How to live a fulfilling life

This Is How To Find Meaning in Your Life (Backed by Research)

Despite being young, I’ve come across a decent amount of people my age who have been diagnosed with cancer.

It makes me wonder what I would do if I were to die in a month from now. It’s a powerful exercise that I suggest you do from time to time to make sure you’re not wasting your life. Cancer can happen to you and you don’t want to have a lot of regret from spending your life ineffectively.

I suggest having a month left to live because a day is too short and a year is too long. If you do the exercise centered around dying tomorrow, it’d be more for identifying regrets than identifying what you can do something about.

I want to start off the exercise to show you what I’d do if I were to die soon…

What I’d do if I were to die a month from now

Not much. It’s one of the first times I can say this. And that’s where you want to be. Having said that, there are still a few major items:

I’d spend all the money I saved up to travel more. This is a common regret and it’s been top of mind. Given the possibility of not dying soon and the importance of saving and growing your money, I have held back from travel, maybe more than I need to in order in favor of working more.

People have different travel preferences. I like tropical beach destinations. I have a list of places I’d like to visit but I’d start with Southeast Asia and South America because of their affordability and beauty. Or I may just blow it all in sparkling French Polynesia.

Moreover, I’d be unhappy that I never reached certain goals, not for lack of trying but lack of time.

I’d feel bad that I never got to date an extremely beautiful women on the inside and outside. It’s not a regret since I’ve done almost everything I can to improve my dating life, from online dating to improving my fitness and style to going to different hobby meet up groups to consuming all sorts of dating advice.

I’d wish I got to interview more successful, famous people and contributed to society in a way that they would respect.

I’d wish I developed more, stronger relationships with friends and family. I already do a good job of investing in this area but I could do even better.

Finally, I’d release the blog posts and videos that are still in production. I want to leave a positive legacy and there’s a good amount in the queue that I’d launch live even if they aren’t complete.

How to find out what you want from life

Now, it’s your turn. How do you actually live a fulfilling life with no regrets? I have some tips for you:

I’ve only encountered a few people who know about this. It’s a powerful concept. Almost all of them have been successful.

Asking “Why?” multiple times. 

In a book by the billionaire, Ted Leonsis, The Business of Happiness (affiliate link), he recalls a conversation he had with a roommate in college.

Ted is angry because he’s late to work. His roommate is lying on a couch kissing a girl. They get into a fight.

His friend asks him why he has to go to work. He angrily responds that he does it to perform well for his resume. His friend asks why he wants a good resume. He responds so that he can get a good job. He asks why he wants a good job. Ted screams his explanation: to make a lot of money. You can guess where this is going.

His friend asks why a few more times. Ted finally responds by saying he wants a beautiful house so he can meet a beautiful woman and make out with her just like his roommate is doing on the couch right now. His friend says he is just cutting out all of the stuff in the middle and going directly for what Ted is.

What’s the point of this story? We often take convoluted paths to get to our goals when it’s unnecessary because we haven’t thought it through. In fact, if you think it through even deeper, you may be able to avoid goals you think you want but don’t, as Ted found out. In his book, he realizes in a near-death experience that the money and beautiful wife still didn’t make him happy.

Most people in society are going through the motions because that’s what we’ve been told to do. Perhaps your end goal is to enjoy living in tropical locations. Maybe it’s easier to get there by working abroad rather than slaving away for 25+ years so that you can do it 2 weeks a year or when you retire.

Warren Buffett met a Harvard grad who started telling him about how he was going to spend 4 years at this bank and 2 years at this internship, all of which so that he could not one day get a prestigious job he hated to make tons of money.

Warren responded, “Isn’t that like saving up sex for old age?” Warren enjoys the entire process of his life. His motto is to find work you love.

Don’t take this too far

This is a big warning. You must not skip this section.

I’m not saying you should party it up now and destroy your future. Teenagers naturally over-emphasis short-term gains for long-term success. They do drugs, get into dangerous accidents, skip out on studying, and end up with no skills to set themselves up for a comfortable, fulfilling, and financially rewarding life.

Set yourself up for success in the long run while also having some fun and enjoying the process in the short-term. For me, this means no drugs or activities that are fun for others but not for myself (a mediocre party or an alcohol-infused event), and finding a career I love and making it more enjoyable day by day.

There is a chance that you will live a long time and you should set yourself up to constantly be building your skills for that future.

A healthy balance must be maintained.

Most people don’t. They suffer half or all of their lives. A

Some slave away for 20+ years going through pre-med, medical school, residency, and specialty schools, only to become a doctor despite not enjoying the practice. Note: I have great respect for some doctors who truly enjoy their job, save a lot of lives, and do a lot of good to many people despite stressful, horrific situations. Some of them truly enjoy the process. I am simply saying that if you hate it and you’re only doing it for the money, fame, or women, you probably won’t make it.

