DAVID LALLY: Welcome to “The Brian Buffini Show” where we explore the mindsets, motivation and methodologies of success. I’m the producer David Lally and today we’ll hear the last episode in our six-part series, How to Love and Be Loved. In this episode, Brian and Joe Ehrmann look at how to find your transcendent cause, which Joe defines as making a difference in life beyond self-interest. You’ll learn how to discover your unique purpose and how you can live a life without regret, one that makes a lasting impact on the people you care about. Now here’s Brian and Joe with the conclusion of How to Love and Be Loved.
BRIAN BUFFINI: We come now to the grand climax of this entire series. We’ve learned how to understand ourselves. We’ve come to grips with the three wounds of love. We’ve learned how to develop empathy for ourselves and for others, and come in contact with the process of healing and ultimate with a purpose of healing. Then we’ve analyzed, how to experience full relationships in our lives? Now our opportunity is to find our transcendent cause to ultimately turn the wounds of the past, into our purpose for the future. Joe share with us, if you will, how we can begin the process of finding our transcending cause and ultimately finding our purpose and our passion.
JOE EHRMANN: Let me define transcendent cause. Transcending cause means going through this life, invested and involved in the world beyond your own personal goals wants and ambition. It’s really trying to look back over at the end of your life, knowing that you’ve made a difference in this world. All of us have been put here for some transcendent purpose. It’s the ground rent that you paid for being a human being on this earth. All of us have some responsibility at the end of our lives to be able to look back over and we know that we made a difference. That the world is a little better place because we’ve lived because we’ve loved and we’ve acted out of the cause or purpose that we’ve been put on this earth for.
How do you discover your own personal cause, your transcendent cause? I think the first thing you have to do is really look at the path that you’ve already traveled. I think the past of where you’ve come from with all the brokenness, with all the wounds, with all the challenges. It’s that path that’s going to take you to the future that help you discover your own transcendent cause.
BUFFINI: Yes. There’s no question that the person who’s come through drug addiction can be of great service to those who still struggle with that affliction. Those people who’ve been through a divorce can share with people who’ve been divorced. Those people who’ve struggled with overeating can share with those who continually do. There’s no question that we can use the wounds of our past to ultimately serve and help humanity and actually makes us more valuable. Doesn’t it?
EHRMANN: Yes Brian. In my own ministry and my role in the church, I’ve seen an awful lot of people take the pain and the trials and tribulations of their lives and turn it into something extremely powerful and meaningful to themselves and others. My tradition in the scriptures is the story of The Apostle Paul who had some thorn in the flesh, some wound that he cried out, and asked God to remove three different times. The verse in scripture says that God did not remove it because power is perfected in our weakness.
I would say that purpose is often birthed in our pain. It provides substance and meaning and values in our lives. When we touch the pain, when we enter into it, it often is the place that germinates where our purpose and our understanding about our role in position and ministry and giftedness to this world is.
BUFFINI: Powerful stuff. Many people listening to this series, I have been going through this process. They’ve maybe come to the realization they have wounds when they didn’t think they had any. They’ve realized now that they can enter into full relationships with people they love and people who are difficult, but they all have the same question, which is what’s my purpose. What is my purpose? I don’t know. Maybe I’m not supposed to save the world or save the whales or save the inner city. Do you have any ideas or suggestions for people on how can they discover their purpose?
EHRMANN: It flows out of this journey that we’ve been involved in. I don’t know what your purpose is, but you need to enter into the journey to discover your own purpose. I think the first thing you need to do in order to discover your own personal purpose is to be healthy to the core. It’s to process like we’ve talked about. Enter into those wounds, touch them, heal them, and then use them. We are the wounded healers in this world, which means we can offer our wounds to other wounded people and offer hope and healing to them. You have to be healthy in the core of who and what you are. Takes me back to my own journey in my own woundedness. As I shared at the beginning of the series, a turning point in my life was standing next to my brother’s grave. Next to that casket, looking out at the people and wondering what is the purpose of life? Where do you have meaning and value? I think my questions were really the questions to discover, what is my purpose in this world? I started to ask the questions who am I? I was more than just number 76 on the Baltimore Colts. What am I doing with my life? I knew it had to be more than just trying to satisfy my own ego or financial needs in this world.
