The Greatest Lie Ever Told

During a visit to the NASA space center in 1962, President John F. Kennedy noticed a janitor carrying a broom. He interrupted his tour, walked over to the man and said, “Hi, I’m Jack Kennedy. What are you doing?”

“Well, Mr. President,” the janitor responded, “I’m helping put a man on the moon.”

To the naked eye, this janitor was just cleaning the building, but in the more mythic, larger story unfolding around him, he was helping put a man on the moon.

Here’s the point: No matter how large or small your role, you are contributing to the larger story unfolding within your life, your business and your organization.

And when your entire team embraces that type of attitude and belief system, incredible things happen.

The Smaller Story

So, I need to ask: Where do you want to go with all of this?

Do you want to embrace the false narrative that this life is all about accumulating as much “stuff” as you can, as quickly as you can, so you can live an easy, safe and comfortable existence?

Here in the United States, we get inundated with that mantra every day. The average American sees something like 14,000 advertisements every 24 hours, and the bulk of them are bombarding us with that lie.

We become what we think, and if all that fills our thoughts are messages of striving to accumulate wealth and then indulging in the stuff we buy with it as a reward, we live a rather small – and selfish – story.

I’m as guilty as anyone else. There are moments during the day when I do feel that having a new MacBook or iPhone will make me happier and bring deeper meaning to my life. (Somewhere the late Steve Jobs is grinning.)

For better or worse, we live in a culture obsessed with fame and fortune, one where we assume the people who have the most money or status are the happiest. Yet countless celebrities, pro athletes and movie stars struggle with addiction or depression and end up with broken families and broken lives. In fact, every week we see frenzied, breathless media coverage of a celebrity doing something stupid or melting down in public. And the same thing happens every time: We seem stunned. We think to ourselves, “Wow, how can a guy like him blow it all? I’d never mess it up if I had his gifts, good looks and talent.”

Are you sure?

Either way, it’s almost as if we’re all in on it, part of this huge charade, constantly bragging to each other about any scrap of success or celebrity we attain, trying to fool one another into believing that we really are happier because we got the latest iPhone or were Re-Tweeted by a famous person on Twitter.

Still, I’ve never seen an iPhone or list of celebrity Re-Tweets come to a man’s funeral and cry, sharing stories about his immense impact on their existence, and how he’ll never be forgotten as a result.

To finish the thought, did you know my country – the United States – ranked 17th on the most recent “Happiness Report” issued by the United Nations? Yes, the USA – the land of limitless opportunity, vast wealth and freedom – only ranks as the 17th happiest country on the planet.

Still believe those TV commercials and magazine ads?

The Larger Story

What if we decide instead to go a different, more mythic route? What if we decide to explore why we’re here, discovering what we love to do and how our unique gifts and talents can impact this planet and leave a legacy that goes beyond stock options and private swimming pools?

That second approach takes far more risk. It also leads to far more rewarding opportunities and experiences. Finally, it means living in a much larger story, one where our decisions matter and men end up on the moon as a result.

I don’t know about you, but I want to stop living a small story. I want to stop buying the lie.

Are you with me?

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