“To have a firm persuasion, to set out boldly in our work, is to make a pilgrimage of our labors, to understand that the consummation of work lies not only in what we have done, but who we have become while accomplishing the task.”
-David Whyte, Crossing the Unknown Sea (emphasis mine)
While employed in corporate America, I drew strength and inspiration from David Whyte’s book, Crossing. I began reframing the challenges of that environment as an influence over my character which was being shaped for good at times and for ill at others. Remembering Whyte’s insight, a classic movie was the poetic inspiration that burnished a waypoint mirror for my current journey toward business maturity.
When I went on a retreat a few weeks ago, I watched the movie “The Rain Man.” Upon the death of his father, Charlie Babbitt, played by Tom Cruise, learns that he has an institutionalized brother Raymond, played by Dustin Hoffman, who inherited the entire family fortune. Believing that taking custody of his brother will give him access to his rightful inheritance, he kidnaps his brother from a mental institution in Cincinnati, Ohio and drives him back west to Los Angeles.
At that beginning of that cross-country journey, Charlie is a man consumed by calling ahead to troubleshoot a collapsing business deal. At first he is distracted from attending to his brother’s constant needs. But, over the course of the journey, he finds himself increasingly attentive and drawn to his autistic brother. As he gets to know him, he finds, much to his surprise, that Raymond reveals parts of Charlie’s own fractured story.
In this climactic scene
they are in a hotel preparing for bed when Charlie learns what brought about Raymond’s banishment from the family:
Of the many themes present in this powerful segment, the most striking is the importance of coming to know who we are. Raymond popped the bubble of Charlie’s self-centered machismo when he taught Charlie something.
You may discover that your real work as a business owner is learning who you are apart from what you do. An epiphany like Charlie’s may help you discover your real work of looking into the mirror to find who you are during your journey toward Stage 5 business maturity.
Who can help you remember and recover who you are? This week’s Toolkit is designed to help you to begin your own exploration of this theme. Here’s to burnishing our mirrors!
- Consider your two closest relationships. On a scale of 1-10, how healthy are they? Can these people speak the truth to you? You to them? If not, what can you could you do to encourage that?
- If, like Rain Man Babbitt, they were to recount with chilling precision your hidden story, what might they tell you about you?
- Who are you apart from what you do? How would you describe your core identity—your own Big Why—to a new acquaintance?
- What memories do you want to create with and for your friends, your kids, your grandkids?