Practicality and market demand must be acknowledged. Following your passion is a naive approach. Having studied the topic in depth, read many books and articles, watched every TED talk on the topic, consulted many people, and watched every video I could on the topic, I realize that one important component of a dream job or dream business is market demand: people have to be willing to pay for it.

There are a activities no one will pay for. Eating potato chips on the couch while watching TV is one.

There are a few options you have:

  • See if there’s actually jobs that pay or products that sell for something you like. Don’t assume there isn’t. Example: You really like sports. You suck as an athlete. Rather than giving up on your dream, how about becoming a sportscaster instead?
  • Be entrepreneurial and create the job you want. The problem is that it is hard especially if it’s a job or product that’s never been done before. Most entrepreneurs are too overconfident. They underestimate how hard it is to get someone to pay for something consistently. And they aren’t willing to pivot or respect market demand.
  • Find and try out new passions and skills to get good at.
  • Keep developing your skills and passions that aren’t conducive to making money. Hope that times change so that one day it is valued. At that point, you will be paid well since you’re one of the most skilled in the world at it. The con with this is that there’s a low chance. However, it has occurred with some people who were lucky: Steve Wozniak of Apple and what he wanted to do with electronics (at the time, all engineering was only for big manufacturing-type, boring products) and Sean McCabe with years spent hand lettering for fun.
  • Learn to enjoy your job and be more open to it. This last one is important and runs deeper than you think. See below for more:

Stop trying to have it all figured out

It seems preposterous but I am seeing the younger generations get too picky at times. They are so enchanted with the “follow your passion” idea that they are too picky to get started. They have fallen into the dangers of the opposite end of the extreme.

This results in them not even getting their first job in their workforce or having all sorts of complaints with a job that they should really appreciate. As a Millenial, I am shocked that I actually partially agree with the grandparents and great-grandparents who lived in Depression times who complain about “In my days, you were just lucky to have a job. You should be more grateful.”

Best-selling author Seth Godin said that for tens of thousands of years of human society, people worked because they had to and then they did what they enjoyed in their free time. Only recently has the world’s economy opened up so that we have more freedom of options

Only recently has the world’s economy opened up so that we have more freedom of options. This brings up the topic of the Paradox of Choice. A concept popularized by Barry Schwartz which details how science has found people less satisfied and more paralyzed by the option of more choices when buying things or making decisions.So don’t get too a point of pickiness to paralysis by too many options or being ungrateful or taking what you have for granted.

So don’t get too a point of pickiness to paralysis by too many options or being ungrateful or taking what you have for granted. 

I recently saw a TED Talk by Shane Lopez where the speaker pointed to studies of thousands of employees across the country. He found that less than 20% of people were passionate about their jobs. He talked to the 20% and found that they initially didn’t fully enjoy their jobs but over time made their jobs into something they enjoyed.

Further books and studies like the book Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (affiliate link) have shown that it is not always the choice of what you pursue but the process of getting better and better to a point of mastery that brings enjoyment.

Even Warren Buffett says it does not happen overnight: “You’re probably not going to get it on your first job out of school.”

I am not saying to just settle for what you have for all eternity. I agree with what Steve Jobs says “If you haven’t found it yet. Keep looking. As with all matters of the heart, when you find it, you will know.”

Keep looking and searching but in the meantime, develop your skills in what you are passionate for, develop other marketable skills, and work at a healthy balance of what pays the bills and something you can enjoy.

Here’s the lesson: 

It’s not going to happen instantly. Don’t be overly picky as you move towards where you want to go. Realize you can learn to love something you don’t particularly like as you get better and better at it.

Here’s an example of the level of extreme laziness and rigidness of thinking you should avoid: “What job would I take if I was already rich? There are only 2 choices: eating potato chips by the beach or video games! No, I don’t want to do video editing or Youtube videos. That’s too much work! I just want to play video games!”

This example fails because it fails to do any of the points I recommended: no consideration for pivoting to a related field like becoming a Youtube Gamer (which is also highly competitive and not easy) and a rigid perspective on what he or she would find fun.

Ultimately, this person will find out himself or herself that this won’t work because there is just not enough market demand for anyone to pay you for eating by the beach. Some compromise is healthy and you may find things more enjoyable than you first thought, as many people in the past have.

What this ultimately shows is a sense of selfishness. Money simply represents an exchange of values so we don’t have to barter. We are exchanging services so that we can all live a better and safer life. The surgeon saves lives, the dentist cleans dirty teeth, the car manufacturer creates something that makes it easier for us to move around, and so on. By looking to just sit on the couch and do nothing for money, you are asking to do nothing that benefits others in exchange for valuable services or goods from others. 

