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What Is The Tone Of Your Purpose?

June 9, 2010

On the quest to redeem your purpose it’s easy to be tempted by what’s hot and sexy. Who doesn’t want to be a best-selling author or a world-renowned rock star? Celebrity provides quite a platform for making a difference in the world. Just look at U2’s Bono, or Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life. But if the strategy to redeem your purpose is founded on fame and fortune, you have set yourself up for disappointment.

When I was 17 and just learning my chops on the guitar, appearance was paramount. My idols looked cool and played  beautiful instruments. It didn’t take much for me to buy into the lie that if my hair looked just right and I had a good-looking instrument, I’d be halfway to superstardom. I spent hours with a blow dryer every week and a summer’s wages on a Gibson Dove (the same guitar Elvis Presley used in his final years). I was a poser, as you can clearly see by my senior portrait.

About the same time this picture was taken I got a job as a stock boy in the local music store. My assigned duties included dusting and tuning the guitars on display. One day I picked out a Guild D-40 from among the used guitars. It was very plain in comparison to my Dove, and it had noticeable scratches from where the previous owner had gotten a little too aggressive with his pick. After dusting it off and adjusting the tuners I strummed a few chords to make sure it was in tune.

Omigosh. This is what a guitar is supposed to sound like!

Afraid someone else might discover this treasure, I emptied my bank account and put the Guild on layaway. Then I convinced an old girlfriend to loan me enough money to complete the purchase. (Yes, I paid her back!) I had discovered the importance of tone, the ultimate quest of every passionate guitarist. Google “tonequest” and you’ll see what I mean.

Since then I’ve lost most of my hair and bought, sold, and traded dozens of guitars, many of them worth far more, but the Guild remains my prized possession. None of my other guitars has a name, but this one almost demanded it. I named her Genevieve after my paternal grandmother. She has given me decades of enjoyment and entertained hundreds — no, thousands of listeners. Along the way, music has become a major factor in redeeming my purpose, and I have come to believe that purpose is the ultimate quest of every compassionate human being.

Purpose is personal; it’s unique. Like snowflakes (and guitars), no two are exactly alike. If you are struggling to discover your purpose, here are four questions and two activities that may help. It takes hard work, and there is no shortcut. Invest the time and resources it takes to find your purpose, the one with tone, the one that clicks and makes you exclaim, “Omigosh, this is what purpose is supposed to feel like!” Don’t wait for fame and fortune. You can make a difference right here, right now, one person and one day at a time.

What’s your tonequest? How does it help you redeem your purpose? Post a comment and let us know. Your story might be the trigger that nudges someone else along the way.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Dan permalink
    June 12, 2010 2:46 pm

    Thank you Richard for helping me to remember

    I spent too many years trying to live the lie, trying to look the part, play the part, and more importantly needing to feel the part. I spent a lifetime wondering, was I good enough? Would you like me? Afraid of Failure, and miserable in success. I was sure that if you knew what and who I really was you would surely cast me aside because I was a nothing, just trying to feel normal, just trying to fit in. The only purpose in my life was to survive and to feed my ego. The only way I could fend off the world was to feel like I was better than you. Contempt for those I thought were beneath me, and resentment for those I thought above me. I willingly gave up pieces of my soul to feed that beast. Yes, an egomaniac with an inferiority complex.

    I too am a guitar player or at least I was at one time, but music has always been at the center of my life and the phrase, “Tone of my purpose” really struck a chord. > Sorry 🙂 The tone of my life through those troubled years was at best tolerable. I would compare it to that of an old Silvertone guitar with rusty strings and just a little out of tune. It played, but not very well and not at all in harmony with the world. No matter how hard I tried I could find no beauty and my “tone” was harsh and selfish. But I kept strumming as hard I as could just trying to keep up, just trying to make being “Me” ok. Eventually after decades of pain and despair my life became unplayable, unlivable and I had to surrender.

    Today my world is like a vintage D-28, it rings out with sustain and beauty. It’s in tune anywhere you play it, all up and down the neck and it’s because I have purpose in my life today. The driving force that pulled me from that abyss is helping others and I have found a power greater than my self, God. I ask God each day how I can be of maximum service to Him and to my fellows. Today I no longer have to pray endlessly for the things I want; instead God gives me everything I need and more. My life today is more about giving than taking, more about humility than ego. If purpose is the ultimate quest of every compassionate human being, then service to others and compassion should be a purpose in all of our lives. There is nothing more fulfilling than helping another. My tonequest is to “Stand by the door” and extend a friendly hand to those that suffer. Through the grace of God, I would be a channel of His peace and pass on that gift of peace that was so freely given me.

    I still break strings from time to time and I still need to “tune” my life on a regular basis, but I don’t need to feel like I have fame and fortune anymore. It’s no longer all about me, but now it’s ok to be just – Me. I am living a life today that I never even knew I wanted and I’m very happy to do it, one day at a time.

    • June 12, 2010 3:08 pm

      Amen, Dan. Beyond that, words fail me. Thanks for reading and thanks especially for your heartfelt comment.

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