Do you want to make a difference?
Do you want it to matter that you lived? If your answer is yes, we have something in common: we both want a high-impact life that will make the world a better place.
You probably won’t follow my path to a high-impact life. I went from business success . . . all the way to prison – for a good reason. Our paths may be different, but the principles to having great impact are the same.
This journey started for me twenty-five years ago when I turned forty. That milestone caused me to sit up and take a little extra notice of where I was in life. As I pondered my lack of satisfaction with what I had achieved, I came to the realization that I had spent virtually all my first forty years chasing the elusive American dream: success defined by personal accomplishment, social standing, and financial security. And although the number of zeroes in my accounts did not reach the dizzying heights of some, I achieved enough success to discover that the dream could not deliver the satisfaction I wanted. Not then, not ever.
And so began my pursuit of a more satisfying life. I soon discovered that although my work itself created some level of fulfillment, the results of my work – personal accomplishment, social standing, and financial security – were not very satisfying. The journey was more rewarding than the destination.
For the first time in my life I began to ask those uncomfortable, penetrating questions. What’s my purpose? What am I passionate about? What’s my calling? And that all-encompassing question: Why do I exist?
Over the next several months, I experienced a mixture of mental, emotional, and spiritual turmoil, punctuated with a few aha moments. I spent intentional time alone in personal reflection, time with God in prayer, and time with mentors in concerted conversation. What I found was the clarity my life had been lacking. Beliefs and ideas that I had vaguely acknowledged began to become clear, solidifying in my mind.
All this led me to one clear and unequivocal conclusion – my purpose in life was not to live for myself but to live for something greater. That simple commitment changed my life. I told God that from that day forward I would strive to live like a steward and not an owner. Everything I had would be considered His and I would steward it as faithfully as I could.
For the next ten years I strove to be the best steward I could be. But for all my good intentions, I could not escape slipping back into my old ways of living. Although I had moved from creating wealth for myself to creating wealth for God’s kingdom, it was still about me and what I was creating. I measured my self-worth by my net worth. I measured my standing in God’s sight by the amount of financial assets I could contribute to His work. I had become satisfied and prideful of what I was doing for God.
At the age of fifty, I faced another life changing moment: 9/11. After the attacks of September 11, 2001, our businesses went into a precipitous downturn. Sales declined. Profits became losses. Cash evaporated. Financial generosity disappeared. Hope turned to disillusionment. And once again I questioned the meaning of life. I questioned the sovereignty of God. I can remember those early mornings when I repeatedly asked, “Lord, don’t You understand all the good things I have done for You? Don’t You understand how generous I have been to You?”
After another intense time of introspection, the answer came back loud and clear. “Pete, I don’t want your money, I want you.” You see, ten years earlier when I had committed to be a steward instead of an owner, my head and my heart were sincere. But over time, my pride and my desire to control crept back in. I had simply replaced the pride of profits with the pride of generosity.
Although my heart wanted to replace the desire for success with the commitment to live a surrendered life, over time I wound up in the mushy middle: one foot in the world of success and the other in the kingdom of surrender. As a result, I coexisted in the lukewarm world of what I call “satisfied significance.” I was neither hot nor cold. I had become satisfied. I assuaged my worldly pride with kingdom generosity, but in the end it was still about me. Through this struggle, God helped me learn another life lesson:the attainment of a high-impact life is not a destination but a journey. It’s not about a six-month exercise that results in becoming a better person. It’s about a day-to-day, lifelong journey that is not just a commitment to do better but to be better. It is a striving to know God on a personal, surrendered, sacrificial level. And it’s a journey that will not end until the day we meet our Creator, face to face.
Ten years earlier I had learned that living for me was not as satisfying as living for something greater than myself. I had been great at doing but I had failed to be the man God wanted me to be. The problem was that God didn’t just want my head and my hands; He wanted my heart. He wanted me to become a son with a deep personal relationship with Him built on faith and trust.
With this new heart change and renewed passion, I began to make changes in the way I lived my life. The greatest change came in how I viewed my business. I had always considered my business as a tool to create financial assets that I could use personally or invest to further God’s purposes in the world. It was a transactional enterprise, managed with the intent of creating economic capital. As I began to experience personal transformation, as my worldview shifted from living for me to living for something greater, I began to see our business not just as an economic engine but as a platform to impact people in ways far beyond the reach of financial wealth.
While I was going through this personal transformation, we were presented with a business opportunity that would change my life. This opportunity meant moving part of our manufacturing operations behind the walls of a maximum-security prison. As crazy as it sounded, we decided to pursue this venture because we were having difficulty hiring enough manufacturing labor for a rapidly expanding business. Full disclosure: this move was initially made for purely financial reasons. Here was a work force that was ready made, would work hard, and would show up on time every day! But I soon learned that God moved us to this prison environment for much more than a steady labor supply; He was about to teach me how to live out my faith in the marketplace.
Behind these prison walls I found a group of men who had been stripped of everything you and I would consider essential. They had lost their freedom to work, which destroyed their ability to provide financially for themselves and their families. They had lost their dignity and the self-worth that comes from working hard for a day’s pay. They had lost their freedom to live and contribute alongside their fellow man for the purpose of promoting the common good. And many of them had come to the place where they had lost their way morally. Their lack of an overarching purpose in life resulted in no moral code by which to determine right from wrong. They were living in a state of economic, social, and spiritual poverty.
As I came to understand this dilemma, it convicted me to become a person who would make a difference. By spending time with these men, I realized that they were not much different from you and me. They had been publicly stripped of all their pride, pleasure, and possessions; but their hopes and dreams were the same as ours. They had lost the things that can allow you and me to hide from dealing with the important questions in life. They were broken and open and honest.
And so we set out on a grand journey, a great experiment to see if we could create holistic wealth from economic, social, and spiritual poverty. We sought nothing less than to create human flourishing in a desert that required us to invest our excess economic, social, and spiritual wealth in the needs of those less fortunate.
I’ve spent the last ten years of my life walking with these men, and it has changed me profoundly. Through them I am finally learning not only to do but to be. I am experiencing what it means to love the Lord with my head, my heart, and my hands, and to love my neighbor as myself. And I am beginning to understand the power and enjoyment of loving my purpose, living with passion, and leveraging my platform.
As I began to dig deeper into this trilogy of Purpose, Passion, and Platform, I began to display graphically what God was teaching me. I invite you to join me in a transformative journey that follows our Values Map graphic.
The graphic incorporates three triangles. I define the black “Honor God” triangle in the center as our Purpose in life. The three surrounding triangles labeled Serve People, Pursue Excellence, and Steward Resources, represent our Passions in life. And the large surrounding triangle representing our Platform in life bears the words Economic, Social, and Spiritual.
Over the next few chapters we will begin to unpack the lessons God has been teaching me. My prayer is that this journey will encourage and challenge each of us to create a world of human flourishing by loving our purpose, living with passion, and leveraging our platform.
Welcome to the journey.