all posts tagged 'purpose'

The Levers That Money Can’t Pull

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Bob Marley (supposedly) said that “some people are so poor, all they have is money.” What he meant was that there are people that mistake the pursuit of wealth for their purpose, and when they realize that they’ve conflated the two, they understand that they’ve missed the point of why life is so worthwhile in the first place.

This is why purpose must be discovered without the promise of incentives or monetary rewards. It can only come from conducting an honest audit of what makes you feel wonderment (i.e. childlike curiosity) or a sense of duty (i.e. parental responsibility), and then directing your attention to making the most of those endeavors.

The sense of self-worth that can be derived from purpose is free from money’s clutches, so keep this in mind whenever you feel discouraged by how much you have. Money is simply not a variable here, and the knowledge of that goes a long way.

I’ve spent the past six months of unemployment conducting the audit described above.

And I’ve learned that what brings me wonderment is learning how technology works1, and my sense of duty is in teaching others how to use it.2

It’s not so much that I forgot those things about myself. What brings me such shame is the fact that I’ve suppressed the urge to pursue those activities in the name of making money.

Ultimately, love is the thing that matters most, but it’s often overlooked and disregarded as a cheesy emotion. In the minds of many, skepticism signals intelligence, whereas love signals naivete. After all, you garner respect by sounding the alarm on humanity’s problems, and not by pointing to love as the answer to them.

This is precisely why love is taken for granted. Even if love is felt between you and another person (be it a friend, partner, family member, whomever), it’s often left unarticulated because saying “I love you” means that you’re fine with seeming naive and aloof. And if this fear goes on long enough, you’ll feel that the best way to express your love will be through ways that act as surrogates for it.

Another thing I’ve learned about myself is that I am a naturally trusting person.

The majority of people I’ve encountered professionally appear to be the opposite. In particular, those playing the entrepreneur game seem especially skeptical or fearful of leaning into love.

Skepticism and fear drive those folks to make decisions about their business which ultimately lead to their demise.

I’ve sat in countless meetings with teams of executives who are frantically trying to come up with an idea for how to get more people to buy their thing.

At some point, an obvious answer emerges which involves building something that genuinely helps people.

But that obvious answer is almost universally looked at the same way you’d look at a plate of boogers because of financial concerns.

This general feeling is why I’ve struggled so hard to find a job. I’m tired of building software which only serves the purpose of making money.

Instead of jumping into another job where the culture is driven by money, I’m waiting until I come across a culture that is driven by love.3

Money’s a great tool, granting me a level of freedom that I may not have experienced had I pursued any other career.

But money is also the primary reason why I am dealing with severe anxiety and depression. It’s why my heart constantly feels like someone is squeezing it like a strongman squeezing an orange.

The only thing that causes the grip to be released? Doing things that lift the “purpose” and “love” levers. It’s when I trust others and spread as much love as possible when I feel the most alive.

Using the analogy in this article, I’ve spent the last 12 years of my life optimizing for the money-receptive levers. I’m gonna spend the next few in pursuit of lifting the money-negligent ones instead and see where that leads me.

  1. It’s not just tech… it’s all the STEM topics. And history. And sociology. And psychology. I find endless joy when I dig into understanding how anything works. 

  2. My sense of duty also extends to caring for my wife and teaching my kids stuff. I went out a couple weeks back and bought us all baseball gloves, and every day since, we’ve been outside playing catch. That is, up until yesterday, when I accidentally threw the ball down the storm drain. 😬 

  3. Here’s where I’ll say that I’m not so aloof as to deny that a business exists to make money. But when given the choice to be helpful versus to mint more money, I’d rather be on a team which makes the “help someone” choice more often than not. Those teams are out there, but they’re hard to find. And the turnover on those teams is exceptionally low. 

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We need to keep dreaming, even when it feels impossible.

🔗 a linked post to » — originally shared here on

I get why we fear dreaming. It’s hard for us to get our hopes up that things will go the way we want them to. Yet and still, we need to put this worry as far away from our psyches as possible. You might call it madness, but I call it necessary.

When we are afraid of having too much hope, we’re actually afraid of being disappointed. We are anxious about expecting the world to gift us and show us grace, because what if we end up on our asses?

So we dream small or not at all. Because if we expect nothing or expect something small, we cannot be disappointed when the big things don’t happen. We think it’s a great defense mechanism, but what it really is is a liability on our lives, because we are constantly bracing for impact.

