As I approach the big 4, I have been ruminating a lot. About excellence, life, marriage, health, disease, purpose, religion, movies, business, money and more.
I have lived my life as a generalist. It’s because one topic isn’t enough to capture my imagination for long enough. I always thought of that as a failing. I failed to be so deeply interested and excellent at one thing that when I measured myself against my peers I fell short. Quite short. Even matching against my own sibling, I fell short. I’m taller than him but I fell short.
I fell short when it came to finding purpose. I fell short when it came to capitalizing on opportunities (I would have been Flipkart’s 11th employee if I had taken the job instead of going to work in a social media firm). I fell short when I worked for bosses I thought were intelligent enough to follow or lead. I fell short when I joined one of my dream companies but was riddled with bad management. I fell short when I took bets on my career that were incredibly dumb in hindsight (shifting industries to work on accounting software as a creative artist) but seemed good then.
In short, I fell short many times. But that’s okay. I’m okay and you are okay.
For years, I chased what life’s purpose meant. I asked everyone I knew. No one wanted to appear stupid so no one told me. Many didn’t know what the purpose was but they couldn’t admit it. Life had to be grand and purposeful and I was special, I thought. I read books, tweets, interviews and questioned everyone willing to listen. I found nothing satisfactory.
I think I have found the meaning of life now after all these years.
Life has no purpose. Except what you make of it and make in it.
You have been given an opportunity to play a game. You have 80 odd years statistically to do something with it. It could be cut short any time or it could be longer. That’s the mystery. That’s the allure. That’s the fun.
I have spent more time wondering than doing. And after a certain amount of time, your doing atrophies. It’s hard to do things. It’s harder to choose what to do though. And once you choose, you have to keep doing. I recommend thinking less and doing more.
I admire Steve Jobs and Elon Musk for their ability to “do”. We can see what Elon will end up doing but I’d like to talk about Steve Jobs.
When Steve Jobs was days from death in his hospital bed, he was reconfiguring and re-designing the oxygen monitor that they put on his face. He went through 67 nurses to find 3 that he liked. Here is a man who’s going to die. Why should he care so much I thought. You are leaving these things behind. Why should it matter what the f**$ing monitor looks like? Because he chose the purpose of his life was to make things better around him. To be an editor of life around. And he chose to live that even when death was approaching.
That’s how you choose purpose. In spite of Death.
No one tells you that they don’t know what life is about. A lot are figuring it out for themselves. No one knows what the right thing to do is. Everyone has a reasonably good idea of what it might be but no one is sure. Who knows what’s right? We don’t know for now but time will tell us.
Life is a continuous struggle to tweak, refine and perfecting the things you do. And no one seems to tell you that.
But you are okay if you don’t actively choose. As long as you don’t push around too much, save some money, build a family you’ll be okay. A lot of people are scared that if there is no grand purpose, if you are just a speck that’ll stop living you won’t have meaning at all. So they get cars, houses, spouses, children to tell themselves that their lives mattered. Maybe. Most likely not. But that is another way to choose purpose. To create these things. To do things.
Because non movement is death. You have been given an opportunity to play with only an upside to participating. Why not go all in?
You can live or be alive. Living is actively making choices. Being alive is also a choice, but a lesser one.
You are alive when you grow and replicate. You do neither when you are dead.
Both are very hard to do.
Growth involves challenges. It involves mystery. Replication involves putting out copies of yourself. Most people assume it’s kids. That’s the easiest way. The hardest part is creating art that’s a piece of you. Everything you create is a part of you. It has your origin. It might not look like you or appear like you did it but you did.
That’s the purpose of life. To live. To live by growing and replicating. By building and doing.