I still remember how I felt when I was standing at the airport in Frankfurt.
It was a cold winter day and I was 14 hours away from my destination. I was about to travel to the capital city of the Philippines. I have never been there, but some inner voice told me that this city is the therapy that I needed so bad.
Back then every psychotherapist would have diagnosed a moderate form of depression with irregular panic attacks by simply looking at me. I was miserable. I was completely miserable, but I knew that this wasn’t a normal depression and I also knew that I didn’t need a psychotherapist.
There was just one thing that I needed and I needed it more than anything else. I needed purpose. To be honest, I didn’t need purpose. I already knew what my purpose was. My heart and my gut told me that I have to fulfill my purpose. What I didn’t have was the courage to live my purpose.
My inability to follow my heart left me miserable. My depression was the direct result of living a life that I didn’t want to live. Waking up and commuting to a job that had absolutely nothing to do with my passion was killing me. Looking into the dead eyes of the other people in the tram who chose the same destiny reminded me of my own misery.
Yes, I and all the other zombies in the tram made a choice. Destiny is not something that magically appears out of nowhere. It is something we choose and back then I made the same choice that the majority of people make.
I chose to not listen to my heart. I chose to not live my purpose.
Thank God I became so miserable that I eventually quit my dead-end job and booked a one way ticket to Manila. I can’t even say why I chose the capital of the Philippines as a destination. All I can say is that this trip changed my life.
Leaving Your Comfort Zone is All about Practice
What was the main reason why I didn’t live my purpose?
Well, it’s the same reason why the majority of people who know their purpose don’t live it.
They are afraid.
They are afraid that other people laugh at them for following their dreams. They are afraid of the endless conversations with worried friends and family members. They are afraid to end up broke. They are afraid to fail.
I had all those fears and a couple more. The reason why I was so terribly afraid of all the things that could potentially happen was my inability to leave my comfort zone. I had lived my life on the safe side of the see and I had successfully avoided every wave.
I actually realized that while I was on the airplane. My heart started to pound and for the very first time I had a feeling that I would describe as an uncertain excitement. Just sitting in that goddamn airplane pushed my comfort zone to the limit.
As you can imagine, my comfort zone broke down as soon as I took my first steps in Manila. The noise, the beggars, the homeless children, the sleazy sales guys who try to sell you the phone that they stole from you five minutes earlier.
My comfort zone and I were overwhelmed with the impressions that this city forced us to cope with. However, when I went to bed I had this overwhelming feeling that nothing can shock me anymore. Now that I survived 24 hours in Manila, I knew I could survive living my purpose.
Keeping up With the Joneses is a Disease
One reason why I didn’t follow my purpose for so long was the fact that I always compared myself to others. I had a good job that allowed me to pay the rent for an apartment that was way too big for me and to buy the latest products from overpriced brands that I neither needed nor really wanted.
What if I couldn’t afford those things anymore?
I am serious. This question kept me up at night.
I knew that the first step to follow my purpose was to quit my job and to start a business. I also knew that being able to earn money by living my purpose could take years.
“My friends will make fun of me when I can’t even afford the latest smartphone”
“I look like a loser when I walk around in those cheap shirts”
These were my thoughts. Today I wear my $5 shirts with pride.
One particular day in the Philippines changed my perspective once and for all. I took the Manila slum tour and what I saw changed my way of thinking once and for all.
I was no longer afraid of not keeping up with the Joneses. I was afraid that I would end up like the majority of people who don’t live their purpose because they are so addicted to keeping up with the Joneses.
It Doesn’t Take a Lot to Be Happy
One thing I realized in Manila, no matter if I looked into the face of a child during the slum tour or if I looked into the face of some old lady who sold fruits on the street corner, was that it doesn’t take a lot to be happy.
These people had nothing, but they were smiling as if they were millionaires. While some extremely famous and successful people commit suicide, this was the last thing that those “poor” Filipinos thought of.
They were too busy enjoying their life and spending time with their family. Heck, the beautiful women that I met in Manila reminded me of how important family really is and how happy the simple things in life can make you.
This happiness was contagious and for some reason it washed away my existential fears. If these people could be happy owning nothing, I could be happy living my purpose while owning less than others.
Trying to Be Liked by Everyone is a Waste of Energy
My inner critic was loud, but this noise was something I could live with. What I couldn’t live with, at least I thought I couldn’t, were the voices from other people. I was so terrified of being criticized for living my purpose that I never really considered taking the path I was destined to take.
The fear of the so-called haters or naysayers, how Arnold Schwarzenegger called them, paralyzed me. It caused me more sleepless nights than anything else. I was terribly afraid of being different and of not being accepted because I am different.
Before I spend the two months in the Philippines I was just like everyone else. I worked in a job I hated. I bought things I didn’t need. I lived my life the same way as everyone else. I did what everyone expected of me and if you do what everyone expects of you, you don’t get criticized.
If you, however, leave the predefined path, you suddenly find yourself in a situation where you get criticized. Some people will criticize you simply because you are different. Others will criticize you because they secretly want to do the same thing as you and your success makes them angry and jealous.
It doesn’t really matter why the people criticize you. The only thing that matters is that you understand that trying to be liked by everyone is a waste of time. I needed a trip to Manila to understand that.
I traveled to a foreign country. I connected with local people. I survived the slum tour. I was already doing things that others didn’t do. I was already different. This little mindset shift was all I needed to realize that I was not on this earth to be liked by everyone, but to live my purpose.
Changing Lives is More Important than a Paycheck
After two months I came back to Germany. It was cold, it was raining and while I was waiting for a good friend of mine who promised me to pick me up from the airport, I thought about one particular moment that I experienced in Manila.
I remembered how I walked through the city and how this child came up to me. He signalized that he was hungry and looked at me with hopeful eyes. I must have given him less than one dollar, but the support that I offered him made him smile like the happiest child on earth.
Giving him one dollar felt ten times better than receiving a monthly paycheck with more than thousand times as much.
From that moment on I knew that I wanted to help people. I couldn’t go back to my old life. I couldn’t continue walking on a path that led to nowhere. I felt that it was time to change people’s lives. It was time to live my purpose.
CEO and Founder of Globalseducer.com