Tag Archives: Meaning

Meaning and nature

As humans, we seek meaning in our lives. Believing that we’re here for a reason keeps us engaged in life and motivated towards our goals.

As a result, we weave our lives into stories where events follow one another, driven by an overarching theme. This theme may be one of destiny, tragedy, comedy, or other.

But nature doesn’t care for our meaning. Nature is governed by the laws of the hard sciences and when these laws collide with the meaning that we have set for ourselves, it is the scientific laws that win.

In other words, nature doesn’t care how you feel.

When this happens, you revisit the story of your life and adjust it to once again achieve a coherent story. You recreate meaning in your life. This meaning may or may not be the same as the meaning which had existed prior to it colliding with nature.

You then go back to your life, believing in the new meaning that you have created for yourself.

While nature continues to not care.

Meaning, uncertainty, and worry

When you do things that you know the outcome of, there’s no reason to worry. You already know that you’ll achieve the outcome.

Worry sets in when you pursue something with an uncertain outcome. The greater the uncertainty of the outcome, the greater the worry.

Looking at things this way, doing things with relatively certain outcomes is an easy way to avoid worry.

However, those things with relatively certain outcomes also tend to be less meaningful. Those things that are worth doing tend to have uncertain outcomes.

So the choice is between doing meaningful things with uncertain outcomes and hence worry, and less meaningful things with relatively certain outcomes and low worry.

There’s room for both. However, most of us naturally gravitate towards the latter in order to minimize worry. Reminding ourselves that the former produce worry for a good reason helps us do more of these things.

Untouchable by Jacob Bellens

I usually don’t drive. I prefer to get around through a combination of public transport and taxis to avoid driving in traffic.

But I took my wife’s car out for a leisurely drive yesterday morning, a Saturday before most people had woken up and while the roads were still empty.

I turned on the radio, and this song came on. I later searched and found that it’s Untouchable by Jacob Bellens.

For me, that Saturday morning, it perfectly captured the simultaneous meaning and lack of meaning of it all, our attempts to understand and improve the world despite its inherent unknowables and uncertainties, and the beauty of the resulting journey.

So I turned off the radio, found the song on my smartphone, placed it on repeat, and continued driving.

Life defining feelings

Most days, the feelings you experience are similar to feelings you’ve experienced before. They’re small variations on these past feelings.

Such feelings are very valuable. They give life meaning.

However, every once in a while, there comes a day when you experience a feeling that you haven’t experienced before. The feeling isn’t a variation of an earlier feeling but something completely new.

Such feelings, whether positive or negative in the moment, expand your mind and offer a new way of looking at and thinking about the world. They are life defining.

How I’m able to write (publish) each morning

Earlier this week, someone asked me how I’m able to write a blog post each morning. Here was my answer:

1. I don’t actually write each morning. Probably about a third of the posts I publish are written that morning. I write the other two thirds at different times of the day when I feel like writing. I then publish them on a future morning.

2. I find meaning in sharing my learnings, both about startups and personal, with others. Hopefully these learnings help others in their personal and professional lives.

3. I enjoy writing to better articulate and structure my thoughts.

In other words, it’s a combination of planning, meaning, and fun that keeps me going.

Producing

Consuming is easy. But consumption produces just a short-term burst of happiness.

Buying something and browsing social media are examples of consumption. They come naturally to us and produce short-term happiness but don’t generate long-term meaning.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consume. Some consumption, like food, is necessary to survive. And many types of consumption are entertaining. Examples beyond buying something and browsing social media include listening to music, reading books, and watching movies. And entertainment contributes to a happy life.

However, long-term meaning comes from producing, not consuming.

And producing is difficult. Especially producing something valuable that other people want. It requires sacrificing some of the short-term happiness of consuming.

Examples of production are just the reverse of examples of consumption. If someone is buying something, then someone else must have built the thing that is being bought. If someone is browsing social media, then someone else must have created the content that is being browsed. Building things and creating content are examples of production.

Producing something valuable takes careful thought, planning, building your product, putting it out there, taking in feedback, and continually refining it. It’s painful and you need to be dedicated and disciplined to overcome the pain.

Because production demands dedication and discipline, you can’t produce in many areas of your life. The best of us produce in one or two domains during a given period of our lives.

One way to find the thing or things that you are likely to be dedicated and disciplined enough to produce is to think about what you, for whatever underlying reason, find meaningful.

The other way is to think about those things which you find less painful to do than most other people. Perhaps you even find them pleasurable.

Taking these two approaches together, you can produce something where the meaning is worth the pain.