Other people might luck out in a way and everything they have done as work throughout their lives just happens to pay well by luck. This happens more and more as people are Vlogging about their lives or dancing for a living on Youtube fairly profitably. Roman Atwood is the #1 vlogger on Youtube. He got his fame from filming pranks and then vlogging about his life. He reportedly makes millions a year through ads from his hundreds of millions of views on Youtube.

The point is that some people might tell you with a good heart and faith that you can do anything you are passionate about for a living point blank and make a profitable living simply because that is what they did and they succeeded. As I have shown, this isn’t always the case. 

Keep asking yourself why

Now, let’s get to the deep stuff. I won’t get too philosophical because the emphasis is on practical action steps for you to take.

Let’s try the Why? exercise now:

Why do many people work 40+ hour work weeks at an office job that they don’t enjoy at all?

Because they have assumed that this is what society tells them they have to do. They do it for the money to stay alive and pay for a living. This saddens me a bit because it reminds me of a few years ago when I read a post on Reddit of a man who worked at a cubicle job and hated his life. He went home every day, watched TV, and ate a frozen dinner. He was unsure of what to do or what the cause was. He told us that the TV and dinner were to cope with the job he hated. Yet the TV (as science has shown) simply numbed him.

This brings us to the Tim Ferriss’s 4 Hour Work Week book and movement. Many of them have gone on to quit their day job, outsource their business, and travel around the world. They can go to exotic places like Thailand because the cost of living is so much cheaper.

A new movement called Travel Hacking has spread across the internet in the last decade, and more people are living like this by teaching English or having an online business. There are similar movements like Minimalism with similar themes.

Note: it seems appealing but it’s not easy and can involve compromise. Some travel hackers live off only the food they can afford, which is usually fast food. I advise adopting the wealth principles and making good money so that you can feed your engine (your body) with the best fuel.

Why do you want to travel to exotic islands?

To enjoy life. To be happy.

What is that doesn’t bring happiness? Then your pursuit isn’t in line with your biggest Why, which may be happiness.

This gets us into something even deeper. While you can sit in a cave and think all you want with yourself or others, science is an important component of getting things right. Here is why:

Many people pursue things in life for a sense of enjoyment or happiness. Many in modern society have mistaken this pursuit for something like millions of dollars, fancy cars or toys, a big mansion, endless clothing, access to sexy women, or living on exotic islands.

A scientific concept called hedonic adaptation shows that humans get used to all the superficial pleasures and take them for granted. Rapidly, it doesn’t make them any happier.

For someone who is not rich, it’s hard to wrap your head around. But every month, I come across numerous entrepreneurs and wealthy people who learn this the hard way in interviews I listen to or watch. Perhaps, for some of you, you may need to learn the hard way as well.

Some clear evidence of this phenomenon in effect is the middle class of America. Most of these families live better than the richest people on earth 50 years ago. They have better plumbing, heating, air conditioning, entertainment, clothing, food selections, transportation, and access to electronics than the richest billionaire did. Yet, they’re often not that much happier. Some are ungrateful.

Forget 1,000 years ago. Just 50 years ago, the richest billionaire in the world would have paid a killing for any of the technology or advances we have today: Uber, iPhones, computers, airplanes, etc. (Shout out to Tony Robbins’ book and Warren Buffett for both reminding me about this concept)

The richest pharaohs of time past would have paid heaps in Gold. Remember to be GRATEFUL for what you have. Funny enough, science has shown that acts of gratitude are one of the key practices that actually create and sustain long-term levels of happiness.

If your Why is a pursuit of happiness, then you may be able to shortcut that path with a healthy understanding of the science and neuroscience behind it. Without science, you could be on a wild goose chase, as I was. Before I turned to books and science, I got a ton of opinions on what brought happiness from people. But those were just opinions and I wanted cold hard results that data-driven science can provide. Eventually, it took a lot of plowing through mediocre books on happiness to find the book The How of Happiness.

Keep a constant reminder of death

This advice is more for people who tend to think short-term. These are often, but not always, younger folk.

While some older individuals think about death often, many still do not or make short-term decisions that fail long-term thinking. The most common example is giving up family time for more work or more money that they don’t need.

As Napoleon Hill says, death is one of the biggest fears of men and this fear is a huge obstacle to one’s success. You should not fear death as that fear prevents you from achieving your goals sometimes. I highly recommend Charlie Munger’s book Poor Charlie’s Almanack or Man’s Search for Meaning if you want a deeper reasoning on alleviating the fear of death. This is something that haunts many that should not. They don’t need reminders as they are frequently reminded enough themselves, often for the wrong reasons.