I haven’t really felt like I’ve had a dream or vision for years now.

The last month with no job has really blessed me with an opportunity to start dreaming again.

And guess what? It’s actually kinda fun to do it, even if it comes with some occasional failure and disappointment.

Because for me, the feelings that come with complacency are significantly worse than the risks that come from dreaming.

(Side topic for future Tim to explore: how are dreams and anxiety correlated?)

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Leaving Google Cloud

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I’m used to the next right thing feeling certain and obvious. That’s probably because I’m used to being young. When you’re young, there are a lot of people out there whose examples you can imitate, and relatively low risk in trying things you’re not sure will work out. You also have an unearned confidence that comes from not having failed much yet.

But even the most conventionally successful of us, young or not, may reach a place in our careers where THERE IS NO OBVIOUS NEXT STEP. The things you’ve discovered you’re good at may not exactly line up with a standard corporate career path. There may no longer be an existing, ready-made challenge that’s the right size for you to step into.

There will just be a you-shaped hole in the world—its boundaries defined by your unique connections, the extreme limit of your skills, the scope of your ambitions—and trial and error is the only way you can figure out how to fill it.

As I’m oft to quote, Lisa Simpson’s “a challenge I can do” bit comes to mind here.

To be honest, this has been the toughest part of being on the job hunt.

I never wanted to follow a conventional career path. I’ve enjoyed the flexibility of my professional life so far, but I do yearn for the perceived stability of a full time thing. Many full time things don’t often give you much flexibility.

I suppose all I can do is just putting myself out into the world and explore until I find a “me-shaped” hole that looks close enough for me.

I sometimes hear the phrase “unapologetically you” tossed around, and I guess there comes a time where you either need to fully embrace that ethos or jump into premade boxes which only can represent a portion of your self.

I think I’m trying to pursue the former.

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Politics, Friendship, and the Search for Meaning

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Imagine, by analogy, a virtuoso pianist at the peak of her career who looks out at the culture around her and realizes that appreciation for classical music is rapidly fading. She senses a crisis: if things continue, there will soon be no audiences, no careers in music, and no future great performances. She considers the situation so dire that she decides to step away from her instrument, if only for a time, in order to defend classical music nationwide. She gives speeches about composers in grade schools across the country, lobbies Congress for increased support for the arts, and solicits wealthy donors to sponsor classical-music instruction. Her work is noble, but it consumes her; and the crisis is so severe that her task is never done. Thus, she never fully returns to the life of music she enjoyed before. Now, when she has time to play, which is rare, she’s a shadow of her former self. Practice sessions find her distracted. Her music suffers as a result of her effort to save music.

The battle to save music is not itself the practice of music. The two activities are worlds apart. One is an instrumental good, the other intrinsic; one is never complete, the other complete in itself. This paradox occurs across domains: The battle to preserve a space for Christian worship in an increasingly secular society is not itself Christian worship. The defence of the liberal arts is not the liberal arts. And the war to save our political union from our enemies is not itself political union.

A pretty heavy article that makes a few great points about nihilism, politics, friendships, and meaning.

My only quibble is that the article makes an unnecessary leap about not being able to be complete without a relationship with God, but hey, maybe the longer I live and partake in intrinsic activities, those experiences will help change my opinion about why we’re here and what set this world into motion.

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It’s Your Friends Who Break Your Heart

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Whenever I mentioned to people that I was working on a story about friendship in midlife, questions about envy invariably followed. It’s an irresistible subject, this thing that Socrates called “the ulcer of the soul.” Paul Bloom, a psychology professor at the University of Toronto, told me that many years ago, he taught a seminar at Yale about the seven deadly sins. “Envy,” he said dryly, “was the one sin students never boasted about.”

He’s right. With the exception of envy, all of the deadly sins can be pleasurable in some way. Rage can be righteous; lust can be thrilling; greed gets you all the good toys. But nothing feels good about envy, nor is there any clear way to slake it. You can work out anger with boxing gloves, sate your gluttony by feasting on a cake, boast your way through cocktail hour, or sleep your way through lunch. But envy—what are you to do with that?

Die of it, as the expression goes. No one ever says they’re dying of pride or sloth.

This is one of those articles that is hard to pull one single quote from, because it’s just so damn good.

The whole piece hits me right in the chest, and I’m sure you, dear reader, have someone you should be reaching out to after reading this too.

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