When Life and Purpose Merge

“Life is a highway, I want to ride it all night long…”  Lyrics from song on Mad Mad World album by Tom Cochrane

The metaphor of life as a highway with all of its twists and turns, detours, merges and roadblocks, scenic and not-so-scenic views has always resonated with me.  All of our yearly family vacations, until I reached the age of 17, involved road trips that traversed the United States.  Most of my fond memories from early childhood revolve around those adventures on the open highway.

But now, I’m sitting on a different form of transportation tens of thousands of feet over the Pacific Ocean on my way back home to Singapore.  It has been a whirlwind of a week that began at 5AM Singapore time this past Saturday morning, when our real estate agent called.  We had been toying with the idea of purchasing a home in the San Francisco Bay Area, recognizing that this is where we would return, once our Singapore stint was done in a few years.

We settled on Sausalito, a picturesque coastal town in the side of a mountain overlooking the San Francisco Bay, just on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco.  We like its proximity to the city, but with a microclimate that includes less fog throughout the year.  Over the summer, a friend had introduced me to Mark, a local real estate agent in Sausalito.  Because interest rates on home loans were so low, we asked him to keep an eye out for a property that would fit our needs – rentable now, but with potential for a future which included two kids off to university and beyond…our empty nest.

For context, the real estate market in that area is still booming, with multiple offers typical on prospective properties.  We had already put a bid on a property that I had seen over the summer and didn’t even come close to getting it.  Most other properties in our price range did not thrill us.

Then, an interesting home was brought forward.  Mark seemed very excited about it and even went through the trouble of video taping the entire property, so that we could get a better feel for it from the other side of the world.  Upon viewing the video, I mentally made the house my own.  And, that’s when the idea to merge the work that I am doing with TOSO/social enterprise and the purchase of this property struck me.  Why not somehow connect our renting out this property over the next few years with my passion for supporting causes that enable social good?  Ideas started flowing.

We put a bid on the house, and I was cautious, but deep inside certain that we would get it.  But, once again, we were not successful.  The owners were nervous that we might back out during inspection phase, since we lived overseas and had not seen the place in person.

We were deeply disappointed, but resigned to the fact that it was not meant to be.  Then we got the call this past Saturday.  The negotiations with their buyer had fallen through, the people who had a back up offer had already moved on, and the sellers did not want to have to put the house back on the market.  They asked if we were still interested, and put us into primary position for buying the property.  The only catch – I needed to get there within 48 hours to view the property in person.

By 1:15PM that afternoon in Singapore, I was on a flight and arrived that same day at 4PM San Francisco time.  Upon arrival and going through immigration, the customary screening questions were asked, including “are you here for business or personal reasons?”  And, that’s when it struck me.  My business has become my personal.  My life and my purpose are one…they’ve merged.

I met up with Mark the following morning and saw the house in person for the first time.  It was even better than I had imagined.  After reviewing and discussing multiple home inspections and a bit of negotiating with the sellers, we are now in contract.  I guess it was meant to be after all.

Still a work in progress, my initial thoughts are to donate a percentage of the rental revenue to a Sausalito-based charity that would be in line with the concept of TOSO…something that facilitates a “seeking to understand” philosophy for improving human relations.  I’m still working through the idea and, for now, really just need to get through the next 30 days of bank loans and appraisals. But, I am confident there could be something to this idea, and, for now, I’m simply waiting to see where the merge in this highway takes me next.

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