For the rest of you, I suggest visiting a cemetery or reading the obituary in a newspaper occasionally. I have done this a few times and the experience always puts me in a different mindset. You see these gravestones and paragraphs describing the dead man or woman. Often, they achieved small things in their local area, but to the masses, no one knew or cared who they were. That’s not good or bad depending on your goals; it’s a reminder to you on what you care to accomplish before death.

Think deeply about these ideas:

  • Achievements are great but only for the right reasons (making a higher impact, having a legacy, achieving your own goals against surmountable odds to prove something to yourself or getting yourself out of a bad financial situation, etc.) Many people achieve things for the wrong reasons such as ego, validation, fame, or reputation to boost themselves. All these awards still do not make them happy and satisfy them. It ends up being an endless pursuit. Moreover, most people don’t really care about you. After seeing all these “public street interview” videos online where people on the street talk about successful people like Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi, and so on, I have realized that most people don’t care at all or know nothing about them. This validation to be remembered as something incredible can fail if it is too motivated in ego. Having said that, there are those who will be remembered by the right people for the right reasons. Bruce Lee, Nelson Mandela, and Gandhi made a deep impact on the right people who were highly influenced by their teachings. These have been motivated by the right things and help good people do greater good long after the originators died.
  • Keep the end in mind as you move through life. No one regrets not spending enough time at work on their deathbed. They do regret chances they didn’t take or time they didn’t spend with their family when they could have. It is rare to find a young person in their 20’s who hold certain things like this in mind. I predict this will be more and more the case as young people learn about these advanced topics earlier on in life due to the power of the internet. Lesson: Make sure you make time for family time, fun, and occasionally take risks. Your biggest regrets are sometimes the chances you never took. Jeff Bezos left a safe job to create one of the most well-known companies in existence, Amazon.com. He did this by using this regret test. I highly recommend the book Top 5 Regrets of the Dying for more stories on this. The author witnessed hundreds of deaths.

 Watch Jeff Bezos’ Regret Minimization Framework idea below: 

This framework really makes the decision easy. On your deathbed, what will you regret the most? It’s usually not trying something and failing. It is never trying at all and always wondering what would have happened if you tried. This framework has also been applied to dating on approaching your potential dream spouse.

It gets you away from daily short-term thinking.

Conclusion

Science, economics, and history have shown that:

  • you can be more passionate about a topic as you gain more mastery
  • you have to acknowledge market demand and competition for jobs and businesses you want to pursue
  • don’t be overly picky as you get along with your job search. It doesn’t happen overnight. Many people who found what they’re passionate about as a job surprisingly turned a job that wasn’t that great into something they loved. You can learn to love your job.
  • keep looking and searching but in the meantime, develop your skills in what you are passionate about, develop other marketable skills, and work at a healthy balance of what pays the bills and something you can enjoy. When you find it, you will know. Try out new things often if you haven’t found it. Perhaps, you have already and you’ve overlooked it.

Ultimately, many successful people move to 2 areas in life:

  1. Having a great deal of fun throughout life while developing marketable, useful skills in the real world.
  2. A higher purpose of meaning and impact or philanthropy.

The second one may just be a part of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Perhaps, when our own desires are satisfied, we look to legacy, making a positive difference, or bigger problems or means of curiosity related to our country, the world, or outer space and beyond.

The first one is something I believe can be done without harming or hurting anyone else or yourself. I firmly believe that you can have fun throughout the hard journey of your life without scamming people, hurting them, manipulating them or anything of the sort.

I also firmly believe that you can find a way of enjoying your entire life that doesn’t hurt your own health, your long-term success, or anybody else. This is the best route and the one I recommend. There are other ways of enjoying your time on Earth while developing marketable professional career skills that will bring you money. Make sure to avoid drugs and too much partying early on.

How to find new passions: So many individuals get so much interest, fulfillment, and enjoyment from many different things: gourmet cooking, pottery, archery, hip hop dancing, business history, arts, singing, sports, kite-surfing, sailing, marketing, or social media. Learn from them and observe how they enjoy it. Perhaps you can start enjoying it more yourself.

I think the central underlying problem with this whole thing is that it’s much easier said than done. The biggest obstacle is finding or creating a business or job that you really love and pays well so that you are free or enjoy every moment of your life.

I have already provided you an incredible amount of free information to guide you on this journey. On top of that, I recommend all the successful individuals who have done this already who have shared their knowledge on podcasts, websites, and videos online. Also, at least 1 in every 5 people is already there. Model and learn from them.

-Will

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