The meaning of life is whatever the heck you want it to mean.
It’s amazing how we can cruise through life with our meaning tank running on empty. I witnessed that in a friend. She always chased career success and money.
One day she got diagnosed with cancer.
Things went downhill way faster than expected. What should have been a slow process with a good chance of recovery turned into a funeral three months later.
What I found mind-blowing was that once she knew she’d die she became a different person. She started a cancer foundation. She started coaching other cancer patients. She started a Youtube channel.
From zero to 100 on the meaning of life scale.
A sudden death can re-spark the meaning of our lives. But let’s not wait until death to find meaning.
Most people have zero meaning in life
They go to work each day and grind out a series of tasks to collect a mediocre paycheck and keep barely surviving.
I’m not here to make you feel bad or shame anyone. I spent years in banking with zero meaning, too. But Malcolm Gladwell once said that if your work has no meaning then it’s a prison sentence.
That’s no way to live.
French Philosopher Albert Camus once said the real meaning of life is found when you discover something that keeps you from killing yourself. Because when life has no meaning, there’s not much point being alive.
Most people have no meaning in life because they don’t understand its importance. Those who find meaning have a luxury greater than money or material possessions.
Meaning is the best motivation there is.
Life feels effortless. You want to grab your partner and do a salsa dance because you’re so high on life. You just can’t wait to wake up.
If you wake up in the morning, with no sense of meaning or direction, you’re most likely to end up recycling your unproductive habits. Meaning, the cure to life’s greatest pandemic, ‘wasted lives.’
— George Blue Kelly
The misdirection of fake luxury steals meaning
Business owner Paul Kedrosky spoke to 3–4 of his closest friends that had retired early.
They gave up work because they had enough money. They played golf, went on endless European vacations, drank fine wine, did some angel investing, and completed back-to-back kitchen renovations they didn’t really need.
So what are they doing?
They’ve realized fake luxury isn’t a substitute for a meaningful life.
Software engineers experience the lack of meaning crisis too
Luke Metro on Twitter asked “Why does [working in] tech seem to burn people out so quickly despite most tech jobs being objectively cushy?”
A user named @_made_in_cosmos gave a brilliant answer. She said once an engineer is done solving for survival by getting a job in tech to pay bills, they will start to look for meaning in their work.
If you’ve ever worked in tech, as I have, you’ll know that a lot of the work can lack meaning.
- Town halls
- User stories
- Lines of code
- Feature requests
At the end you’re left thinking “Is this all there is?”
No 6-figure salary can give you meaning. It’s just digits on a screen. What we want deep down is a meaning behind what we do.
To feel like we’re making a difference.
“Find what you love and let it kill you”
Charles was an odd man.
For most of his life no one knew who he was. He tried to be a writer and sucked. So he got a boring job in a post office filing letters. After 30 years of going nowhere he got a book deal.
At that moment he had two choices:
- Stay at the post office and go insane.
- Or quit, become a full-time writer, and starve.
“I decided to starve” he said.
What Charles is trying to say is when you find meaning in your life there’s nothing better. You should let it kill you.
I say the same about my own writing career. Last year I burned the boats, quit my job, and cut all ties. I can probably never go back to banking. But I don’t care. I’ve decided I will let writing online kill me if it has to.
I will never do another form of work again. To inspire randoms on the internet is just too damn addictive to ever give up.
Takeaway: Find one or more things you’re happy to let kill you.
The bizarre paradox of finding meaning
This topic is extremely cringe. ‘Find your passion’ sounds like a Peppa Pig nursery rhyme. LOL.
What I found in the process of escaping banking to find meaning is that passion is a spark. It’s not an endpoint.
The process of discovery leads to people and things that give you meaning and ignite passion. So the answer is to experiment — not go on some mythical fairytale quest to the land of nowhere holding a find your passion flag.
Author Mark Manson says looking for purpose, passion, or meaning isn’t what helps you find it. No. It’s the result of taking action that does.
Don’t worry about finding a single meaning for your life
I’ve found through my experience and research that we don’t find one meaning for our lives.
Life has multiple meanings.
Because life is full of seasons. One season the meaning for your life might be starting a business to help people get fit. Another season might be raising grandkids. And the final season might be writing a book to share everything you’ve learned so others can get inspired.
Once you see there are multiple ways to find meaning in your life, you stop searching for the mythical one above all else which doesn’t exist.
Tony Robbins turns the meaning of life on its head
Tony argues when we’re unhappy with the meaning of our life, it’s because of the description we’re giving what we do.
We can decide what we want experiences to mean and have them empower us in revolutionary ways. The meaning we give our experiences determines the emotion we feel. And emotion controls your life. And emotion equals life.
So learn how to control what things mean.
Another killer way to find multiple meanings throughout your life
Fitness coach Zach Pogrob says finding your purpose or finding meaning are two options we can choose from.
But there’s a third door.
It’s called “Follow your obsession.”
This is what I’ve been experimenting with for the last 8 years. Zach says to fall in love with something and let it take over your life until the point where people think you’ve gone insane.
The pursuit of obsession leads to things that create a powerful meaning for your life. It’s an actionable goal with a compass you can follow, unlike the traditional “find meaning” that is near-impossible to define.
True wealth is having a meaning for your life.
Chase obsessions to the ends of the earth.