What am I meant to do? What’s my purpose? Which led me to ask the questions of what am I good at? What am I really interested in? I’m standing there and I leave that funeral, and a man had called me up, that had understood about my own personal journey. I’d spent five months on a pediatric oncology floor. I’d witnessed not only the suffering and the pain and the eventual death of my own brother, but saw an awful lot of families and parents watching their young children die. I saw them in waiting room sharing each other’s hope and sharing each other’s victories and death as well. This man came to me and said, “Do you want to go make a difference? Do you want to figure out how to alleviate that?
What if we created some place where families could have rest? Some place where they could have an inexpensive place to stay. Some place that they could be closer to and support their children in their time of their greatest crisis.”
We entered into this journey and ended up creating a Ronald McDonald House. Ronald McDonald House that would later connect me to all kinds of ongoing pain and teach me about how to use the death of my brother to benefit others. That began this journey to discover what my own purpose was. Viktor Frankl in his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning” says there’s three ways to discover your own purpose. One of them is through suffering. I had certainly experienced suffering in my brother’s death. The other was doing a good deed. It’s an awareness about the pain and the suffering and doing something to alleviate that. The third thing Frankl said was, “Experience in a value.” Values often got our behaviors, experienced some kind of mercy or justice or relief to other people. We went and started to create this Ronald McDonald House, that was built on my suffering. I experienced the value of helping other people, and I was doing a good deed. I think the only thing I had to offer at that time was my name and reputation, but I started to learn, to live from the inside out.
I started this journey that we’ve been talking about to be healthy from the core. I started to discover that I was more than I had thought I was. I was more than just a football player. I was more than just a broken hurting man. I had opportunities and potentials in the capabilities to help other people in this world to find a transcendent cause. I think what my own path to becoming healthy to the core, it really was a path to my heart. I think every religion in the world deals with the question of what am I here to do? Frankl said, “Let life question you.” There’s this path to our true selves, to find significance and security and satisfaction, and self-worth in this world. You’ve got to be healthy to the core, and I feel like we spent a lot of time helping people on that journey.
BUFFINI: You bet.
EHRMANN: Once you understand how to relationally connect to people, to have empathy, you can connect to the pain and the problems and the opportunities to make a difference in this world.
BUFFINI: You bet.
ERHMANN: Then the next step to discovering your own unique purpose is to list all of your gifts, your interests, and your ability. I think that’s a matter of sitting down again in some kind of silence or with a journal. What is it that you feel you’re gifted at? Again, many of these gifts aren’t just skills and abilities, but they’re things that we’ve experienced, maybe our brokenness and the pain in our life. What is your gift to the world? What is the things that interest you? What do you read about? What do you study? What moves you when you watch the news, when you read the newspaper? What are the special unique abilities that you have? See all of us have some- universal purpose and I think philosophers have been trying to understand that for a long time. All of us have a universal purpose to make a difference in this world. I think the challenge is to discover your own unique ability and purpose in this world. You’ve got to be healthy to the core. You’ve got to understand your gifts, your interest, and abilities and then you’ve got to learn what moves you. What is it that fills you with passion in this world? What makes do you want to pay special attention to something to really move out into it? What gives you some energy, some fuel beyond what your vocation or what your own personal experience are about?
BUFFINI: It’s interesting you bring up Victor Frankl, Joe, because in reading “Man’s Search for Meaning,” many people may not have read the book or come in contact with the information. It was a powerful book. Transformational book for me. Victor Frankl was a doctor in Germany who was Jewish, who was incarcerated in these war camps. In over an extended period of time, he noticed this one pattern that happened over and over again when these trains would pull in with prisoners. Some of these prisoners had been just pulled off the street and were healthy and strong.
Some of them were people who’ve been in several camps, who were emaciated, who were malnourished, who looked like walking cadavers as he described them. Consistently, this pattern repeated itself where the healthy person out of one thing and another would through stress and pressure, and the malnourishment of the camp would die. The person who came weak and malnourished and the walking cadaver would survive. Over and over and over, he saw the sick and the emaciated person outliving the people who were healthy. He started interviewing them and asked them questions.
Consistently this pattern showed up that every one of these people had a reason, a purpose, or is what you would say a transcendent cause. They had a reason to live. Some of them had a family member they just had to see again. Some of them had work that they needed to complete, a book that they were working on, a symphony that they hadn’t finished. There was something that really meant something to him and it caused Frankl to write in his propositional statement of his book. He quoted Nietzsche by saying, “If a man has a strong enough why he can endure anyhow.”
