Everyone needs meaning in their life, man does not live off bread alone. The complication is that there is no singular correct guidebook for how to live. Yes there are religious books like The Bible or The Quran which give guidance to believers, but in our increasingly agnostic age, many people have poor guidance. Even people who were raised by good parents and have intelligent friends need to figure things out for themselves.
Transitioning in Life
I was lucky enough to be born into a great family, so whenever I needed guidance I could go to my parents or extended family. In middle school and high school I turned away from this guidance and sought to carve my own path in the world. This mostly included playing the fool in class and experimenting with drinking and drugs.
My next transition was when I finished high school and moved away for university. I realized I was the guardian of my own life. I solely take responsibility for everything in my life and deal with any issues I encounter. My choices started to have a heavier weight on my life, this is the burden of responsibility. In university I rediscovered my love for reading. I read a wide range of books including philosophy, psychology, biographies, and literature. The latter being the best source of wisdom I have ever encountered.
One of the most influential authors I read was the 18th century German writer, Goethe.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Germany’s greatest writer
Goethe’s magnus opus, and arguably the greatest work of German literature was Faust. Faust is a tragic play based on the legend of the German Renaissance alchemist, astrologer, and magician. In Goethe’s tale, Faust is a successful scholar yet deeply unsatisfied with his life. He makes a deal with the devil exchanging his soul for unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasures.
The legend of Faust was so powerful for me because I could see myself as Faust. It’s easy to understand the attraction of selling your soul for an amazing worldly life, this is why the pact with the devil is such a strong idea. For an ambitious person, a Faustian bargain is an attractive scenario, and many people make it. Fortunately, I realized knowledge and sensory pleasure aren’t the pillars of a fulfilling life. I knew I needed something more fruitful, so I sought to figure it out.
I am finished university now and I am in my mid/early twenties. My future has a basic plan and outline for 5 and 10 years in the future, as well as more long-term plans.
To plan the future you need to understand your strengths and weaknesses and know what you want from life. Essentially, know yourself and know your goals. Most people do not do this, so even having very simple goals and doing simple introspection will put you ahead of most people. People don’t like to do this step because it makes them think about their weaknesses, understandable, but no excuse not to do it. People also hate to write out their goals, because once they express them they are accountable to them.
Understand The World
Every period of human history has its strengths and weaknesses. Our modern world is the most comfortable period and safe the world has ever been. We also live in a period of low economic productivity where people in the Western world are less optimistic about their economic future than their parents generation. We are undergoing an economic shift, globalization, technology, and the gig economy are all leading to less secure futures.
The one company man (same career for 30+ years) is not going to return in spades. People need to diversify and own their income streams, I recommend everyone start an online business. This will provide you ownership of the income stream and will provide the opportunity to scale the business. The internet will continue to grow, and websites perform better as they get older and Google’s algorithm trusts them more. This is the best long-term play you can make.
The modern world also has a lot of traps and distractions previous generations didn’t have to deal with. The biggest of all is technology and dealing with information overload. If you can manage this issue and you understand the structural changes occurring in the economy, you are in a great position to capitalize and succeed.
Take A Leap Of Faith
Once you understand yourself and understand the world, you should go all-in on what you want. You shouldn’t be afraid to fail at anything you do, that’s fine and this provides an opportunity to grow – the important thing is getting back up again. You need to be able to believe in yourself and bet everything on yourself. This involves taking a leap of faith into what you believe is right for yourself.
This is not to say you shouldn’t have a backup plan. You most definitely should have a backup plan, and a way to pivot to something else in a few months flat. It’s not easy but it’s necessary and need a rudimentary backup plan in the changing world.
It is not contradictory to take a leap of faith and have a back-up plan.
“There is perhaps nothing worse than reaching the top of the ladder and discovering that you’re on the wrong wall.” – Joseph Campbell