Friday, April 9

Finding Purpose: The Trouble With Labels


A Lynn University freshman, pursuing his bachelor's degree in psychology to help veterans transition to civilian life, is quickly becoming a role model in Florida. His purpose, to help reduce the suicide rate among returning servicemen and servicewomen, is only part of the reason.

Slotnick is 84.

I won't invest space on the back story. You can read about it here, here, and here. There is something else that can be learned by Slotnick all together.

Three Lessons To Learn From Slotnick.

1. Labels are meaningless. Slotnick could embrace any number of labels not to do it. He's retired. He worked for vacuum and lawn mowing businesses. He left college almost 60 years ago. He is a World War II purple heart veteran. And yet, none of these labels — whether spun up good or bad — hold Slotnick back while pursuing his degree. He's doing it, with a 3.4 grade point average that he hopes to raise to a 3.5.

2. People wear lenses. Part of it can be attributed to how our brains are wired. People put things in boxes, assign them labels, and see the world through any number of colored lenses. It helps us process information. And yet, most people are unaware that such cognitive conveniences are often wrong. It might convince them to devalue students. Guess at intentions. Or forget that potential equalizes everyone.

3. Purpose is important. We first learned about it detail late last year; 46.5 percent of of soldiers with PTS have suicidal thoughts and 33.5 percent have tried to commit suicide. Many accounts attribute it to the lack of debriefing that was once a necessity as transportation home took weeks and months. Much of it, it seems to me, has to do with lesson one and two. But perhaps even more so, it had to do with rediscovering purpose.

Andrew Weaver addresses how to escape it in his post 8 Ways to Escape the Cult of Mediocrity. Valeria Maltoni warns against it with her post Are You Getting Typecast? And, every now and again, students in my classes and interns at work hear about how the pursuit of potential can be a game changer not only in their lives, but in the lives of people around them.

It's all very simple, but incredibly difficult. Shred your labels. Recognize our lenses cast perception. Find purpose in what you do, even if what you do or enjoy doing doesn't seem as admirable as Slotnick's current endeavor. W. Somerset Maughan once suggested as much.

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