A life of service is a life well lived

“A life of service is a life well lived.” 

A mentor turned friend told me this when I joined the military. I enlisted in 2005 without much thought. Some of my friends looked down on my for enlisting. I didn’t care about that. But my friend told me that choosing a life of service is a worthy life to live. He has spent his life and his energy serving students and athletes all around the world. These weren’t just words to him. It was his lifestyle, too. 

My time in the military was short - just under two years. 

But my friend’s advice always stuck with me. It’s influenced my decisions since the military. I became a consultant. Which is a service-oriented industry. Or at least it should be. I became an educator, too. Even though higher education and academia is bloated, often a waste of time and can be detrimental, many (most?) educators have the same attitude of education as a service. 

If a life of service is a life well lived. What happens when you aren’t living a life of service? Is it a waste? 

Do accountants serve anyone? Or investment bankers? Or project managers? Or marketers? Actually, the marketer one is pretty obvious. Marketers suck the life out of everyone around them and ruin lives, people and quite possibly the world. 

So much of work is a waste. Even in my industry. The industry or professional services. We say we help clients. But we usually don’t. We make presentations and pitch books and Excel models. We make the things that don’t matter to anyone but we all agree the lie that its important. 

If the professional services industry struggles with actually serving others, I imagine most industries don’t stand a chance. Food service is one of the best. You feed people. How can there be more honorable work than feeding someone? The energy industry is up there, too. Say what you want about oil, gas and fossil fuels. Providing energy to the world is a noble calling. And many forms of education. Just not all higher education or 99% of online courses. 

The call to serve is within us all. Whether its from intelligent design, evolutionary genetics or something else. 

A life of service is a life well lived. 

How many things do I pay for actually serve me? How many things do I create, manage or design actually serve others? I might spend 1% of my time in the service of others. But that’s because - like everyone else - I’m wasting most of my time on things that just don’t matter. 

Is it possible to shift from an attitude of waste to an attitude of service? I think so. And I hope so. 

- Austin

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