Disclaimer, I am not a historian, psychologist, or philosopher. These thoughts run through my head periodically and I felt the need to express them and hopefully receive validation. That being said, I think it should be more universal to have a fundamental understanding of why and how we carry out our day. Things like why we work, and how to be happy and satisfied with our life, is something that most people disagree on without a real clear answer. As an individual I think these need to be answered to truly feel fulfilled with the finite life we are given, and motivated to make the most of it.
Humanity has accomplished unbelievable feats when properly motivated. Just look at the rapid development of computers during WWII. Survival is likely the most significant motivator, so its no surprise that a war largely decided on technical superiority happened to generate immense technical development. It would not be unreasonable to say that a significant portion of our everyday technical conveniences can be traced back to this time. Another example of humanity really pushing its limits could be the first famous trip to the moon. In a time with less advanced computers and engineering, the USA still managed to fly a rocket to the moon, plant a flag, and return home safe and sound.
Most of the time, the great accomplishments of humanity are driven by a particular force or a common theme. Computers were developed to win a war and protect freedom. The Moon was reached for the USA to maintain global technical superiority against Russia. The Pyramids were created to link humanity to the Gods. Although still in progress, SpaceX is determined to bring humans to Mars to extend and preserve the scope of consciousness. All of these seemingly impossible tasks share a common theme, which is an intense driving factor felt internally by the individuals creating the innovation. Although there are exceptions to this rule (such as the slaves creating pyramids forced to endure hardship for the sake of the Egyptians ideological plan), it seems to me that humanity’s amazing accomplishments had a strong ideological incentive to do the work required.
Contrast this against millions of working in first world societies. Although we are truly lucky to have received the tools and opportunity to change the world and make a difference, society is constructed in a manner which is not conducive to inspiring innovation. We grow up doing boring school assignments to get into a good college. If that succeeds, we go to such “good college”, where we again are told to complete assignments to get a good job (and often acquire crippling debt). Finally, we hopefully get a decent job, which we use to fund our lifestyle mostly determined for us, doing monthly payments for numerous bills which likely never end until our eventual death. I hate to paint a morbid picture, one can live that path of life and be truly happy, fulfilled, and even make a difference. That being said, our standard life progression doesn’t foster creativity and innovation, but puts us into a limited box where we work for a larger organization that is pursuing an agenda completely independent from our beliefs. Not only does this cause many to feel uninspired and unhappy from our job, but innovation is diminished, without a truly fulfilling ideal to aspire and work towards.
My personal list of accomplishments isn’t extraordinarily long, but I found myself in a comfortable position in life, financially and philosophically. Being a tech guy, everyone in the field has a story for getting into it. My personal story is common and uninteresting, but I wanted to make games as a kid and had to learn programming to do so. Luckily the skill transferred well into my adult life, but my biggest accomplishment can’t be quantified with a salary or a nice car. I enjoy programming and problem solving, and I get paid to do it. I’m apprehensive to present myself as a role model for living a fulfilling life, but I found myself working a day job that I am excited to start in the morning, without much concern for the bills being paid, or whether I can treat myself on occasion. The key distinction I would like to make about my life, is that I rarely allowed someone else to control my significant decisions, I always chose my passion. I’m truly lucky that my passion happened to align with a field that provided financial security, but the point I’m trying to make is that society rarely rewards following your passion, which is not only a shame for the individual, but for humanity as a whole. In the modern scientific world, motivation via the Gods isn’t a viable option anymore like it was for the Egyptians. I truly hope you as a reader are living in a safe community without fear, but for us who are, war and safety isn’t a proper motivator for innovation. We are left not much option but to find our passion, which luckily for us that is (one of) the most sustainable forms of drive out there. If successfully fostered, passion can create a future to be inspired by without creating hardship for others.
Earlier I brought up SpaceX because although it’s arguable whether their endeavors are crucial for humanity, they demonstrate a great example of pushing the barrier of impossible. I haven’t worked there (yet 🤞), but the CEO seems to have a burning passion to get to Mars, which apparently has trickled down into the work culture. This seems to have accumulated hundreds of talented engineers wholeheartedly inspired by a common goal from a CEO they truly trust. Knowing this, it’s no surprise that SpaceX has surpassed many milestones in the industry such as landing and reusing spaceships, while inspiring engineers worldwide. While not all of us can be inspired knowing our work is bringing humanity to another planet, we can take notes. I can’t tell you how to use this information in your specific field or domain, but I can tell you that to create amazing things, passion and drive are absolutely crucial. If you are a manager, ensure all staff understand why their work is important. If you are an artist, realize that when you are done your art will make an impression on someone. If you’re in a rut, know that even getting up and making the bed will make the world a tiny bit better.
If it seems I am over-simplifying this process, trust me I am. There are countless factors in this world against us, some avoidable and some not. Some live in a community without internet and electricity, in which it is prohibitively hard to create and release a new app. Some live in remote communities, in which it is much harder to pitch to a venture capitalist your new business idea. This list is extensive, but the concept is clear and unfortunately it seems the world is just unfair at times. For those who are born extremely difficult situations and manage to beat the odds, I commend you. In addition, there are social factors that make it difficult to achieve things. As previously discussed, there are millions of individuals in our capitalist society that are capable of living a passionate fruitful life, but were set up over the course of their lifetimes to appease the system. Those who do live a passionate life either ran into their passion by chance or made a conscious decision to choose finding passion over society’s guidelines. Even though we are often set up to fail, this doesn’t stop us from using our available power to live a meaningful fulfilling life.
I spent a plenty of time focusing on the individual, and this is for good reason. At the end of the day, humanity is comprised of humans. To change the world for the better, we all need to slowly shift to a mindset which promotes growth and innovation, while also providing happiness and meaning. Wait a minute, life is already exceedingly difficult as it is, now we’re expected to change the world? News flash, most of us wouldn’t end up changing the world if we put 100% of our energy into it, because doing so requires a good deal of luck in addition to immense talent. Instead, it’s important to shift our focus from “changing the world”, to “leveraging our most valuable skills to making the world better while still prioritizing ourselves”. Life is short, and it’s common for people to completely dive into work and realize that the money still leaves them empty inside. My advice: find your passion and develop a responsible work-life balance. If you don’t know your passion, keep looking. I wish I could offer more advice into finding your passion, but I would start with something you truly enjoy, and see how you can take a more proactive role in it. I liked games as a kid, so I learned how to make them, and I couldn’t be happier. If you really like movies, why not try to make your own? Who would you trust with making better movies anyway, someone who is really in love with film as a whole, or a corporate CEO trying to maximize profit?
At the end of the day, changing the world starts at the individual mindset. Most great things were accomplished because of a common theme or goal, and I’m sure most those who partook in each respective accomplishment lied on their deathbed believing they made the most of life. Be careful, because it is a tricky balance between work and life. Too much work, and you may forget people and hobbies which make you happy. Too little work, and you may find yourself over indulging feeling useless without producing. I sincerely wish you all the best on the journey of finding the best balance between these two, because not only will lead you on a road to a fulfilling life, but you will join the army of people on planet Earth making it a better place, welcoming for all and inspired to keep doing greater and greater things.