Since I recently discussed failure and its many implications in a previous blog entry, today I would like to discuss success. Specifically, I will discuss how staying true to your purpose will not only make your life better, but may also contribute to making the world a better place to live in.
We are led to believe by many people that following our true purpose is selfish, and that we should just be realistic and get a job. As a result, most people don’t follow their true purpose, and ultimately deny themselves and the world the opportunity to benefit from the unique gifts that they have. To be fair, there is nothing wrong with getting a job, provided you feel that you are being compensated fairly for your efforts, your benefits (which can be described in both financial and non-financial terms) are sufficient, and your position gives you the opportunity to work on projects you enjoy with like-minded people who you get along with. Additionally, working for yourself can be a great experience – provided you enjoy it, are able to create something you are passionate about, and are able to deliver value to people in the process. Finally, I am not saying that we should all become anarchists or completely disconnected from society.
Now that I got my disclaimers out of the way, let me describe a scenario for you. Let’s take three different people: a homeless man, a schoolteacher, and the CEO of a large corporation. While I am aware that I am oversimplifying things for the sake of discussion, the end for each one of these people, at least in this life, will be the same. When they die, they will be unable to take any of their accomplishments, money or possessions with them.
Regardless of your religious background (or lack thereof) or beliefs about the existence or lack of an afterlife, the fact remains that you will be unable to take those material objects with you, whether you believe that one ends up under the ground, in another body, or in another universe.
As far as I am concerned, the existence or lack of an afterlife is no reason to throw away your current life. Let me repeat that: the existence or lack of an afterlife is no reason to throw away your current life.
Today, many of us who are fortunate enough to live in modern, industrialized nations find that we have little trouble getting enough food to eat, putting a roof over our heads, and finding at least some leisure time to do what we love or work on projects that are meaningful to us (whether they are hobbies or work-related). In short, despite the difficulties that we may face in The First World, life for most of us is at a level where we are no longer struggling to subsist, unlike many of our ancestors, who never had a chance to enjoy the many wonderful things we take for granted now, such as advanced medical care, fast and efficient public transportation, and the Internet.
Thus, we owe it to ourselves to do our best to enjoy life as much as we can and contribute as much value as we can to society. Whether we listen to other people and just get a job, take off and travel the world, or start our own businesses, the end result is the same, at least in this life. So why not enjoy these moments that you can’t ever get back?
More importantly, many studies conducted by psychologists, as well as research conducted by scholars and philosophers, has uncovered that what really brings joy to many people is not enormous monetary gain, but rather, being able to share experiences with people they care about and being able to work on projects that are meaningful to them. While these are by no means the only two things that contribute to making people feel content with life, they are too important to ignore, since spending time with people who are important to you and working on projects that are meaningful to you helps you ultimately give something extraordinary back to the world, whether that extraordinary thing is a new life-saving technology, a work of art, or an experience that you and your loved ones will cherish forever.
But let’s move on to the point of this blog entry – why stick to one’s true purpose at all?
Because the reason we have such fantastic technology, art, medical care, standard of living, and many other things that are good in this world, is a result of someone or some people sticking to their purpose and not following what everyone else did. But more importantly, it’s also because these people did not let fear hold them back from moving forward with their vision.
We have wonderful music, art, and literature that inspire us on a very deep level, because of people like Johann Sebastian Bach, Michelangelo, and Plato. Indeed, works such as “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor”, the Sistine Chapel ceiling, and The Republic continue to inspire people to this very day.
Thomas Edison battled health problems as a child, got fired from his job at Western Union at the age of 19, and suffered countless setbacks in his professional career. However, he continued with his passion, and as a result, he became one of the most prolific inventors the world has ever known. His inventions, such as the light bulb, have made life easier for billions of people.
Louis Pasteur endured a poor childhood, and then the death of three of his young children. However, he never gave up, and his research brought about tremendous breakthroughs in the causes and prevention of diseases. He created the first vaccine for rabies, as well as the process of pasteurization. Prior to Pasteur’s research, few doctors washed their hands or equipment before performing surgery. I would imagine that millions of lives have been saved due to the efforts of Pasteur.
There are countless examples of people who followed their true purpose in life, and not only became successful, but also helped and inspired many people along the way. You can do just the same. The world wants to receive the gifts of your brilliance. I may not know you, but I am absolutely sure that the world could benefit from your vision and your ideas, no matter how insignificant you feel they may be.
But all this talk of purpose necessarily begs the following question: “What if I am not sure what my purpose is in life?” While this is a rather challenging philosophical question to tackle, especially within the confines of a blog, I could, however, offer some advice based on my own experiences. If you are not sure what your purpose is in life, perhaps the search for your purpose could become your purpose. What this means is that you continue living your life as you are right now, and along the way, you spend whatever free time you have on things that bring you joy, and you focus your attention on things that are important to you. While you may not find your purpose right away, I guarantee that if you do this, you will eventually have clarity on what’s important to you in life, and thus, you will be a lot closer to discovering your true purpose.
That’s exactly how I got into the IT industry and started working on software. I had always loved technology, computers, and video games, but for whatever reason, did not study computer science in university and did not even think about entering the industry earlier in life. I did eventually enter the IT industry and make a career out of it, but not until I was 30 years old. Sometimes, it takes many years of being observant and focusing your attention on things that you enjoy before you can finally find a way to make a living doing those things that you enjoy. Interestingly enough, I think what did it for me was my love of video games. And while I do not currently work in the video game industry, I do work on software, and the fact that I love video games and never took my eye off the ball helped me eventually get into a situation where I could get paid well for working on software. Additionally, one more thing I really enjoy doing is writing, and because I never stopped writing, I got to a point where I could not only earn money writing, but, also, work on writing projects that I enjoy (such as this blog).
In any case, whether you are crystal-clear about what your calling is in life, or whether you have no idea what your purpose should be, the time to take action and do something about it is now. If you wait until you are much older or until you are retired, you are likely to look back and feel that you played it too safe, and you may possibly have regrets about not following your purpose. So the time to live is NOW. Right now.
If you already know what your true calling is in life, don’t wait another day to start living life according to your purpose. The world needs people like you to help it advance and to improve life not only for yourself, but for others as well.
Now, I don’t wish to massively oversimplify things, but my main point here is this: we should do our best to live life to its fullest, focus on what brings us joy and is important to us, and, in spite of the many difficulties and tribulations we may experience along the way, we will likely end up with lots of adventures and memories to talk about and reflect on later in life, not to mention possibly coming up with solutions to some of the world’s greatest challenges, inspiring works of art, and other things that move the human race forward.
While it may not be possible to do what I’ve written above all of the time, we can at least do it some of the time. And that by itself would be a start. As we all know, all great things have a beginning. Since you have to start somewhere, and sometime, why not start here, and now?