In 20 years as a strength and conditioning coach, I had asked myself that question hundreds of times. After every big win or great accomplishment, the question reappeared.
Historically, it served as the launchpad toward my next success. It signaled the beginning of the search for my next major project.
And though that might sound inspiring, the question was always rooted in dissatisfaction; born from a sense of discontent.
The problem was that for most of my adult life, I had measured my own self-worth in terms of my career success. I figured if I accumulated enough wins, I would someday prove my worth and feel valuable.
But that day never came. I had spent my entire career seeking the one success that would finally tip the scales in my favor, and my efforts had morphed into an obsession.
Before long, it was taking a serious toll on my life.
No surprise, then, that in the hours following my single greatest career achievement, the question appeared again.
Fast-tracking to success
In the year prior, I had accepted a position working as a strength and conditioning coach with Navy SEALs. Although walking away from a decade-long career in college athletics was scary, it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
It meant a chance to use my talents and experience to work toward something bigger than myself; a chance to serve those who served this nation.
During my time with the SEALs, I prepared them mentally and physically for the rigors of combat. Like the previous athletes before them, I trained them to be faster, stronger, more capable, and more resilient than their adversaries.
But despite being part of something bigger than myself, I still believed I didn’t deserve these opportunities. I was caught in a losing battle trying to prove my value to myself and the world.
So I did what I’d always done: I pushed harder and worked more.
And about a year into my new job, a text message in the wee hours of the morning affirmed the work I had done. It jolted me from my sleep and informed me that I had unknowingly been part of something big.
While I was sleeping, some of the SEALs I trained had scored a huge professional victory, and the stories of their success had made their way to the news.
In all my years as a coach, I had never been part of something this significant. I could hardly process the scope of what had happened, and I spent the remainder of the time I should have been sleeping scouring the TV for more details.
That’s when the two-word question reared its head again.
But this time, the question felt different. It didn’t feel obsessive, and it didn’t even sound like my own voice asking it.
Instead, it felt like an invitation to do something different; a chance to break the vicious cycle of striving, achieving, feeling unfulfilled, and striving harder.
With those two words, I realized the Holy Spirit was turning the tables on me. He was using my own well-worn question to provoke me to change, and he was inviting me -- maybe even daring me -- to allow him to reveal my life’s true purpose.
Instead of pushing toward the next great milestone or searching for the next big project, I had a chance to look around and understand what God was doing in my life.
Unfortunately, I missed the opportunity. I fell into my old habits and I continued pushing forward. I still believed that the next big success would be the one that finally satisfied.
Once again, I was fast-tracking. In the first year of my new job, I had accomplished what I had previously only dreamed of, and the reality was overwhelming.
Once again, I allowed my identity to be directly tied to my work.
Although the Holy Spirit tried to provoke me to change, I was still striving to score enough wins to prove that I diddeserve success.
I used my unique gifts, talents, and resources to prepare them for combat. I gave them every tool in my arsenal and trained them to win.
I wasn’t even remotely prepared for the tragedy that came next.
A few months later, I got word that an entire troop of SEALs was attacked in combat without warning. The men were shot out of the sky with no chance to defend themselves.
None of them survived.
These men were my friends. They had wives and newborn babies, and some had babies on the way. They were sons and husbands, and they had trusted me.
Despite the fact that I had given these men my very best, it hadn’t been enough. I felt completely vulnerable and exposed. The tools I had given them weren’t enough to help them survive.
In the weeks that followed, my wife and I attended a memorial service for the SEALs who were killed, and I found myself feeling disoriented. I was overcome by what these menhad sacrificed for me, and suddenly I was no longer the hero in my own story.
These men helped me realize the importance of training the wholeman. They helped me recognize that my identity amounted to much more than what I did for a living.
They launched me into a journey to discover the true nature and purpose of manhood.
I want you to join me on this journey.
You were designed by God with a distinct purpose, and your identity can be found in him.
He created you to be a warrior and a leader and to serve him with your gifts and talents. Your spirit was created for relationship with him, and when you allow it, he can provide everything you need to live your life.
It will require you to leave your comfort zone and challenge yourself mentally, physically and spiritually, but it will take you places you’ve never been.
So now, only one question remains.