reminder of what I had been doing my entire life already, particularly the last ten years of it.

Later that evening, after my wife returned from work, I described the impact the book had on me and what it made me realize with my life. Strange but true, I’ve had a vision of creating something since I was in my early twenties, after having read The Matador Trilogy by Steve Perry. Within this vision, I saw myself creating a community of people who collectively are striving to bring about a positive change to the world we live within. Similar to the characters within The Matador Trilogy, this community of people are striving to tear down antiquated beliefs and systems that are beginning to rip apart our society and build new ones which can restore our humanity. At the time of the vision in my early twenties, I just thought it was a childish fantasy but now looking back on the last twenty five years of my life since that vision, I realize I’ve been trying to accomplish this without even knowing it.

For example, during my time building video game communities online, I always built them upon a positive cultural foundation. In effect, I wanted them to be havens apart from the stereotypical negative culture that 80% or more of the community normally proliferated. And amazing enough, with the help of some close friends, we were able to pull this off and create positive and caring environments of learning and knowledge sharing that many of us still fondly remember to this very day. But simply put, even though at the time I was doing it for fun, deep within me my heart was naturally doing it for a specific reason, almost as though it was an experiment or test for something greater to come.

And yet in reviewing this all last night and this morning, one important question remained for me. During a lot of my online community building, where I built communities to share my video game knowledge and experience, I did so because I had first achieved a sense of mastery and awareness of the game. The question that was left unanswered though was what mastery and awareness did I have to share in real life? It obviously didn’t have anything to do with my technical or design skills (i.e. web design, coding, scripting, etc) because there are a ton of people out there who have a greater mastery of those skills than I do. No, whatever my mastery and awareness is, it must come naturally to me. And that’s when I realized my mastery and awareness is self-identity, something which is a prevalent problem with many people today, particularly the youth of the world. And again a perfect example of this mastery is the enjoyment I received in helping people with their website branding and identity. In fact, many people whom I helped often expressed excitement and joy after clarifying their identity and differentiation as a business. And even from my perspective, I enjoyed this identity “discovery” aspect of the work much more so than the actual designing and building of the website.

So now that I know what I’ve naturally been progressing towards my entire life, now comes the challenge of how to get there and manifest this vision of mine into a reality. For now, the natural thing to do is to continue what I started on this website and share my thoughts with others but aimed more specifically at self-discovery because if I can help even just one other person with their own self-discovery and passion then it will all be worth it. In light of this, I’ve changed my site byline from “Life in Design” back to my previous mantra of “Connect. Empower. Inspire.” I’ve done this for two reasons. The first reason being that before you can connect, empower, and inspire others, you must first connect, empower, and inspire yourself. Secondly while we are all striving to “design” a better life for ourselves, we must realize it is more about chipping away the layers to reveal what’s at our heart, rather than reshaping what we naturally already are.

In closing, below is a short snippet from The Alchemist that I think is a great metaphor for the life and journey of self-discovery that I have experienced thus so far.

The desert was all sand in some stretches, and rocky in others. When the caravan was blocked by a boulder, it had to go around it; if there was a large rocky area, they had to make a major detour. If the sand was too fine for for the animals’ hooves, they sought a way where the sand was more substantial. In some places, the ground was covered with the salt of dried-up lakes. The animals balked at such places, and the camel drivers were forced to dismount and unburden their charges. The drivers carried the freight themselves over such treacherous footing, and then reloaded the camels. If a guide were to fall ill or die, the camel drivers would draw lots and appoint a new one.

But all this happened for one basic reason: no matter how many detours and adjustments it made, the caravan moved toward the same compass point. Once obstacles were overcome, it returned to its course, sighting on a star that indicated the location of the oasis. When the people saw that star shining in the morning sky, they knew they were on the right course toward water, palm trees, shelter, and other people.

By Nollind Whachell

Questing to translate Joseph Campbell's Hero’s Journey into The Player’s Handbook for the roleplaying game called Life, thus making vertical (leadership) development an accessible, epic framework for everyone.