How to Know, Live and Love Your Purpose (Part 1 of 4)

Is this really happening? I am way too young to be filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy. 

It was November 2002 in Columbus, Ohio. I was in Bankruptcy Court sitting next to my attorney in front of a trustee to admit that I was financially insolvent.  

I had no money, no assets and very little hope. It didn’t seem I had a purpose, either. I could not bear the weight of the all the debt, all the creditors calling and the frustration and futility of not living out life the way I imagined.

Have you ever been bankrupt? Do you think your bankrupt today? Maybe you have knocked on the doors of some bankruptcy attorneys recently. 

Bankruptcy didn’t just happen for me out of the blue. It was a result of bad choices that were beyond how I managed my money.

A Debt Attitude

As a teenager, my parents attempted to teach me how to be wise and to be diligent with money, but I didn’t listen. In the autumn of 1995, after graduating high school, I moved out of the house to attend The Ohio State University. I was eighteen years old.

A few semesters into my freshman year at Ohio State, I was lost in the wilderness of debt. After graduating, I had a well-rounded portfolio of consumer debt that included Visa, MasterCard and Discover credit cards, store credit cards and I even had an American Express charge. Of course, I had student the loan debt.

I got a job with a dot-com startup company before I even graduated. My $27,000 salary was something to be excited about. However, I owed almost $30,000 with all of my debts. I was upside-down in my balance sheet and my negative equity position showed me as a financial failure; however, I believe I was still able to add some bank loans to my debt portfolio. Unbelievable! 

I told myself over-and-over:

  • Debt is normal
  • Suck it up and deal with it.
  • I am good-looking, likable, college-educated and I am going to be successful eventually. I will take care of all of the debt then.
  • That’s that. Final word. Next! 

Lack of Understanding

That attitude was fine until I found myself out of a job and wandering around adulthood aimlessly. I wanted to be successful but I didn’t understand what it took. I wanted what “success” would provide yet I wasn’t willing to sacrifice for it.

A few years of wandering followed from job-to-job and company-to-company. At the age of twenty-five, when for many life was starting to take off, my dream plane seemed to be forever grounded. My life was a “Chicken Little meets the Falling Sky” drama. Like some of us, I decided to run from my troubles.

Run, Chicken Little, Run!

In February of 2003, only a few months after my Bankruptcy Court hearing in Columbus, Ohio, I embarked on a journey to Florida. I decided to trade my issues for some fun in the sun where I would continue my career in the wine and spirits industry. So, I scraped up some money, sold some stuff, recruited some moving help and hauled my gear in a U-haul and a $2,000 car for the move. 

A new hope came along with a new title, new boss and teammates in a new city. My pay was increased and my situation was about to change or so I thought. After a bit of time in the sunshine state, I realized my personal rain clouds had followed me. I learned that my baggage had followed me and that the recent financial bankruptcy was not the only suitcase. The move to Florida taught me that I was spiritually and emotionally bankrupt, too. The size that would not fit in the overhead compartment.

Broken and Busted

In retrospect, my financial decision-making not only drained my bank account but my personal self-worth. My spiritual and emotional account balances were also in the negative. I was a full-on, 360 degree wreck.

I made choices to build my life on a foundation of sand on a slippery slope. My life plan was based on “making money” and spending it even quicker. I ignored my spiritual and emotional health and lived my early life with a broken and distorted compass. I did not know my life purpose or if I even had one.

Together By Myself 

My relationships were surface-level. I did not want to discuss my situation with my parents or others who cared about me. I listened to advice from anyone who would offer at the work water cooler or at happy hour.

Although I believed in a God, we didn’t have a relationship. I dabbled in learning about life skills, success principles, purpose, the meaning of life, etc, but didn’t land on much. My choices were based on what felt good and what I deemed best for me at the time. Consequently, I had no respect for authority.

I didn’t want to rely on anyone and I didn’t want to be reliable. For me, caring for someone was about what they could do for me. I lived my life by the “seat of my pants”. As a result, when I felt like doing something, I did it and when I didn’t feel like doing something, I didn’t. I thought life would work out how I wanted it just because I thought it should.

I wanted people to leave me alone. But really, I was hiding. 

Photo by Vincent Guth on Unsplash

I was embarrassed and ashamed of who I was and fearful of who I was becoming. I didn’t want anyone to know my personal struggles and failures. As a result. my life lacked peace.

To sum it up, I was faking it, but I wasn’t making it. 

My paradigm of seclusion was the way to protect myself from the pain of the choices that I had made. 

In the song, “Walls”, Tom Petty wrote, 


“All around your island
There’s a barricade
That keeps out the danger
That holds in the pain”

That was me. Searching within the barricade, within the wall of mistakes that I built for myself.

I was searching, but didn’t realize it.

Your Turn

Take 3-5 minutes and write out a few sentences or bullet points to this question:   

I believe my purpose in life is…

This is a question that only we can answer. When I began working on questions like this one, my life began to change.

Dig deep in your soul searching. If you are a person of faith, seek God in your quiet time. Gain trustworthy counsel from people you trust. It is this “grinding it out” that will get you your answer.

Writing out the answer to this question starts (or possibly continues) a dialogue that will help you know your purpose!  


Be on the lookout for the next post in the series
Part 2: How do I know my purpose?


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Do you Know it Yet?

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