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"I need not become an obsessed true believer …"

I find it extremely difficult writing about PurposefulPursuit without resorting to hackneyed synonyms. The term dredges up determined, recalls resolute and resolved, and sings of steadfastness and single-mindedness. Sticking no more than a toe in that water seems to infect me with a full-blown case of OCD, and I want to avoid that end. Of course 'projects' would operate more smoothly if everyone involved in the effort would become obsessed with achieving the objective. They will not. Contrary to popular conviction, one cannot drive any 'project' to a successful conclusion. Driven behaviors, whether exhibited by the 'project' leader or a particularly compulsive individual contributor seem more akin to bullying, a form of public self abuse.

When I speak of PurposefulPursuit as the second of my Ethical Responsibilities of 'Project' Work, I am most decidedly not merely trying to egg myself on by whispering a motivational mantra.
I consider myself mature enough that I do not require oily reassurances to perform well. Nor am I the sort of wizard capable of jinning up inspiration at any moment's notice. I understand that many if not most of the volumes found in the Self-Helpless section of your local bookstore insist that the key to a [productive, successful, happy, lucrative, satisfying] life employs purpose as its centerpiece. They back-handedly suggest that living without purpose might be the new original sin, something to be avoided and probably evidence of a lazy countenance. THE sin, if you will.

Should I find myself living in this original sin, I must pick myself up by my own bootstraps, for nobody else ever possesses the leverage to lift me up for me. This necessary contortion, physically impossible, seems to serve as the universal fix-it for almost every ill. I'm exhorted to commit myself to the endless pursuit of an indistinct excellence. 'Projects' seem to attract people who have imprinted on this bullshit to the point of identity, a malady I secretly refer to as Marin Poisoning, after the Northern California county where this sort of self-helplessness has become the dominant lifestyle. Like curious children, we seem to need to peek over the shoulders of the so-called carefree successful so that we might mimic their moves and thereby become just as carefree and successful as they are.

As I mentioned in my book The Blind Men and the Elephant, every 'project' seems to include at least one wall, a surface seemingly placed in the way of progress such that the effort can experience splatting into it. This wall must be breached somehow, inevitably at some inconvenient time. One might go around, over, under, or through it, but it will collect its toll. For me, recalling my purpose for engaging in the parody helps me then, reassuring me that I'm not merely stuck but, as incredible as it might seem, I'm also well on my way, perhaps smack in the middle of living the dream, though it might have temporarily turned into a nightmare. My purpose remains mine, distinct from the collective purpose so brashly advertised in the 'project' charter. I'm hitchhiking along, figuring that I might (and I said, "MIGHT") manage to get what I want by contributing to what they say they want.

That's all. Nothing more. I need not become an obsessed true believer in the mission as long as I can maintain an adequate belief that my own meager purpose remains worthy of me. I need not live a "purposeful life", just one perhaps lightly spiced with a dash of personal purpose. The touted purpose of any 'project' will likely not emerge at the end. Some other more recently discovered purpose will emerge countering the original one, often due to political necessity or physical impossibility. Had I imprinted on the 'project's' advertised purpose as my personal purpose for pursuing, this shift could break my heart. Secure within my own personal purpose, however modest, I pursue with quiet confidence that my fate might remain firmly in my own hands. This is what I mean when I speak of PurposefulPursuit as my second Ethical Responsibility.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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