A Life Full of Meaning and Joy Can Be Yours

The fastest way to happiness and joy is simple:  Find a way to serve.

Serving OthersBack in 2004 I was honored by the Academy of Achievement for having made a significant contribution to the world. One of the previous recipients who spoke at that event was Ken Behring, the author of Road to Purpose: One Man’s Journey Bringing Hope to Millions and Finding Purpose Along the Way. He was worth about $500 million dollars. During his speech, he told us that his life had gone through four stages. The first stage was about “Stuff.” He though that if he had the right stuff he’d be happy. So he bought the houses, the cars, the boat, the airplane-all of the usual toys-and yet he was not happy.

He described the second stage of his life as the acquisition of “Better Stuff.” He though he’d be happier if he had a better house, a better car, a bigger airplane, and so on. So he bought them. But he still wasn’t happy. Then he figured that maybe he had focused on the wrong stuff, so he embarked on the third stage of his life, which he called “Different Stuff.” This is when he joined with a partner and bought the Seattle Seahawks. He though for sure that if he was the co-owner of a professional football team, he would be happy. But he wasn’t. What to do?

It was at this time that a friend invited ken to join him on his private jet to fly to Europe and hand out wheelchairs to kids who had been born without limbs or who had lost their legs as a result of having stepped on a landmine. Ken accepted the invitation. He said that bringing hope and freedom to these children made him truly happy for the first time in his life. When he returned home, he started the Wheelchair Foundation, which has now given away more than 750,000 wheelchairs to children and adults all over the world.

Ken told us about one of his early trips to give away wheelchairs, when he picked up an eleven-year-old boy in Mexico and gently set him down in a wheelchair. When he went to leave and get another wheelchair for one of the other children, the boy wouldn’t let go of his leg. When Ken turned back around to face him, the boy said through his tears, “Please don’t leave yet. I want to memorize our face, so when we meet again in heaven, I can thank you one more time.” Ken said at that moment he experience pure joy. He later told us, “When I see the happiness in the eyes of the people who get a wheelchair, I feel that this is the greatest thing I have ever achieved in my life.” Contributing to others is the fastest way I know to infuse your life with authentic love and joy.