Passion – The meaning of Life

Circa 2005

An old legend tells of a very prosperous man, Siridean, who became frustrated with an inner sense of emptiness and embarked on a quest to find the meaning of life. He traveled far and wide, meeting with the most outstanding leaders of his time. From each he sought knowledge of the meaning of life, but nothing he heard satisfied his desire to understand.

Then one day he heard of a very wise and enlightened man who lived on a mountaintop in a faraway land. When Siridean arrived in the man’s village, he found many peasants who said the sage would most certainly be able to offer guidance. Siridean was granted an audience with the old man, and he shared his desire to know the meaning of life. He explained at length his journey so far and his frustration at finding no help.

The old man smiled, stood and left the hut. Siridean was shocked by the teacher’s indifference and lack of compassion. Torn between anger and bewilderment, Siridean stormed from the hut in time to see the man stepping into a beautiful mountain lake behind the village. When Siridean reached the lake, he followed the old man into the water. Waist-deep in the cold water, the old man turned and smiled.

Siridean demanded, “Old man, what is wrong with you? I traveled thousands of miles to see you. I poured my heart out to you; you are my last hope. But after I shared everything with you, you simply turned from me and went for a swim!

The old man continued to smile, then gently yet deliberately pressed down on Siridean’s shoulders. Puzzled, Siridean stood his ground. The old man pushed down even more forcefully until Siridean knelt, cold water up to his chin. Again, the old man increased the pressure of his hands.

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At a loss, Siridean thought, “Perhaps he wants me to dunk my head under water. Maybe this is a baptism of sorts.” So he took a breath and dunked his head. The icy water stung his face, but the old man’s grasp remained. For many seconds, Siridean remained submerged, waiting for some sign from the old man, but nothing changed. He thought of the travels he had undertaken, the disappointment he felt at not learning the secret of life, and the incredible and almost laughable failure of this last effort. Perhaps this is the meaning of life, he thought—there is no meaning! Chuckling to himself, he decided to end this encounter, get into some dry clothes and head home.

As he tried to stand, the old man’s grip tightened. Again Siridean pushed to get to the surface, but the old man continued to hold him under the water. No matter how hard Siridean pushed, the old man resisted and relentlessly held him submerged. “What kind of a maniac is this guy?” Siridean thought as he desperately struggled to rise. The old man’s vise-like grasp was unwavering, unyielding. His lungs bursting, his mind reeling, intent on getting that life-saving breath of air, Siridean gave one last desperate surge to get to his feet. Slowly he was able to move the old man’s hand a few inches up…then a few more, and finally his face was out of the water.

Coughing and gasping for air, Siridean gaped at the old man, who stood looking at him, still smiling. Getting his breath back, Siridean demanded of the old man, “What is wrong with you? Couldn’t you tell I was drowning? I needed air and you held me down!”

The old man said, “Son, you came to me and asked me the most noble of questions. You sought the meaning of life. You were honest in your most heartfelt request. You told me of all the sacred writings and books you had read without finding the answer. You told me of the countless people you had asked and told me that all their words left you still empty. That is because there are no words to share that will fill that emptiness.

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“But I tell you now what I know about the meaning of life. When you commit yourself to any undertaking as much as you just committed yourself to getting that breath of air, you will know the meaning of life. When you struggle and persevere against all odds and beyond all hope and even down to your last breath, you will know the meaning of life. When you are as complete and unrelenting in your desire to succeed, when your passion for achieving your goals is as all-consuming as your desire for life, you are then living your passion, and that is the meaning of life.”

The old man’s wisdom applies not just to Siridean, but to anyone who desires to find and live out the meaning of life. People do their best work and achieve their best results when they are passionately committed to something. People become passionate about raising a family, building a career, maintaining relationships and fighting for ideals such as freedom, liberty and peace.

For those in the World Ability Industry, the industry dedicated to improving the lives of people with disabilities, and for the one out of every five people globally who live with a disability, these primary motivational forces should be present every day. Living your passion in this industry means making the commitment to work each day to improve your life and the lives of those around you. People primarily motivated by fear, frustration and dissatisfaction have not fully ignited their passions. When passion is present, all other emotions become impotent. But how does someone make a commitment and ignite his or her passions?

