A while I was talking to a relative who told me (jokingly) that he doesn’t remember much at all from his days in yeshiva. He said he remembers one vort, only one vort from all those years…….. Veiter!
The way that word will usually come up is after two chavrosas are learning for a while and realize that they are spinning their wheels…. The questions, answers, and points of the gemara are all starting to get blurred, and you begin to feel your mind sinking slowly into quicksand, and eventually you or your chavrusa says: “nu, veiter!” Meaning, “come on, let’s get going, forward march!” The interesting thing is that as you start moving forward everything starts to fall into place, and slowly but surely even the murky points you were trying to figure out earlier start to sort themselves out and make sense.
When companies go through a shakeup, when they go through turbulent times, any consultant that comes in, or any one of the top executives will eventually look at the wall in their board room and say, “Hey, let’s look at our Mission Statement. Let’s focus on what we’re all about.” The more mission-focused and mission-driven a corporation becomes, the more everything gets focused, streamlined and simplified, and the more likely they are to be successful.
We’re no different. When we go through life, it’s very easy to become distracted by the day-to-day, mundane things, and sometimes just survival- just being able to keep on treading water and keeping our head above water becomes the goal and mission. That’s all we focus on. That’s all we feel and think about.
When things get tough, it behooves us to stop and think, and ask ourselves, what is my mission? What is this all about? Yes, I know I should keep moving veiter, but where to? It’s easier, (and wiser), to ask this on a good day, when the waters are calm, when things aren’t quite as tough. However, people tend to just not think about it then. We get comfortable in our groove and just keep doing what we’re doing, without much thought. We tend to think about these things when the going gets tough.
Those of you who may know me know that I lost my son a little over a month ago. His shloshim was this week. It’s been a painful month, an emotionally charged month, a thought-provoking month. It’s made me think long and hard: What is my mission? How am I supposed to move forward? What should I be focused on? I’d like to share my thoughts with you, in case it’s helpful to anyone out there.
I’m a Psychologist, and I sometimes get really annoyed and frustrated, actually, when people say, “I don’t know what my purpose in life is. How do I know why God put me on this earth? What am I supposed to be doing with my life?” I don’t like the question, because it’s often an excuse (fear-based) that can keep one paralyzed, rather than a question that should be pondered ad-nauseum.
My mission is very simple. This will sound cliché-ish, but it’s true. It’s very simple. My mission is to make this world a better place. That simple. That’s your mission, too, by the way. Your mission, your job, is to make the world a better place.
It’s very simple. Our mission is to become the best version of ourselves that we possibly can become, and by doing so, we are by definition making the world a better place.
Before you give up, and roll your eyes, and walk away from this, let me make this really practical. I don’t have a crystal ball. I can’t spell out the details of your mission, but your mission really is to be the best you and to make the world, your corner of the world, a better and brighter place, by simply being a better you. A better son or daughter, a better parent or spouse, a better human being-a better Eved Hashem.
When you exude goodness, when you smile at the world and make the world around you a little bit of a better place, when you smile at the person next to you, when you just reach out, and do what you can to help the people around you, and you show love and compassion, kindness and chessed, you are making the world a better place. You become a breathing, walking, living Kiddush Hashem wherever you go. The ripple effect that it creates is unreal. It’s unbelievable how far that carries. When you do this, and the fellow next to you, and behind you, and in front of you, and down the block from you does that, the world really does change and transform.
What we have to remember is that we are the Am Segula. Whether you like it or not, you- yes, you- are one of the Chosen People, and your job is to be a role model for the world around you. Your behavior has immense ramifications, far beyond the confines of your home, city, state, country and even planet. And yes, it all starts with you.
What we need to remember is that when you are in a position of leadership, you are not being asked to lead; it is not suggested or recommended that you lead. You are leading. You are modeling to others 24/7/365, you are on display, you are being scrutinized and every nuance of your life is being carefully studied.
You can and do change the world with your unique strengths and abilities
I’d like to share a simple parable, a good way that I like to think about it: Imagine that you’re in a tunnel with food, and water, and a flashlight….but it’s dark. It’s unnerving. You’re in a tunnel. You don’t know where you’re going. There’s two ways you can handle that. You can sit on the floor and go, “Boo-hoo, I don’t know, it’s dark. It’s not clear. I’m in uncharted territories. I have nowhere to go.” It’s tempting just do nothing, because it’s scary. You don’t know where you’re heading.
Or, you can keep going, turn on your flashlight (i.e. Torah hashkafa), look around you, and take a calculated risk, and start marching forward in life. Start marching down the tunnel. As you go down the tunnel, options open up to you, different avenues that you never thought of, never saw, never pursued, open up in front of you.
The way life works is when you push yourself to excel in one area of life, other avenues will open up. If you sit on the floor and say, “Gee whiz, I wonder where I’m going,” you stay in exactly one space, one spot. You never grow, you never blossom, and you never flourish. That’s what growth is all about. That’s how you become the best you. That’s how you make the world a better place : keep on moving, keep on doing, keep on evolving.
The more you can be focused on your mission, the more you will live life, a fuller life, the more happy you will be with yourself. Now, let me tell you what your goal is if you need a more concrete way to think about it. This comes from deep inside my gut, and from years of experience and practice.
Your goal is that when you’re an elderly person, in your 100s and 110s, or hopefully 119 and a half years old, is to be able to look in the mirror, and look deep into the eyes of the man or woman you see in the mirror, and say, “Not bad. Not bad, kiddo. You did okay.” Not perfect. Nobody’s perfect. Hashem is perfect. The rest of us are just aren’t. Meaning that He could have created us to be “perfect” robots or angels. Hashem chose to make us “perfectly imperfect”, with our personalized gifts and personalized challenges. Our job is to do the best we can to try blossom and become the best version of ourselves that we can possibly become, to channel all our strengths, and not become somebody else, but become the best version of who we can be.
The goal is to be able to look yourself in the mirror and say, “Hey, not bad. Not bad at all. You did okay, kid.” That’s the goal, that’s your mission. If you keep your eye on that goal, that will influence thinking and daily decisions, both big and small. It’ll keep you moving forward.
Personal request: I hope you understand by now that if you have the zechus of being alive and well, you are here for a reason. A very important reason. You are an integral part of Hashem’s master plan. When you take your innate abilities and move powerfully towards actualizing them, you become the best version of you possible and the ripple effect that creates is immense.
I miss my son, and there is only one way I can see him soon: When you and I and everyone that understands their tremendous value pushes themselves to excel, we are fulfilling our tachlis and the tachlis of the world, and hasten the coming of Moshiach.
Just keeping moving veiter, it will all become clearer as you move along. I wish you much hatzlacha on your mission.