In Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl says everyone has purpose in life. It tends to be specific and changes from day to day. A supermeaning also exists, but it’s possible you may not understand it until the very end. Viktor Frankl’s idea is uplifting, but a little lacking in terms of direction.
I finished rereading Cal Newport’s book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You, and his advice on finding purpose provides some clarity, at least for my circumstances. Good missions are unique and tend to happen at the cutting edge of a field. He talks about how major scientific breakthroughs occur in tandem because at the time only a certain amount of knowledge is understood. Discoveries are more likely to happen in the adjacent possible.
He brings up examples of people who quit their jobs to pursue a lifestyle company about “a life well lived.” They ultimately end up failing, because they don’t have the requisite career capital to succeed. They don’t have any interesting insights or skills. The only thing they have is enthusiasm which is a commodity.
Looking back, one of the reasons I left my jobs was because I felt that I wasn’t learning and growing as fast anymore. It wasn’t the only reason. I also wanted to take some time to get my head straight. Think about what I want in life, focus on my systems, habits, psychology. Also, I wanted to learn some new skills and do some traveling.
If someone else can do what you’re doing, it seems less worthwhile. We have a desire to be unique. Maybe it is biological. Perhaps groups of people who were more likely to do unique things were more likely to make discoveries or have ideas that increased their survival rate. There likely wouldn’t have been much progress back then if everyone did the same thing.
I buy what Cal says. If you want to have some unique impact in this world, you will need some unique skills to make it happen.
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