I’m currently reading The Heart and the Fist by Eric Greitens and although I’m only halfway through the book, the author is fast becoming one of my role models. His perspective on what it means to live a meaningful, purposeful life is new to me and I find that his perspective has made me look at my past and future through new eyes.
I relate to Greitens on a humanitarian level because both of our educational backgrounds and volunteer experiences are related to human rights issues. We both have worked in impoverished communities and visited areas affected by genocide; we both feel that a life of public service adds purpose and meaning to it. Although Greitens is certainly more well-traveled in this arena, I think we also agree that a life of public service, albeit rewarding, does not treat the root cause of any social issue whether it be genocide, poverty, or public health. Oftentimes, our approaches to societal issues are merely band-aids.
In his book, Greitens argues that to create meaningful change in any society, you have to be both compassionate and strong. When I first began reading this book, I assumed Greitens referenced “strong” in terms of one’s willingness to use military force to protect a country or group of people facing an extreme hardship. The more I read, though, I actually don’t think that is what he’s trying to say at all. I think what he means is that to create meaningful change we have to use our pain and suffering and turn it into strength and wisdom. We have to use our experiences and insight to develop innovative ways of addressing those root causes; we cannot just put a band-aid over the issue and keep expecting change.
Perhaps the most inspiring thing to come out of Greiten’s realization is the fact that he started his own social innovation project called The Mission Continues. As I dive deeper into this book and begin researching social innovation projects around the country, I feel like I’ve finally found a bit of concrete direction in moving forward with one of my long-term goals: starting my own non-profit organization. When I look at what my future holds, I get so giddy!