For the first 20 years of my adult working life, I was driven by what I wanted to have.

  • An impressive job in an impressive company
  • An impressive car
  • An impressive house in an impressive neighborhood
  • Impressive clothes

That’s what it was all about for me—trying to impress upon the world that I was successful.

I wrote a personal vision statement describing what my impressive life was supposed to look like. Then I built yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily goals to make it all come true. I was obsessed with my vision and goals.

The good news? I made it all happen.

The bad news? I lost it all.

The better news? Losing it all made me realize that fear had been driving my life, and it gave me a chance to start over, building a life guided by hope.

Six months after moving into the impressive house in the impressive neighborhood and filling the closet with impressive clothes with an impressive car parked in the garage, the house became infested with toxic mold. The health department quarantined the house, and the builder hired a mold defense lawyer (how’s that for a specialty?). Eventually, I lost the house and everything I’d invested in it, forcing me into bankruptcy.

I moved into an apartment on the third floor of a three-story building to start over. One August afternoon, a thunderstorm rolled through the area while I was away. Lightning struck the roof directly above my apartment, starting a fire in the attic. The roof eventually collapsed, destroying all my possessions and three of four beloved cats.

As I stood outside the building surrounded by fire trucks, police cars, ambulances, and a Red Cross truck, with fire hoses spread all over the lawn, I looked up at the sky and said, “Okay, you’ve got my attention.” Within three months, I had lost everything financially and materially, and the drama and trauma of it all had me believing that I was supposed to wake up to something.

For 20 years, I had worked to prove to the world that I was valuable. I was trying to fill a hole in my heart, caused by the loss of my mother and sister when I was three, followed by my grandfather’s suicide (the man who had assumed the role as my father) when I was 16, and the absence of my father from my life. These losses left me with the unconscious belief that I was not worth anything. Children often assume they are the cause of people leaving—even when the leaving is due to death. No wonder I was obsessed with proving my value to the world.

I’d decided what I needed to fill the hole in my heart (the approval of others, gained by impressing them with my job, car, house, clothes), and that motivated my actions. Those actions determined who I’d become—a man who was depressed, unfulfilled, self-centered, and living by a set of values that would never make me happy. I did all of this unconsciously to alleviate the pain of not feeling valuable as a human being.

Here’s what that looks like.

With what I wanted to HAVE driving what I DID, I had BECOME—someone l didn’t like very much.

The mold house and apartment fire woke me up. I realized that all the material possessions had not made me feel better about myself. What I thought I needed to HAVE made me DO things that weren’t good for me, leading me to BECOME bankrupt across the board—financially, materially, and spiritually.


I flipped the equation. I started by getting clear about who I wanted to BE as the foundation for what I would DO in my life. As a result, my life is richer than I ever dreamed possible. Rich in meaningful ways—self-respect, fulfilling work, loving relationships with family, friends, and the good Lord, and married to an amazing woman. I am happier and more grateful than ever, all because I flipped the model for living my life.

Here’s what’s guiding my life now.

I decided who I wanted to BE, based on three things: Purpose, values, and principles.

  1. Purpose: I’d suffered through a lot of shit and was not going to let that go to waste. Focusing on myself hadn’t made me happy, so I decided to help others by using the strength I’d gained through my struggles. I also realized that I wanted to help others through my love of magic.
  2. Values: I had one value that had been driving my life: material success. But it didn’t make me happy, and I lost it in the blink of an eye. I decided I wanted to focus on a few values to define what is essential in my life.

    • Personal vitality—physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health
    • Revitalizing the human spirit—I want to help people feel alive and fulfilled
    • Loving my family and friends
    • Having fun
  1. Principles: When I was driven by what I wanted to have, I had two principles that guided my thinking and action: Work and spend. I decided that I needed some principles to guide me that would enable me to live by my purpose and values, so I chose
    • Truth
    • Love
    • The Present Moment
    • Abundance
    • Integrity
    • Discipline
    • Courage

So Who Do You Want to BE?

Here are a handful of questions that will help you clarify who you want to BE in this life in a way that will give you fulfillment, peace, and happiness.

  1. Discover your purpose.
    • How will you make this world a better place?
    • What have your struggles taught you that you can use to help others?
    • Who are the people you want to help?
    • What unique talents can you use to fulfill your purpose?
  1. Identify your values.
    • What is important to you in your life?
    • What priorities do you want to focus on?
  1. Decide on your guiding principles.
    • What fundamental truths will guide the way you think and act?


This model is just as powerful when applied to organizations.

In the conventional approach to business, leaders decide what the organization needs to HAVE (usually traditional business metrics like profits, market share, shareholder return). Then everyone figures out what they need to DO, which dictates what the organization BECOMES. Unless leaders are intentional about crafting culture, a culture emerges unconsciously, and when traditional metrics drive it, the values of the culture don’t always create a positive environment.

You can use the BE-DO-HAVE model to build a culture where people can thrive, and when your people thrive, your organization thrives.

The starting place is to discover who you will BE as an organization.

  • What purpose, beyond making money, will you serve to make the world a better place?
  • What values will define what’s important and determine your priorities?
  • What principles will guide your collective thinking and action?

It’s the start of a new year and decade. Don’t miss the symbolism. It’s 2020, a term reserved for eyesight—it means clarity of vision.

How clear is your vision for your life?

Start by deciding who you want to BE, then what you need to DO, and rejoice in the life you will HAVE.

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