“Stop day-dreaming Cooper; you’ve drifted five degrees off course!” The voice of Roger Sears, my first flight instructor: “What would you do if some clouds had sneaked in and you could no longer see those railroad tracks. We would soon be over New Hampshire, and that’s not where we’re supposed to be heading today!” He was right once again. I loved flying and was absorbed by everything; everything but my instruments. Overcoming the problem plaguing me at age 22 in a yellow Piper Cub is still a work in progress as a white-haired octogenarian trying to concentrate on the daily priorities of an admittedly multi-faceted life (of my own choosing.)
I long ago determined that to be successful in my desire to be an effective communicator, motivator and teacher, I must balance my professional time and effort between research, reading, thinking and writing, while dividing my focus between radio and print media – both of which have deadlines, and each the need to call upon unique delivery styles. Above all, I must continue to nurture a 61 year marriage and three generations of family units with their own respective variables. Add to that my commitment to the concept of lifetime learning and my fascination with a wide range of subject matter in my learning “bucket”, further complicated by my determination not to lose sight of anything in that sometimes-intimidating list, and the dimension of my self-imposed challenge becomes clear. (And I must keep a watch on my “instruments” – blood pressure, exercise, diet, blood-sugars cholesterol, etc.etc;) and on that compass!
As with almost everything of importance, there is a hierarchy of priorities; a structure which can be illustrated in the shape of a pyramid, with the goal(s) written at the top and the intervening steps and requirements assembled from the base up. And there is one more component. I must not lose sight of who I am and a sense of progression toward the realization of my highest ideals.
The Japanese have an interesting word for that metaphorical sense of one’s mission in life: it is Aikigai (pronounced eekee guy) and is literally translated as “the reason I awake each morning”. To the Japanese however, it is a concept which contemplates a profound level of self-awareness and the recognition of one’s gifts and talents it often takes years of living for one to discover. It describes a life lived purposefully and with reason, with a resolve to use those personal gifts to serve others. In the easy chair from which I look out into the birth of each new day I need only turn my head 45 degrees to face a small reminder card containing those four Japanese characters, while on the wall I face at my writing desk, an even larger reproduction hangs to help me stay on course.
It is a singular and humbling honor to know that there is a host of wonderful people who are a loyal audience to my voice, on the air, in person, in news print, and on a digital blog page which is read in 16 countries as well as many who just consider me a friend.
I owe all these people – known and unknown – the best I am capable of sharing; true stories from life, well told and carefully crafted not just from microphone, keyboard and brain, but with elements of my heart still clinging to every underlying message. That is my Aikigai : the reason for which I rise each morning.