Musing on the meaning of life

I had some profound realisations last night. I thought I’d got my head around this whole life thing, but I hadn’t. After some deep intrinsic questioning and rapid cramming of research I can finally say that I’ve got a conclusion I’m 100% satisfied with.

I first started making real progress on the meaning of life when I read Ryan Allis’ “Lessons from my 20s” and decided to find my purpose. I concluded my purpose or ‘meaning for life’ was the following:

To put 100% of myself and my effort into building immense value for humanity

I was very pleased with myself, and felt a moment of total clarity. This made so much sense to me. What’s the point of being alive, if you aren’t using your life to the absolute max to create societal value?

But my purpose met its first altercation when I reached out to a pseudo-mentor of mine, Jan Sramek, and asked him what was the most important thing that he learnt since writing his best-selling book “Racing Towards Excellence“. What stuck with me in his response was:

“People matter — find the ones who get you and work/spend time with them.”

I started to follow this advice, focusing on getting depth, meaning and breadth in my relationships, and quickly made a slight modification to my purpose…

To put 100% of myself and my effort into building immense value for humanity and connections that matter

In hindsight, I can see this was getting a little convoluted now. How can I say putting 100% of myself into two very different things? How do I split the 100%?

Despite this modification, it felt like there was still something missing.

I started my most recent venture, Artifix, on the premise that it’s at the intersection between my passion and my expertise. Artificial intelligence is my passion, problem solving in IT is my expertise. It felt like an epiphany. Now to be aligned with my purpose, I would commit 100% to this and work on it day in, day out. A week or two went by and I had made some progress, but nothing close to what I was capable of. I felt deflated. In my head, I was doing everything right. Living with purpose. Why wasn’t this motivating me to perform like it should? I had my “why“, wasn’t that all that mattered?

Somewhere in finding the meaning of life, I had gone wrong.

I had my first philosophical thoughts about life aged 11 on holiday with my family. I’ve read dozens of books such as Man’s Search for Meaning, On the Shortness of Life and Drive, had hundreds of conversations about it. All in all, I’ve spent thousands of hours deliberating on this profound question. Which is why it’s so ironic and amusing that what made the pin drop for me was watching Jupiter Ascending (a spectacularly average sci-fi movie…).

For some reason, this changed my perspective on things. In Jupiter Ascending, it turns out planet earth is just a giant farm. Human life was grown on earth by a superior life-form who run the Universe, just so that it could be harvested a few million years later. I.E. One day, the entirety of humanity is set to be wiped out and ‘harvested’.

Imagine that were true, and let it sink in for a moment. One day, some being outside our realm of reality will just flick a switch and that will be it. Our solar system is sucked into some kind of black hole and everything about humanity disappears for ever. What’s more, they’re most likely to flick the switch when the Earth is at it’s peak population, which may well happen in our lifetime. Or it could happen tomorrow.

What is the point of leaving a legacy? Before we’ve even made our legacy, earth might be wiped out. The whole of humanity could be destroyed tomorrow for all we know. What’s the point of creating societal value for humanity? What even is the point of creating any value for ourselves? Meaningful relationships?

And then came the epiphany.

The meaning of life, is to give life meaning.

The meaning of life is not something intellectual or answerable. There is no single meaning to life that fits everyone. In fact, I would argue the opposite. The meaning of life for every single person is unique. Just like their fingerprints or their DNA. The meaning of life isn’t to find a calling or purpose that relates to society as a whole. It’s just to give it whatever meaning you want.

The only place people go wrong with the meaning of life, is that they forget how every single day is valuable. Time, is all you have in life. Whatever you feel like doing in that time, go ahead and do it. Whether it’s sitting on the couch watching Netflix all day, or creating something new in the world. Either is fine if you are satisfied with that. There’s no need to work yourself like a dog, unless that’s what you want to be doing.

This epiphany has taken me full circle. From no meaning, to trying to find meaning, to no (set) meaning again. It gives me peace of mind that as long as I am meticulous with how I spend my time, my life is meaningful.

I choose to pursue creating new things in the world because that is what I like to spend my time doing. I choose to read new books every week because that is what I like to spend my time doing. And I choose to go out for dinner with friends who excite me, because that is what I like to spend my time doing.

What do you spend your time doing?

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