“What makes your heart beat hardest?”
Answer this most important question for yourself. Then move in that direction with every fiber of your being. Because in truth, nothing else matters.
I have stuff to do. Once again, it was not my intention to write today. But this hauntingly beautiful series of images and music, accompanied by a voice so pure and authentic compels me otherwise. A vein tapped by an indelible paean that obliges inventory of not just the arc of life but the incalculable power held by every precious fraction of a moment. The idea that legacy, meaning and purpose reside not in some indeterminate future, but only in the immediate now.
Roll film. A patient languishing upon the unadulterated majesty of nature. A journey before time to the uninhabitable primordial stew. Gigantic crashing waves. Earth in its purest form, perfectly cured of the parasitic foibles of the human condition. A punctuation mark upon the insane banalities of trivial modern routine. The sheer absurdity of our frivolous obsession with the material, a pursuit in madness that drains our souls until we are but empty vessels — listless, and without mooring.
Then the voice. That ancient, haunting Celtic tongue. An unpolluted relic of wisdom from a time long since past.
Open your eyes and heart to the world.
I never set out to become anything in particular, only to live creatively, and push the scope of my experience. For adventure. And through passion.
If I only scrape a livin’, at least it’s a livin’ worth scrapin’. If there’s no future in it, at least its a present worth rememberin’. For fires of happiness. And waves of gratitude. For everything that brought us to that point on Earth at that moment in time. To do something worth rememberin’.
Mickey Smith as ancient man immersed in the undiluted state of nature, possessed of the heart. Plying his personal truth against impossible cold and the gravity of crushing elements beyond reason, logic, security, fear and the restrictions of the social imperative to approach the core of personal purpose, meaning, passion. An adrenaline shot of pure spirit echoing the sheer irrelevance of everything our calculating minds work overtime to convince ourselves is important.
On some level, transcendence.
This is the passion and purpose I seek. We should all seek.
I am inspired.
But inspiration is easy. Implementation and action-based change isn’t. In fact, it’s the hardest thing imaginable. Fear, logic, ego, friends and family dissuade. Every aspect of the thinking mind in revolt. Because pursuing life premised on faith and passion isn’t about thinking — it’s what thinking was designed to prevent. It’s not logical in any way shape or form. It threatens every dark corner of identity, status quo and our hard-wired drive for social acceptance and approval. A terrifying reveal of “identity” as pure fiction — mere stories we tell ourselves about who we are and why we do what we do to comfort us against the paralyzing unknowable — that forces us and others to confront the truth about choices made.
A truly objective look in the mirror usually isn’t pleasant. Armed in denial, we go to great lengths to avoid this act. I know I do. It takes gigantic balls to quiet external noise. Even bigger balls to quell the internal rebellion — the voice of the mind that destroys imagination, levels wonder and clutches to fear and illusion with an impossible death grip.
Faith stands in denial of reason. In order to pursue a life of passion, the mind must be destroyed. Comfort in unknowingness. An embrace of the void.
When I first embarked upon my own personal version of this heart-based journey, I could have never imagined the life I now enjoy. Despite advanced degrees from prestigious universities and a promising career track, I was a walking risk-averse calculation, devoid of passion yet compelled forward by the mythic, undeniable allure of the American Dream — only to discover it a false, transparent veneer. Eventually the pain became so great, the only solution was to let it all go or die.
Pain works that way. It sucks. But it’s also the greatest imaginable catalyst for change. So if you’re feeling it, consider yourself lucky.
Broke and married with 4 kids, I spent countless hours pedaling a bike, running ridiculous distances or staring at a black line at the bottom of a pool, looking for answers to my existential crisis through the crucible of physical suffering as I trained for the ludicrous endurance-fest known as theUltraman World Championships. It wasn’t just illogical, it was utterly baffling in it’s relationship to responsibility. And yet deep within the recesses of my soul, I knew with every aspect of my being that it was what I was meant to be doing. It’s what made my heart beat hardest.
My wife — bless her soul — had the capacity to see this truth. Rather than dissuade me with arrows of reason, she pushed me to continue when faith faltered and the mind strove to reclaim the reins. Why? Because she knew my drive emanated from something pure. True. And unmistakably dire. Despite all that is rational, my life depended upon this particular brand of physically and mentally excruciating soul exploration as a means to resolve the seemingly unresolvable personal crisis I then endured.