Translated into our content here today. It’s ultimately if you have a strong enough purpose or your transcendent cause is real enough to you. You will endure any how, you’ll persevere and push through. It doesn’t matter how long it takes or how much work or effort or what the cost is. You’ll persevere and you’ll have the joy of pursuing your passion and your purpose.
EHRMANN: You will impact the world as a result of that. Frankl started this whole school of psychology to find meaning or purpose out of suffering in this world. I think for some of us that have suffering, that works. For others, as I said, it’s just some interest or special skill or ability that you have to discover a purpose in this world. I think the third thing you can do is just really take time to find out what impassions you, what gives you energy, what move you out of that couch, what moves you in novels or in newspaper or in television show. What is it that inflames you when you see something going on in the world that makes you want to touch it and bring hope or some help to it?
Then I think the fourth thing in discovering your purpose really goes back to these spiritual disciplines we’ve been talking about. Silence, solitude, journaling. I think you’ve got to just sit and listen. I think all of us have crowded day-timers and calendars. All of us have some crowd in our life, demanding some of our attention. All of us have people connected to us that have an agenda for our lives. What our challenges is, is to find out our own unique purpose and cause in this world. I think that’s a matter of just sitting– I can’t tell you yours, Brian. You have to discover that yourselves.
BUFFINI: What we do know is that the path that I’ve personally traveled has a whole bunch of clues to my future in regards to my purpose and my cause. What we also know is that the wounds and the processes of becoming more healthy are the tools in which I can use for that cause and that purpose. Then what we also know is that there’s natural gifts and abilities that I have. That I’m designed and I’m wired to do certain things and that there’s also things that move me. There are situations that create in me a fire of passion. That’s a tuning fork going off inside me and then when I put my shoulder behind those things. I feel a great sense of purpose.
EHRMANN: One of the dangers in discovering purpose is sometimes we always look at the heroic. Often, it’s the humdrum things in life that make a difference. I think if you have an accounting skill to go work with a non-profit. If you’re a lawyer to do some pro bono work. It’s taking what you have. It’s not always written about and it’s not always the big stories of Mother Teresa and other famous people, but it’s the people in this world that are taking their skills and abilities and giving them in helping people. That’s how you change the world.
BUFFINI: Powerful, one person at a time. One of the things I want to bring up Joe at this time is in helping people become successful in all areas of their life as we do in our coaching program. One of the things I have seen is that people have a tendency to get out of sequence and that we have a desire to do the significant work. The significance and purpose is intoxicating. Finding a transcendent cause. I don’t think there’s anybody who wouldn’t get excited by that. You can’t run away and join the circus just yet.
We’ve met people who have a desire to do all this great charity work and all this great transcendent cause work and yet they’re not taking care of their family. Their businesses are not properly functioning. They’re not taking care of a little to be given much, so there is a sequence. There’s also a time in life, for example, the person who brings home a couple of kids, and they’ve got young children and they’re just trying to get things going. You can develop on the scale. It doesn’t have to be, “Hey when I retire I’ll go do this.”
You can be doing stuff all along but you can’t be as fully devoted to it. There’re seasons in life. Isn’t there? There’s times when it’s your cause you can be involved and then there’s times when you can be totally devoted.
EHRMANN: Yes, and you have to differentiate in different stages of life. There are times when you’re a young mom, home raising your kids. There’s not a more important transcendent cause of doing that at that point. There are other times when you can get out of the house and go do different things, but you’re exactly right to the sequence there. It’s not the heroic. Is there anything more valuable or a greater purpose than to love the people that you’re connected to, to help them become what they’re capable of being? That’s a cause. That’s a purpose. It’s others centered. That’s other focused and it impacts the world one person at a time to make a difference.
BUFFINI: Maybe somebody is trying to send a cause after listening is writing that letter to the family member they haven’t been in contact with. Is maybe writing that note, maybe reaching out, maybe having that family get together, extending to that ex-spouse that maybe there’s been a lot of difficulty with. Maybe asking forgiveness, maybe trying to create peace and harmony with people they’ve had relationships with in the past that at this juncture, that’s a transcendent cause.
ERHMANN: What we talked about in the circle and square exercise that person that affirmed you, go encourage them to keep affirming other people. Just don’t think heroic. It’s not Mother Teresa and it’s not– Those are wonderful things but there’s something that organic out of the lives and we’ve live every day.
BUFFINI: If the heroic develops and comes out of what you’re doing, so be it. That’s what you’ve been called to.
EHRMANN: That’s exactly right and that’s transcendent.
