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How to Thrive

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Arianna Huffington has nailed it. We Thrive when we move from a place of wonder and generosity. We Thrive when we are used for good. It is not always easy, and rarely connected to a more facile quest for "happiness." To Thrive, really, is to be grounded in a state of grace.

Everywhere we have examples. My work with Acumen Fellows gives me the privilege of being surrounded by people thriving, moving from a place of generosity and wonder both.

Benje Williams spent a year as a Fellow in Lahore, Pakistan where he worked with a company bringing affordable clean water to low-income neighborhoods. Born in Los Angeles, one of two biological children in a family of 10, he earned an MBA from Stanford after his fellowship. After that, he decided to return to Lahore to start a vocational education company. Today, he's in full start-up mode, living on a shoestring budget, trying to do the impossible.

You might wonder why a recently minted Stanford MBA would move to Pakistan to take on a start-up that by statistical measures will likely fail to help poor and uneducated workers (with little income to pay for services) gain job skills. You may, in fact, think he's crazy. I am sure he has moments when he questions his sanity. Yet he's working around the clock with no roadmap.

And he's Thriving.

I recently had breakfast with him in Lahore, surrounded by a community of supportive friends and colleagues from different walks of Pakistani life. The man shines when he speaks. His exuberance attracts others to help him in droves. In so many ways he's coming home to himself.

Maybe this is it: maybe the measure of Thrive is how brightly we let our sparkle shine.

People often ask me how to find purpose and meaning in their lives. The truth is there are no clear directions. The answer lies instead in choosing to commit to something bigger than yourself and letting the work teach you. Purpose evolves. It can appear as a sort of ephemeral map grounded in a moral compass, quietly helping to navigate waters of failures and success. It spreads in ripples that appear as other partners willing to help along the way.

My mentor was a man named John Gardner, founder of the citizens group Common Cause, Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare for Lyndon Johnson, and architect of many organizations in the social sector. When I was 28 and he was nearly 80, I remember thinking he was one of the youngest men I knew. Through every endeavor, John focused on what he could do for others and the world. As he did so, his life blossomed into one of great purpose and, ultimately, achievement. The world is a different place because he was in it, not only because of what he did but because of how he did it.

On meaning, John wrote:

Meaning is not something you stumble across, like the answer to a riddle or the prize in a treasure hunt. Meaning is something you build into your life. You build it out of your own past, out of your affections and loyalties, out of the experience of humankind as it is passed on to you, out of your own talent and understanding, out of the things you believe in, out of the things and people you love, out of the values for which you are willing to sacrifice something. The ingredients are there. You are the only one who can put them together into that unique pattern that will be your life. Let it be a life that has dignity and meaning for you. If it does, then the particular balance of success or failure is of less account.

Benje and Acumen Fellows around the world are choosing not to ask what they can do to become rich or successful in conventional terms. Rather, they are focusing on what they can do to enable others to have opportunities, enable others to feel more beautiful, enable others to have more dignity. In that, they have the chance to grow into a deeper richness and wisdom. In that, they have a chance to Thrive.

Read more posts about Thrive from featured HuffPost contributors here.