Traveling, I met a young professional while eating dinner at a restaurant bar. Eating at the bar is the best strategy when traveling alone. It always results in the most interesting meal and company. Without failure this particular night proved to most enjoyable. He was visiting the university and interviewing for graduate school to obtain a masters degree in business administration and marketing. He was overflowing with intrigue and wonder, motivating him to sketch the next steps in his career and life.
This particular evening I was feeling down, thinking my life was stagnate. Reflecting whether my own life had hit a plateau of opportunity and intrigue. Does our temper dull when we reach the proverbial middle of our life? My state of being that evening was antithetical to his existence. Each of his experiences were fresh and his life story yet to be told. He was excited to begin anew in America. Though a soccer player, he spoke like an artist that stood before a blank canvas ready to paint the Sistine Chapel. He spoke with such passion and courageousness as though he was invincible. With great determination he shared his plans to move to the east coast, study at the university and work. I listened intently, but was most curious about how all this fortitude emerged. Was it simply immature bravado? Were his experiences absent the circumstances that sometimes injure your soul or crush your confidence?
He was a genuine and caring young man. Sometimes young professionals can be self-centered. Sometimes individuals can only see the world through a narrow lens and the effect their own life. This was not the situation with this young man. He leaned forward with connection and eye contact as he asked me questions. He was interested in my experiences as though he was a trial attorney determined to crack a case in court. He was compassionate, respectful and deliberate in his interactions. At points in the conversation, the content felt like the game of 20 questions. He asked questions, one after another and another. His energy exhausted me.
I was puzzled by his interest. I did not understand his intention. Then it occurred to me, he was taking the opportunity to learn as much as he could from my story. It was simple and innocent. He focused on broadening his wisdom, gathering insights for guidance in his own life. He was motivated to understand my journey and the challenges of my experience. He sought advice, which I assertively avoided giving him. I have learned that the best journey is chartered by your own heart, not by the direction of others. As I listened and reflected on his conversation, my thoughts painted the mirror image of myself as a young professional. Certainly I was not an athlete and never a soccer player, but full of motivation and desire to achieve. We enjoyed dinner, shared stories from our lives and talked about each others future for hours that evening.
The next morning my thoughts reversed the conversations of that particular evening. What occurred in memory was the many great, professors, leaders, partners and team members that had been part of my journey. These individuals developed my ego, strengthened my heart and shaped the development of my skills. In those years, I was the youngest person in the room, today mostly I am the oldest. I realized something in the discussion with my dinner new companion. It does not matter if you are planning the first 20 years, the second or the third 20 years of your life it’s all narrows to three things. The three things that will determine your life’s favor are: how you appreciate those who cross your path, how much you love and by keeping faith in yourself and God.