BUFFINI: Ultimately Joe, what you’ve talked to me about many times is the process of legacy. When you talk about legacy and you talk about transcendent cause, ultimately what’s a great word picture for us on that?
EHRMANN: Brian, I think it all boils down to one simple question is how do you want to be remembered? What do you want to leave on this earth that you’ve deposited that will continue on after you’re gone? One of the things we do with our high school football team is we have all the seniors write their obituaries. What is it that they want to be remembered for? What’s there legacy going to be? It flows out of a year-long or a seasonal long teaching about relationships and discovering your cause.
Some of the same stuff we’ve been talking about in this series, but we have the young men take journals and you were gracious enough to give every kid on our team a journal but to be able to sit and reflect and write an obituary as a 17 and 18-year-old boy thinking about something that’s bigger than who and what you are. These young men will get up and inevitably they will write about that they want to be remembered because they were great dads, because they loved and were committed to their children.
They want to be remembered because they were tremendous husbands. They were devoted to their wives. They were trustworthy. When they said they would do something, they did it. They took responsibility and they lived out of the commitment that they made. Then they talk about their own cause. They talk about educational inequality and anti-Semitism and racism in this world. They talk about how to make a difference and devote some of their resources. What ultimately they learn as high school kids is that what you want to do is get the best education possible in high school so that you can go to the best university, so you can go make the most amount of money or find the job that most satisfies you in life so that you can position yourself to take care of your family and to go make a difference in this world. It’s a wonderful exercise. Think about, of every 18-year-old person in this world understood that they’re living from day one, from this point in time, to leave some transcendent cause. To lead some purpose or meaning behind them.
EHRMANN: One time a friend of mine, we were in a cemetery down in Charleston, South Carolina. There was a cemetery that was just filled with all of these Revolutionary War generals and old plantation owners and they had these old wonderful mausoleums above ground. They had these long obituaries if you will engraved in the stone.
They talked about some of these generals that they were devoted husbands, they talked about being merciful slave owners, they talk about members of the community. We’re walking through and you’d come across a grave that would say, “Sit young man and behold a man that lived and made a difference.” We’re walking through this cemetery and suddenly we come across one tombstone. It would hit us because the name of the person was James Gillman and Gillman happens to be where both of us were from and both of us coach. Out of all these tombstones, his wrote, “James Gillman” It had the year that he died and then it had the year that he graduated from Harvard University. As though that was the summation of a life worth living the fact that he had some kind of status based on some kind of graduation.
BUFFINI: His legacy was a boast on his tombstone.
EHRMANN: A boast on his tombstone that was separated from relationships and from a cause. We went back and shared that story and to this day every kid on our team for year after year knows the story of Jimmy Gillman, who thought that the essence of life was having some kind of credentials or some kind of power position in society.
BUFFINI: It’s like the mafioso who was buried in Chicago. He had a fancy car and they dress him up in his finest suit and he had $20 bills stuffed into the hands and they were taped to the steering wheel. They buried him in his car. As the car was being put in the ground, one of his henchmen turns was buddy and goes, “Man, that’s really living.” It’s so easy, but as we’re struggling through day to day and we’re bringing kids to carpool, we’re returning cell phone calls, we’re balancing checkbooks and we’re getting our health insurance. We’re going to the dentist and we’re doing our email and sorting through our regular mail. It’s difficult oftentimes to think about our transcendent cause, but when you have a purpose, it’s a passion that burns like a fire in your heart, isn’t it?
EHRMANN: It is. Again, it can be just a matter of helping some other mom in carpool. Helping when a sick baby is there being known as the person in your neighborhood or community that you can depend on that’s always there. I think it’s making a phone call when somebody has lost their job or their company got downsized. It’s being there and talking to people.
I think Brian, at the end of the day, you have to know that you made a difference in this world. My role as Pastor, I do an awful lot of funerals. I’ll get called to come and to preach that funeral and to sit with the family. The hardest funeral in the world to do is someone that did not lead a meaningful life. Someone that didn’t have the relationship and the strength of that. Someone that didn’t make a difference. You end up in that funeral talking about very generic terms. The opposite of that, the walk into a person that lived a life with meaning and value. That’s filled with relationships and a cause. That’s the easiest funeral in the world to do.
BUFFINI: You know what? Those funerals are always packed out the door with people, aren’t they?