As the saying goes, fake it till you make it—that is, act as if something is true until it becomes true. The inverse is also the case, however: a person who is preoccupied with what is not, rather than what is, grows the negative in his or her life. The goal of the World Ability Industry is to focus on the ability, not the disability.

All people do better—people with disabilities and people without disabilities—when they are self-determined and passionate about their ability to do a job in spite of all obstacles. Prejudice against people with disabilities is not an issue of malice as much as it is an issue of ignorance. People think a person with a disability would be troublesome as an employee, but Department of Labor statistics show just the opposite. The fight to gain employment despite barriers has made many people with disabilities passionate to achieve. Passionate people perform better not just as employees but as students, teammates, parents and parishioners. Those who are passionate also live richer and happier lives.

What are some of the ways to fake it till you make it? Get more involved with the World Ability Industry. Become active in organizations. A Google search using the terms disability and organization returned over ten million sites worldwide. Get involved. If you are involved but not passionate, get more involved. Participate in programs, support local organizations, champion a cause or volunteer your resources to an organization, scholarship program or research project. Each of these endeavors will not only help ignite greater passion in your life, but will generate more possibilities for people with disabilities in the future.

The World Ability Federation is committed to improving the lives of people with disabilities by bringing focus to the World Ability Industry. Through the annual World Ability Awards Gala, we spotlight those within the Ability Industry who have accomplished great things during the year. Anyone can participate in this important event by nominating an individual or organization that has done truly outstanding work helping people with disabilities. All nominees will receive recognition for their efforts. Last year, a World Ability Award winner successfully competed for a federal grant and was told that one of the determining factors in the decision was receipt of the award at the World Ability Awards Gala. You can also participate by attending the Gala, a formal awards program not unlike the Grammys or the Golden Globes, involving over one thousand people, including leaders in government, sports legends, Academy Awardwinning actors and actresses, internationally acclaimed performers and many others. But the highlight of the evening is always seeing those in our industry who are doing extraordinary things.

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People who like sports can root for 30 professional baseballs teams or 32 professional football teams. But people who are passionate about the World Ability Industry have thousands of teams to choose from. Support the Special Olympics, an accessible art fair, a disability conference, breakthrough research, or a fundraiser or silent auction that raises money for a great cause. Spend some time researching the many organizations that have found purpose and meaning by working in the World Ability Industry. And don’t forget about the thousands of companies like Microsoft, Invacare, Ford Motor Company, AVIS, HP and The Walt Disney Company that have poured millions of dollars into research and accessible products and services. Doesn’t it make sense to support these companies if you are a fan of the Ability Industry?

Our future is dependent upon our accomplishments. Our accomplishments are based on taking action in our lives to bring about results. Passion is the fuel that creates powerful action. Fortunately, with all the wonderful organizations and programs in the World Ability Industry, we don’t have to travel to a mountaintop and get dunked underwater to learn how to find passion. Find the passion in your life to do great things. Get involved in your industry—the World Ability Industry. You just may find the meaning of life.

By John Chmela and William Smith

Founders, World Ability Federation

Highlighting Two 2004 Awardees

And the winners were…

The Employment Award recognizes the organization demonstrating the most extraordinary efforts toward providing employment for people with disabilities. Winner: LaSalle Bank. For the past several years, LaSalle Bank has actively sought to hire people with disabilities. The bank provides a budget for making reasonable accommodations when they are needed and maintains relationships with more than 18 social service agencies that help develop employment opportunities for people with disabilities. LaSalle Bank also assists those who manage employees with disabilities by increasing their awareness of the particular needs each employee may have.

The Transportation Award acknowledges the most innovative solution meeting the transportation needs of people with disabilities. Winner: Avis Access. Through the development of its Avis Access program, Avis caters to the needs of people with disabilities by offering cars with hand controls, spinner knobs, swivel seats and panoramic rearview mirrors. The company has also made many of its airport transportation buses accessible to people with disabilities.

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