“How would you describe the happy ending for your life? Relate it back to your top 10 movies,” Bryan said. I thought about the ending to A Few Good Men and said, “I don’t think there is a happy ending in life. The happy ending happens every day through life’s struggle and challenge.
“Lt. Daniel Kaffee, Tom Cruise, ends the film as a more mature and effective litigator. He stepped out of his famous father’s shadow and is now ready to be his own man. Not a happy ending, but rather a new beginning.”
REEL Life Insights
I was being interviewed by Bryan Coley, founder and CEO of REEL. He believes movies are creative efforts instituted by God to speak to us about who we are. His company uses film to create unique small group experiences. Here profound personal truths are discovered by each participant.
When Bryan first made this claim to me, I thought he was a little nuts. To say I was skeptical is an understatement. But Kathy and I attended one of his REEL sessions as a Friday date night. What we learned about each other and our marriage through our favorite movies was amazing.
At the end of each of my favorite movies, the main character succeeds at his challenge and grows. He moves to a new challenge. The viewer is left with the questions: Where next? And how will it be done?
In other words, there is no happy ending. No continuation of bliss and fulfillment. Life doesn’t end. It goes on as a new beginning with a new challenge.
Challenges Change Who We Are
If each stage of my life were a movie and I were the main character, it would look like this. I wanted something and had my way of going about achieving it. Then, I was challenged by others, learning more about me and relationships as a result. Finally, I moved on as a changed man.
In my last two corporate jobs, everything I did was focused on the money—hitting the profit plan for the business I was running, achieving my bonus and adding to my reputation as CEO. There seemed to be no higher purpose to it all. I remember thinking, “So this is my life. Get next year’s profit plan approved, work hard to achieve it, and then do it again and again until retirement. Great career. Really?”
When I left corporate life, I was in search of the deeper meaning of work. I read books on the subject, attended seminars and sought counsel. The message was always the same. The focus of work should be about practicing my values to become a better me and influencing others to do the same.
Finding the True Meaning of Life
Then came the big realization. My highest values were my marriage and my children, and they were being taken for granted. I faced up to behaviors which were feeding the problem. I was an alcoholic and workaholic. This led me to AA and eventually to a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
By giving up on me and submitting to Christ, I realized my deeper meaning was to serve others and not myself. From that point on, it wasn’t about me but God, and He is all about serving others. He died so I might be given life to the fullest. I was now on God’s purpose and not my purpose.
New Purpose Creates New Challenges
The new me was on to a new challenge. How do I practice this new found meaning? This led me to stop pursuing being a CEO and instead become an angel investor to startup entrepreneurs. I was to help experienced managers, like me, achieve their dream of starting and owning their own company.
The challenge included learning a new occupation, investor. A new way to lead, servant-leadership. A new way to make money and support my family, the work of the entrepreneurs’ hands and not mine. Lots of learning. Lots of trust. Lots of growth.
As I look back over the last 20 years, I realize the happy ending moment occurs in the day-to-day challenge to be the man God created me to be while serving my family and serving entrepreneurs.
The challenge: Trust in God, not Charlie. It sounds simple, but it was a challenge. God came through. I’ve been sober for 23 years, and I am no longer a workaholic.
God brought me through the challenge. And each day I met the challenge was another happy ending. Now I am 63. Again I have new challenges. But I am confident, with God’s help, the happy endings will continue.
Also published on Medium.