By: Brianna Valleskey
The most important day of your life is not the day you you were born. I don’t remember being born. Do you?
It’s not the day you die, either. That would be a real bummer if the most important day of your life was your last one.
In fact, graduating college, getting married, or even having a child don’t count either. Those are definitely important days. But what I’m here to talk about is the absolute most meaningful day in your entire life. Are you ready for it?
The most important day of your life is not the day you were born. It is the day you find out why.
This might sound familiar. A similar quote that’s been incorrectly attributed to Mark Twain, Anita Canfield and even Helen Burns has made it’s way around the Internet: “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”
When I first came across this quote, I liked it. Those words could not have chosen a better time to find me. Shortly after I started my digital marketing business, I had the opportunity to launch another (similar but not quite the same) business with a colleague and successful entrepreneur whom I looked up to. The opportunity seemed fantastic; I could launch this other company with someone who had experience and learn a ton about running my own business; I would receive a steady income from my business partner for working on this new venture three days a week; I could meet people, grow my network and make a name for myself. How could anyone pass up that opportunity?
I certainly wasn’t going to. As my therapist likes to say, however, “In life, there are problems.” A couple of months in and things weren’t going quite as well as I had imagined. I didn’t love the work I was doing for this joint venture as much as I loved the type of work I did for my own business. I struggled to build the brands of two different companies at one time. I realized that my business partner had different values than I when it came to the way we ran businesses. I barely even had time to work on growing my own business, and I was starting to burn out.
But ― I would tell myself any time I felt overwhelmed holding back tears and staring intently at my dark ceiling at 3 a.m. on a Tuesday ― building businesses is hard! I knew this would be hard. I’m not afraid of short-term pain for the long-term gain!
And all of those things were true. Building businesses is (really f*cking) hard. I know that now and I knew it then, but I’m doing it because I love working hard and serving customers.
What was also true, however, was that my shiploads of stress came from tiny voice in the back of my mind that knew the side venture wasn’t right for me. I hear feel it whispering to me when all else was silent. But I wasn’t ready to quit.
Not until I saw that quote, at least; I don’t remember where. I know my Freshbooks accounting software pulls out some pretty inspirational stuff on a regular basis, but I feel it was more likely I saw it erroneously attributed to Mark Twain on social media. The most important day of your life is the day you find out why you’re here. I was electrified. I remember that day! It was somewhere between the worst heartbreak of my life and getting Neil Gaiman’s famous advice to graduating art students tattooed on my forearm (“Make good art”).
I’ve always been a writer. I took my first journalism class at 14 and successfully pursued the field through college and internships and entry-level jobs until I took a writing job with a tech startup a decade later. Technically, it was marketing. But all that comes down to is exceptional communication. Marketing is, after all, simply about getting someone else excited about something you’re excited about. It was a good fit for me, except that I had lost my love for the art of words.
For the love of art
In between college and pursuing a sustainable career and binge drinking with friends and abusive relationships and hating myself and all the distractions that keep us from actually doing something, I forgot about how important writing was to me. It didn’t seem to matter too much that writing helped me make sense of the world; that I had won awards for my writing; that people connected with me through my words. I got lost. In life, there are problems.
Fortunately for me, the universe had a plan. I also had a plan ... to quit my writing job and attend a coding bootcamp to become a software developer. (For the record, that’s actually a really good plan for a lot of people. I was doing it for the wrong reasons.) But my marketing job involved working under a phenomenal manager and brilliant writer, who made sure I constantly improved my craft. So when my best friend and partner in the healthiest romantic relationship of my life broke up with me to figure some stuff out on his own, my soul was ready. I started writing for myself again. I felt reborn.
From that moment on, I’ve known that my raison d'etre consists of two things: Writing and helping people. I spent a couple more years at that job to learn, grow and master the art of marketing (business is art, too, you know) before I made the move to start my own company. I’d received a lot of incoming requests to help various businesses grow based on my work at the last company and my network, so I was very fortunate to be able to start Brave Ink on a relatively secure foundation.
I was excited about the work I was doing and the ways I was helping my clients. In my gut, I knew it was right. I was living my purpose and staying aligned with my values. But seeing that quote made me realize I didn’t feel that way working on this other venture with my business partner. I knew why I was born, and that wasn’t it.
My version of this advice puts less emphasis on the importance of the day you are born. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a really good day. The chances of you existing are 1 in 10^2,685,000 (that's 10 with two million zeros behind it ― basically, you’re a miracle). But the day you discover your purpose determines how you will exist for the rest of your life. It isn’t enough to discover your purpose; you must make a conscious decision to act on it every day.
Here are a few other things you need to know about the most important day of your life.
1. The most important day of your life cannot be planned. Sorry, but it’s true. You can’t force your purpose in life to show up when it’s convenient for you. It only comes exactly at the moment it’s meant to. (Or, as the first Harold and Kumar movie prefers to put it, “The universe tends to unfold as it should.”) But here are a few questions that might help you get going in the right direction: What makes you feel most alive and makes you feel excited to get out of bed in the morning? What did you love to do most as a child, before the world told you what kind of career path you should take? When you dream of doing something meaningful with your life, what does that look like?
2. The most important day of your life is followed by the most important decision of your life. What will you do next? Now that you know why you’re here, how can you make the most of it? What will your legacy be on this world? How will you choose to spend the rest of our short time on this rock hurtling through space at 67,000 miles per hour? That could mean you make locally roasted coffee and employee people in an underserved community or third world country. Perhaps you want to build electric cars and plan humanity’s colonization of Mars. Or maybe you’re here to use your unique gifts to help the lives and businesses of people around you.
3. Only you can identify the most important day in your life. For some people, the most important day of their lives is when they become a parent, and that their purpose in life is to raise these little human beings they’ve brought into the world. That’s awesome. Your most important day could be the day you taught your neighbor’s kid to skateboard, and now you want to build a community skateboarding program for other children. That’s awesome, too! It doesn’t matter what other people think, or whether they say it’s too big or too small. As long as you’re living your life to the fullest, sharing your unique gifts and inspiring passion in others, you are definitely living out the reason you were brought to this earth.
We don't get to choose to be born, but we do get to choose who to be.
Our world needs more people who are excited about what they came here to do. You’re never as stuck in one career path, relationship, mindset or geographic region as you think you are. There’s always room to reinvent yourself or your mission, and who knows? Maybe you’ll experience the most important day in your life more than once. Now THAT would be something.
Fearless Thoughts are my insights on marketing, entrepreneurship, growth, mindfulness, creativity and whatever else comes to mind on any given day. Writing is how I make sense of the world.