Though we’re often not consciously aware of it, most of us believe our lives are a journey toward something meaningful. This seems to be true for us personally, as well as for the organizations we help to guide. We may be racing down a road toward material prosperity, focused on the next big win as though this outward sign of achievement defines our purpose. But there is something more.
On Sunday, my wife, daughter and I drove to Camp Kanuga in Hendersonville to take part in a retreat for the sophomore class at St. Joseph’s Catholic School. Led by school headmaster Keith Kiser, parents and students took part in a 90-minute discussion centered on the idea of the “Road to Nowhere” … and how to avoid it.
The Two Adams Within Each of Us
Setting the tone for the session were excerpts from a video of a talk that New York Times columnist David Brooks gave at the 2013 Aspen Ideas Festival. His talk would become the essence of his 2015 best-selling book The Road to Character.
In the talk (which you can access here), Brooks speaks of the two Adams. Like most, I knew Adam as the central character in Genesis … the one given dominion over all the earth, but who disobeyed God’s one mandate. According to Brooks (and many Biblical scholars), there are two Adams. Adam I realizes his power and position; he’s motivated by the material trappings of a successful life. Adam II recognizes he was created from dust by God, and desires to live a spiritual life of gratitude and servitude.
Mr. Kiser’s concern is that we get so caught up in an Adam I existence that we neglect the spiritual side of our lives … we don’t listen for the gentle voice of Adam II. Instead, we race down the expressway of success, only to find it’s really a road to nowhere. It’s only in being connected with our Adam II that we experience true and lasting happiness.
I found the following reflection from Bill Gates to be inspirational:
“I like the way Brooks fleshes out the Adam I and Adam II sides of human nature, but it’s not always clear where one starts and the other stops. For example, you could argue that my work with Microsoft was a classic case of Adam I résumé-building. But I found deep satisfaction in that work — not because I achieved material success beyond my wildest expectations, but because I got to help build a great team and be part of a new industry that unleashed the potential of people all around the world.” Read his complete blog post here.
Gates’ thoughts remind us that as leaders within our businesses, our personal lives are entwined with our professional callings. We admire socially responsible companies like Microsoft, GE and Google for embracing a higher purpose in their corporate missions. We remind ourselves that last year’s P&L statement is but one measurement of our worth … of what we bring to our communities.
I don’t know for sure, but I think Brooks’ ideas caused every parent in the Kanuga Conference Center to stop and consider our own lives. If somehow you’re still reading this column, I hope you’ll be moved to do the same.
Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sgerner/