What is your purpose in life? I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. As a young man, I was mostly focused on getting through school. As I entered adulthood, my focus was on fulfilling my military service and getting started in life. Once I got married and started having children, my primary focus was on making money and providing for my family. These are all natural and typical American pursuits. Our family was very active in Church and we volunteered in the community, but if I’m honest our efforts in those areas were secondary to our other activities. My life’s path may be similar to yours. The first major “leap of faith” I took was starting my business twenty years ago. As I’ve shared previously, this was one way I attempted to bring together my goals of providing for my family and serving others in the local community.
Now that I’m in middle-age, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. Raising a family and running a business has been my life’s work so far, but what kind of legacy do I want to leave in the final third of my working years? Is it to make a certain amount of money? Is it to have a certain headcount of employees? Is it to win some kind of award? Is it to land a certain kind of client? As I think on these things, the following quote really resonates with me.
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'”
– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
If all goes according to plan, this article will come out on MLK Day, and many of you will have the day off from work. You may choose to spend the day at one of the many MLK Day celebrations. Perhaps you’re going to participate in some kind of community service event that honors the tradition of making this a day of service. Not everyone has the day off. It’s always seemed ironic that often times the people associated with a holiday are often the ones least likely to get the day off. As you look around the community, many businesses are still open. This is because they are open to serve their customers and because they need the money, particularly the employees. Please consider supporting those that have to work today.
During his lifetime Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a lot to say about a wide variety of subjects. Known primarily for his impact on civil rights and social justice, he also had quite a lot to say about work, professions, and community service. Here are some of my favorite MLK quotes related to work, purpose, and dignity:
- “All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”
- “So often we overlook the work and the significance of those who are not in professional jobs, of those who are not in the so-called big jobs. But let me say to you tonight, that whenever you are engaged in work that serves humanity and is for the building of humanity, it has dignity, and it has worth.”
- “Do you know that most of the poor people in our country are working every day? And they are making wages so low that they cannot begin to function in the mainstream of the economic life of our nation.”
- “We must rapidly begin the shift from a ‘thing-oriented’ society to a ‘person-oriented’ society.”
- “Set out to do a good job, irrespective of race, and do it so well that nobody could do it better.”
- “If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, like Shakespeare wrote poetry, like Beethoven composed music; sweep streets so well that all the host of Heaven and earth will have to pause and say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper, who did his job well.’”
- “Everybody can be great… because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
- “If you can’t fly then run. If you can’t run then walk. If you can’t walk then crawl. But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.”
- “The time is always right to do what is right.”
- “We need leaders not in love with money but in love with justice – not in love with publicity but in love with humanity.”
Those are some powerful quotes. Dr. King was such an eloquent speaker and writer that any commentary I would offer on the above wouldn’t do them justice. Let’s let those statements stand on their own merits. If you are a business leader in our community, take pause to reflect on Dr. King’s messages to us. If you are a worker, regardless of profession, do the same.
Indeed, Dr. King also said, “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.” Regardless of what your role is in our community, please take the time to consider life’s most persistent and urgent question.
In closing, I’ll add the following which Dr. King wrote from a Birmingham jail:
“We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
[Joe Domaleski, a Fayette County resident for 25 years, is the owner of Country Fried Creative – an award-winning digital marketing agency located in Peachtree City. His company was the Fayette Chamber’s 2021 Small Business of the Year. Joe is a husband, father of three grown children, and proud Army veteran. He has an MBA from Georgia State University and enjoys sharing his perspectives drawing from thirty years of business leadership experience. Sign up for the Country Fried Creative newsletter to get marketing and business articles directly in your inbox. ]