What is in your hand?

Before I really knew what TED talk was, I watched a talk which has followed me since. Pastor Rick Warren, the author of The Purpose Driven Life, held his talk about how to live a purpose-filled life. The book topped the best-seller charts in Wall Street Journal and Publishers Weekly was on the New York Times Bestseller List for 90 weeks and sold 30 million copies in 5 years. Impressing, but that’s not really what caught my attention. At the end of the speech, Warren told a story from the Bible, a story about Moses. Moses held his shepherd’s staff. God asked him what he had in his hand. He answered. God told him to throw it away, so he did, and the staff turned into a snake. Then God told him to pick it up, he did that also, and it turned back into a staff. Warren gave his interpretation of the story; the shepherd’s staff represented 3 things about Moses’ life.

  1. It was a symbol of his identity – Moses was a shepherd, it was his occupation
  2. It was a symbol of his income – the sheep were his value, his asset was tied up in sheep
  3. It was a symbol of his influence – he used the staff to move sheep from A to B

The question which Warren emphasised over and over again stood out to me – what is in your hand?

I knew instantly the answer, I looked down at my hands and realised I had a pen in my hand. This was very early on when I just had started practising to write anything other than paperwork and letters. I found the question so brilliant. The pen is a symbol of my identity, of my income/value and of my influence. I remember I called a friend and asked her the same question, maybe just to test it, to test my own answer. She answered in a heartbeat – a shovel. We laughed, it wasn’t just metaphorically, she literally had a shovel in her hand, but the shovel represented things about her life perfectly. Once in a while we ask each other the same question, even though external circumstances have changed for both of us many times, the answer is still the same – I got a pen in my hand, she got a shovel.

I don’t share Warren’s beliefs, to me the story about Moses is just that – a story, but I share his view on finding what you feel you are wired to do and use it to create a purpose-filled life. Asking yourself this question has a bigger meaning, it’s about making the world a better place by doing what you are wired to.

So, what is in your hand?