Somehow I found the means to temporarily quell the endless deterring chatter of the thinking mind. To be fair, fear retained a strong foothold of precious real estate in my consciousness. It still does. But I found the wherewithal to nonetheless propel forward in the face of it. And ignore the often-unbearable social pressures relentlessly driving to derail me. I focused on the heart. I relied on faith. I got comfortable with the uncomfortable. I embraced the mystery of not knowing what the next day might bring. And at every turn, I focused on how I could be of service to others. Because there is gigantic, undeniable truth in the edict that when you give, you get back tenfold.
As a result, I have somehow persevered. Emerged into a new life. It is, in fact, an impossible astounding life beyond what I could have previously imagined, let alone thought possible. A direct result of nothing other than a decision — followed by relentless daily action toiling in obscurity — to embrace something we are all too often socially compelled to repress and ignore: the heart that beats hardest.
It wasn’t quick. It wasn’t easy. Nor linear or pretty. It took deep reserves of previously untapped resolve. It required confronting powerful dissuasion both external and internal. It is the warrior path. And yet I wouldn’t trade it for anything; it is worth every failure, bead of sweat and sleepless night endured.
I never expected to become anything of import. I am as surprised as anyone to find myself a bestselling author. An in-demand public speaker. A popular podcast host. An accomplished athlete. A respected wellness advocate. Over the last year, I have actually been paid to travel to exotic places I never imagined I would ever lay eyes on, investing in service and experience. Giving back. And creating a legacy. More surprising than anything, I find myself content. I am not a rich man. And I am not without my fears. My defects are many. But for the first time in my life, I am generally comfortable in my own skin, with a deep knowing that I am exactly where I am meant to be.
I’m not delivering this message to pad my ego. Nor to suggest that you ignore real world responsibilities. Only to share that it is my direct personal experience that the limits we impose upon ourselves are generally illusory. And driven predominantly by fear. Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of the unknown. Fear of discomfort. Fear of financial insecurity. Fear of what others might think. All told, fear of everything.
And fear is not your friend. Not now, not ever.
I do not promise that a heart-based life will result in financial reward, fancy friends, notoriety, page views or even a single Facebook “like”. In fact, it very well might result in the opposite. Because this road less travelled deeply threatens our social imperative — a clamoring to mainline the warm opiate embrace of our modern status quo. Buy and ye shall be happy.
But I do make one promise. That such an exploration will infuse your life with a meaning and sense of purpose you cannot now predict. Happiness — not in a blissed out unicorns and rainbows sense — but rather a deep satisfaction that your life has value. A value that is infectious; and can be shared. Passed on as inspiration in service to others who feel impossibly stuck. Imprisoned by a life not of their conscious choosing but often compelled by circumstance; and the perils of the thinking mind — an organ wired to prioritize comfort, security and avoidance of fear and challenge over adventure and the depth of experience.
And so the question I pose is this: What are you doing with your life? And more importantly why are you doing it?
This is your call to action. Delve deep within. Do the internal work to embrace the child hidden deep inside — the child before your parents told you to be quiet and your teachers told you to sit down. Do whatever it takes to find and unlock that thing that makes your heart beat hardest. Then take the leap. Invest in experience. Unleash that inner artist cowering inside yearning to be expressed in whatever form compels you. And embrace the mystery and challenge of the untrodden path.
Then watch as a better, more authentic self begins to surface. Fertilize that sapling like your life depends upon it. Because it does.
I’m here to say it’s worth the journey. And at the end of the day, there is nothing but the journey. Because destination is pure illusion.
In the words of Mickey, do something worth remembering.
This is the warrior path.
This is the art of living with purpose.
Rich Roll is world renown ultra-distance triathlete, wellness advocate, host of the wildly popular Rich Roll Podcast & #1 bestselling author of Finding Ultra: Rejecting Middle Age, Becoming One of the World’s Fittest Men & Discovering Himself. You can read more words and listen to his conversations atrichroll.com. Follow him Twitter & Facebook & Instagram.