A Hurricane, Leadership From the Heart, and the Quest for a Life of Purpose.
You Can't Imagine, But It's a True Story.
It was the fourth day since Hurricane Katrina had struck New Orleans, and as I walked out of the elevator in my four-star French Quarter hotel I was met by a scene that stopped me dead in my tracks: the lobby was completely empty and the front doors were chained and padlocked. Just the night before there had been so many sweaty, desperate people in that lobby that I could hardly walk without stepping on someone. Now, just eight hours later, I was the only person left in the entire hotel. I had been abandoned.
I’d been waiting for the hotel management, for the government, for any disaster relief organization to get me and the hundreds of other hotel guests out of New Orleans where we’d been stuck since a couple of days before the storm. In fact, the hotel management had arranged for ten buses to take us to Houston the day before, but that plan had fallen through when the National Guard-under the authority of martial law-seized the buses on their way into New Orleans and diverted them to God knows where. We only discovered that after six hours of lining up on the street in the unbearable heat and humidity.
Standing in that lobby alone and locked in, it became instantly clear to me that if I was going to get out of New Orleans, it would be the result of my own efforts. I would have to take the leadership I’d been expecting the local authority figures to assume and find my own escape from that hotel and New Orleans.
Sometimes the chance to face yourself and discover your native leadership instincts forces itself on you. That’s what happened to me although I didn’t recognize it as such at that moment. I would rather have been anywhere else in the world besides that sweltering lobby in New Orleans on that day. But, against my will, life was presenting me the opportunity to step up and lead myself out or turn away and wait for someone else to make it happen. I stepped up.
So What's My Book Really About?
Trapped in the Big Easy is not just a memoir of my time during Hurricane Katrina, but is a story about leadership, it’s failures, and what I learned about the first steps you need to take to develop the leader within. It’s also the story of being catapulted onto the search for a life of purpose, and the challenges to keeping faith on that search.
After escaping New Orleans and getting home I thought the big challenge would be to take a few weeks to recover and then get back to my “normal” life. I thought my story was just about my time during Katrina, but I slowly began to realize that my journey started during Katrina and it was ongoing.
Katrina had energized me and washed away decades of self-doubt and fear of being authentic, of speaking what was true for me. I desperately needed to build my own internal levees that would be strong enough to keep those old feelings of self-doubt and fear from cresting and submerging my authentic voice again. I wasn’t going to hide myself away deep down inside anymore.
Being in New Orleans with the normal props of life stripped away changed me in very profound ways. My tolerance for ignorance, stupidity, intellectual laziness, arrogance, hubris and most of all for people who just don’t give a damn about anything but themselves was gone. My willingness to surrender my own judgment and intuition to so called “authority figures” was at zero. I was unwilling to settle for anything but an authentic life of daily purpose at the same time that I wasn’t even sure that was possible. I was determined to not allow the banalities of everyday life to possess me again.
However, it was only after being home a couple of months that I realized the major change that Katrina had wrought in me: I was now on a quest, one that had two major goals...
- I passionately wanted to tell the world the story of what happened in New Orleans during Katrina and...
- I desperately wanted to keep alive my true voice, that state of living a life of purpose that Katrina had given me.
When you go for a life of purpose and clarity the picture that you see isn’t always pretty. To my horror I began to realize that I had become one of those people who settled for the life they had even if they were unhappy with it, and I’d sworn that I’d never, ever be one of those people. I began to understand how a person can go from being determined never to settle to finding themselves doing exactly that. When I saw myself at that point where the idea of settling didn’t seem so bad it scared the hell out of me. It’s like that movie, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, where you keep fighting off fatigue to keep yourself awake until at some point it seems so much easier, even appealing, to just go to sleep and let the pods take your soul.
Katrina had awakened me enough to realize that I was letting myself be seduced by that mermaid of giving up and settling, and that recognition enabled me to turn my back on her. My quest was on.
Okay, How Might My Book Be Important to You and Your Life?
If you are interested in ...
- Compelling real-life stories, and first person accounts of history
- Leadership and developing your own leadership potential.
- Living a life of purpose.
You will likely find yourself in the pages of my book.
In many ways my book is about answering the calls that life gives us to be who we are, to live that life that’s true to our deepest self. I’ve always been interested in living my life like that, and being a child of the 60’s only deepened my aspirations. One of the ways I chose to pursue that life was to become a psychologist in the hope that it would help me understand myself, and clear out the uncertainties and confusion that I brought with me from the way I grew up. Becoming a psychologist actually did help, but it could only take me so far.
I thought my career path as a psychotherapist was set, but after a number of years working a private practice I began to notice that I had less passion around my work. After studying for so many years to get my degrees I, at first, couldn't face the fact that I was finished being a psychotherapist. I was at one of those junctures where life was calling me another direction, but I was too scared to answer that call. So I chose to try and ignore those feelings, and the price I paid was the loss of purpose and a growing sense of depression. I was living an inauthentic life and I finally reached a point where I had to make a change. It was too difficult to face on my own so I reached out to someone who could help guide me through the transition to whatever awaited me next in my career.
Life is full of these junctures, those places where two paths diverge, where we’re required to choose to continue doing the same thing or to set off on a new path. One of those paths takes you closer to living on purpose while the other takes you further away. I had faced many of these junctures in my life and had experienced periods of living a life of purpose, but it seemed my old habits would reappear and suck me back into the “skimming-the-surface-of-life” pattern that had kept me safe for so long.
When I came out of Katrina I was faced again with the choice of trying to fit myself back into my old pre-Katrina life, or answer the call to living that life of purpose true to my own core. Katrina was such an overwhelming experience that I really had no choice. I had to choose the path of living on purpose.
My book may help you find the courage and strength to make the choices that will take you in the direction of leading a life of purpose when you inevitably find yourself at one of those life junctures where it’s time to go a new direction.
Want to help, But Things Are a Little Tight Like They Are For Many People?
You can help by spreading the word about my book in your community by broadcasting my Kickstarter campaign through Facebook, Twitter, email and any other outlets. Many thanks for any help you can give us.
Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
My book is 95% complete, and I expect to have the book finished and edited by the end of November, 2013. However, as with any project, unforeseen circumstances could arise during the editing and production of the book that could delay it’s delivery date. I’ll be self-publishing the book and we could encounter obstacles in that process as this is the first time we’ve utilized this approach.
However, I'm on a quest to see my first person account of the story of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina published. Witnessing what happened in NOLA during Katrina bonded me to that soulful city in a very personal way. In addition, a part of my own mission of living a daily life of purpose is bound up in seeing my book published. I've already encountered many obstacles in getting the book to where we are now including having my former agent take my book proposal to the Book Expo in New York in 2007 and being told that "no one is interested in Katrina."
I've come too far, put too much love, energy, and faith into my book to be stopped by any potential obstacles. I’m confident that we’ll be able to deliver the book as promised with your help. It's my mission. Thank you.
Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.
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