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Connection #5: Figure Out What You Really Like

What do you want?

It’s one of the hardest questions you can ever be asked. It’s simple, direct, and leaves you no place to hide. The greatest truths of life, the people who will change you the most, are often the same way.

My friend Hilary, one of the first 100, introduced Christian Buck to me. She told me that he was incredible, sharp, and that I needed to meet him as I walked this road again. I have come to trust Hilary in the matters, sometimes more than myself.

I met Chris on a beautiful Friday in downtown Charleston. He is a mental-conditioning coach and author, but far more than any resume or profile could ever convey.

There is an authentic air of welcome around Chris, that kind of friendliness that defies description other than its presence. He is keenly intelligent and observant, welcoming information about you, about what you do. Chris doesn’t do this out of obligation, but out of an incredible curiosity of other people. It’s part of his charm.

He asks me about 100 Connections, about the journey that got me here. We talk and swap stories, with our topics ranging from our own stories to our personal politics. It’s safe to say that we hit it off from the beginning. I joke with Chris about how we are told not to discuss politics or religion because they are often so divisive. Then we lament how people have become so driven to a point, often one just handed to them, that they allow it to act as a barrier to their relationships with others.

The conversation is comfortable. Chris has lived a life full of stories, tales he gladly shares sitting in a local coffee shop to find respite from the Southern sun. If you spent a full day with him, you would easily learn more than you would in your average classroom in a year. He tells me about his life, his brother, career, and his two books. One of them, The Sport of School, relates the principles used to make great athletes to helping students succeed at school. My copy should be here soon and I can’t wait to read it.

And then he gifts me with incredible wisdom, born not from a book or a degree, but from life and the living of it.

He tells me about 9/11. He worked on Wall St; in a building so close they could hear the airplane engines ramp up. The impact from the World Trade Center towers rattled his office. We talk about the subway attacks and how these events give rise to fear and anxiety in us. As he shares his stories with me, pieces of my mind drift irresistibly back to moments in my life, frames from deployments, and the depths of depression.

Pain is relative to people. Fear operates the same way, and yet there are moments where our mortality becomes so apparent that we undergo a fundamental shift. For some of us we respond to this shift with fear and paranoia, we give in and hold tight to survival. I’ve done a lot of this for a large part of my life. Other times we find ourselves reflecting on our lives, our purposes, and our paths.

Chris tells me about finding the things he cared about, the things he wanted, the things he liked. We have a shared experience of knowing our own mortality, of owning the life we want to lead. As we swap stories and the clock continues its endless forward march, we talk of things more important than money, of impact, everyday life, purpose, and love.

The sun rises higher in the midday sky and soon our time is over. Chris tells me I’ve inspired him to talk to more people, to make those connections with the amazing people we walk by everyday. His smile carries an incredible authenticity, a truth of the soul apparent from across the street. I ask him to leave me with one piece of wisdom from his journey, one thing to share with the world.

Chris tells me to figure out what I want, more importantly, what I like, but to take 6 months to answer the question.

We shake hands and part. It’s good to know Chris, good to have been around his courage; the bravery of someone walking their own path. I think on his wisdom as I make my way down the streets of beautiful Charleston. For a little over a year I have been asking myself these questions, and others, taking great care not to rush the answer. That kind of inquiry often leaves you wondering what you are truly doing with your life.

Then you take a moment and sit with someone, someone whose wisdom comes from a life lived, from a life that knows its time is purely borrowed, and the echoes of those questions ring deeply.

That is the beauty of connecting.

In any given day you may have walked by Chris Buck and your life would be lesser for it. But if you take a moment for people, whether you think you have anything in common or not, you will find the stuff in life that is truly worth living for.

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