It so happens that when you have discussions with certain people, within a week- all that was discussed is forgotten. With some others, although the moment is fleeting and the relationship may be budding, the mind continually replays the conversation and indeed the mark from that conversation is etched not only in the mind but in the decisions one makes in the future. Some conversations so alter (positively) the mind – the individual is reprogrammed thanks to the sheer depth of the ideas traded in such conversations.
As I began the interview with Drew Lichtenberger, it soon became very obvious to me that this was to be a conversation of the latter kind. Drew is a professional coach and mentor to young adults. When describing himself, he explains, “…I really just like to help people understand who they are; to understand their natural identity…” he considers this important as, more and more people are losing a conception of personal identity. This is not helped by an arbitrary world that proposes a one size fits all for an inherently diverse social make up. As I scratched deeper while conducting the interview, I noticed that Drew does not propose to have set formulae to help people discover their purpose, as that will be counter-productive. Rather, he seeks to ask the right questions so that the individual can stumble upon the right answers- their purpose. Drew understands the importance of this, as a result of his personal experience. After having been recruited into the financial world because someone saw the talent in him, he quickly rose through the ranks, but realised soon enough that this was not his calling and left his job.
I must warn the reader at this juncture that this is not a run of the mill story. Neither is it a smooth comforting ride when you quit your job to pursue your dreams. Drew relays to me how, at one time, he had a speaking engagement at Duke University. At this time, although he was still driving his Mercedes, on the journey back, he realised that he was running out of fuel and the realisation struck that he had no money to refuel the car. What kept him going at these times was, that he had a consistent vision and he stuck to his values; knowing that he had decided to employ his gifts to empower and help others in society. Drew knew that he had to remain true to who he was, and this drive was what kept him through the tough times. Other challenges raged too, such as, after going back to graduate school to learn about human development, he was told that his approach to the issue lacked merit. These words could have deflated any other individual and surely could have been a signal to drop the gauntlet. But not Drew, respectfully he soldiered on and the countless young people that have been coached and mentored by him are surely thankful that he did not give up then.
At about this time, Drew was hired back by his old company to coach their college interns. This was a good avenue for Drew to hone his skills and wherein he really became a professional coach, but from the conversation, I learn that one must decide not to settle for a semblance of the purpose if it is not the real deal. So, with this in mind, Drew left his company for a second time; but this time around he was more mature than the last time and with a clearer idea of just what he wanted to do and how he intended to achieve it.
As we talked about the “twenties beat down” a coinage that refers to that point in the life of most young people when they are trying to discover where they should be or what they should be doing. Drew explains that we are all different, the issue should not really be about providing fit for all answers but asking the right questions that challenge you as an individual, so that you can then engage with yourself with a plan borne out of purpose that is originally yours. His dream is to have a “…prepare a future institute…”an academy that people will go through to get the best minds in the world to help answer that question! The purpose of it is to have a well thought through plan to change society to address the rub that people feel and what they are facing in society. But in the short term, Drew advises that people need spend time to look up and ask themselves those poignant questions. Opinions from countless blogs, write-ups, et al are good when they are appropriately filtered but one must be careful not to clutter the mind-space with what becomes in effect- noise.
Finding a role model is not exactly an anathema to this narrative. However, the individual must ensure that the role model is in a fact a ROLE model. One must make sure that such a person has integrity; look at the fruit of the “role-model’s” life; if leaving behind a wake of destruction, anger, or discord; you shouldn’t want to be influenced by such an individual. In essence, you should know the values you hold dear and then find the role model that walks in that light. This is critical, as a lot of people get caught up with achievement, without examining the character that lies beneath.
As I rounded up by asking what the keys to success are, I was positively impressed by his answer. Drew explains that, a problem society today finds itself is that, most people are worried about their own happiness, but the real question is: what do we need to be doing in order to create successful future societies! Thus, it centres on, what do you want the future generation to think about you and how you made their lives better? Generativity– The real success story has generativity in it.
 The term “generativity” was coined by the psychoanalyst Erik Erikson in 1950 to denote “a concern for establishing and guiding the next generation.”
Drew is interested in listening to your twenties beat down stories and perspective. Click twentiesbeatdown.com to share yours.
Photos: Nick Davis | nickdavisphotography.com
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