EHRMANN: They’re packed out the door and there’s a celebration about a life live, not just the passing on of someone in death, but the celebration. Boy to celebrate a life. What do you need to have a life that’s celebrated? You need to be relationally successful. What do you need to celebrate a life is to know that they made a difference and all in those pews are people that have been touched, moved and motivated because you’ve been a model of a transcendent cause.
BUFFINI: I can validate your point here in a very powerful way. A man who’s lived by history standard, a very significant life is a man named Neil Armstrong. Here’s our generation’s Christopher Columbus. I had the privilege of interviewing him in front of 5000 of our clients attending a mastermind event, we had a chance to really have this profound interview was just tremendous. Then we had questions from the audience. The last question we took that day was somebody who asked him about his legacy. What did he think his legacy was going to be and what was the most important things in his life in regards to what his contribution was?
What’s fascinating is that he didn’t say anything about space. He didn’t say anything about his career. He didn’t say anything about flying, which was his passion in his work life. He basically said, “My family and the opportunity to leave the world a little better than what I found it.” Which is the culmination of everything we’ve been talking about in this series. Here’s a man who’s considered significant in the annals of history, and will be remembered 3,4, and 500 years from today but his definition of cause and purpose and a life well-lived, was his family, and to leave the world a little better than what he found it. I believe that validates what you’re saying as much as anything.
EHRMANN: Absolutely, Brian. I think the impact that Neil Armstrong will always be remembered for by those people that were moved and motivated by him was the people that he touched, the purpose that he lived out of. Let me take you back to that circle and square exercise that we did at the beginning. If you remember, we asked people to draw a circle and write the initials of people that had affirmed them. People that had give them some vision for who and what they are, people that had touched them in a very positive way, that had modeled, if you will, what it means to be a human relationally successful in a course.
Then we ask people to draw a square, we ask them to put the initials in of the names of people that didn’t model them, that hurt or shamed them. That led little meaningless lives in this world. I think the question for each and every one of us is how many circles that we want to be in, in the lives of other people in this world. Circles that we’re going to be in because we lived and because we loved. We were other-centered other focus, touching people’s soul and the essence of who and what they are, and we model of how to live a meaningful life to each and every one of them. Life is about relationships. Life is about a cause. You need to live out the fullness of each and every day. The question is do you want to be in people circles? How many circles do you want to be in or do you ever want to be in someone’s square?
BUFFINI: I know what my answer is Joe. I want to be in as many circles as I can. I believe the folks listening to this program are in the exact same place. What I’d like the folks who are listening right now to do is imagine the outline of this program. I want you to visualize an infinity symbol, take a number eight and turn it sideways and squeeze it in a little bit. I want you to recognize that what we’ve been talking about here is in understanding yourself is the beginning. Understanding those wounds, and the hurts of the past those life patterns that have been developed as a result of it.
Then recognizing what the wounds of love are, and how they can impact you. Then it translates into the middle of the infinity symbol with developing empathy for self and others. Then we round the corner and we understand the process of healing and the purpose of healing. Then it rounds again and comes back to the center when we get to experience full relationships. Then ultimately, we help to find our transcendent cause, which feeds back into understanding ourselves even more. The fact of the matter is, this process you’ve been going through in this course, is designed to feed upon itself.
It’s designed to build upon itself. It’s a process that many, many years from now you can come back to this course again and again and again, and take another deeper cut at it. That it can impact you at a deeper level. You can understand again, like Joe has been going through this process for over 20 years now, and has seen some of his own hurts appear at the most inopportune times. Just when he thought he was finished another one of these hurts appears. Another one these wounds appears, and it’s ultimately an opportunity to receive healing, to become healthy to develop empathy for himself and others. To experience that fuller relationships that he’s capable of, and then to fuel his transcend cause even further. I believe that this course can make a profound impact on your life. I would encourage you to keep your journals, keep them in one place, and over the years go back and reference what you’ve written, reference your journey, and reference your progress. I believe what you’ll find, is that you’ll learn how to love and be loved in a very profound way. I believe you’re going to learn how to turn the wounds of your past into the purpose of your future and ultimately teach other people how to do the same [music]
LALLY: Well you just completed our last episode of our bonus series “How to Love and Be Loved.” We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did and as we sign off today I’ll leave you with Brian’s mum Therese for a little Irish blessing.
THERESE BUFFINI: May the road rise up to meet you, and may the wind always be at your back, may the rain fall soft upon your fields and the sun shine warm upon your face, and until we meet again, may God hold you in the hollow of His hand, see you next time.