Live For Something Bigger Than YourselfJul 13, 2022
I recommend a lot of books. I like to think of myself as the book prescriber. Dr. Book, if you will. ;-)
Anyway, one book that I really enjoyed when it was recommended to me is Third Circle Theory by Pejman Ghadimi. I found a lot of wisdom in it, but I must be honest that many people I offered it to didn't enjoy the book. The author sometimes comes off a bit brash and arrogant which is exactly the opposite of what the book is trying to convey, but I always look for the pearls. I found many.
Here's my key takeaway from that book: when people live a truly fulfilling life they've moved through three phases - survival, success, and service.
Some people get stuck in survival, some get stuck in success, and those who move into service find true fulfillment in life.
In this article I'm going to describe each phase.
Survival is mostly what it sounds like. It's when someone is fighting to just stay afloat in life. But what actual survival means can vary wildly.
In third-world countries survival looks like not knowing where your next meal is coming from. It's not having access to clean drinking water, or bathing in a diseased river. Survival could also mean running from falling bombs in a war-torn country, or protecting yourself from human trafficking. In suppressed countries survival could mean knowing that the only point of your existence is to serve an oppressive dictator and stepping out of line means death.
In economically advanced countries like the U.S., survival could mean taking on too much unhealthy debt, and being stretched month-to-month by overextending yourself in trying to keep up with the Joneses with cars and a house that you can't afford. Survival in the modern world could mean having access to all the basic needs supplies like food and water because of social policies, but still not feeling like you manage to remain financially viable because of your financial positioning. They do things they hate or would rather not do, to afford things they don't need.
I have met and worked with many people who live a materially comfortable life, but who still complain about the economy, their pay, the government, the rich, or not being able to afford the next-level lifestyle they signed up for but can't fund.
On the flip side, I've witnessed people caught up in the rat-race. They fight for more even though they have plenty. Their ambition is "more", and they are so anxious about creating more you'd think they had nothing. It's all an ego-trip at this point. They fight for more (even though they have plenty) because deep inside they feel insecure, inadequate, or insignificant and their survival depends on making the feelings stop through accumulation. They are fighting a war with themselves and their ego. They feel if their money and possessions go away, they are worthless, so they keep fighting.
Survival in any sense just means feeling like you're just getting by day-to-day. I would guess most of the world is in some sort of survival mode, and most will never see the next level.
I'm going to define success here as doing only what you love and knowing that you have enough resources to live a financially stress-free life. In the first world and advanced economies we all have a chance to get here, but few will breathe long enough to see how possible this really is, and how taking a few courageous actions can put you in the driver's seat when you're ready.
It's often a lack of courage that keeps someone in advanced nations from finding success. Listen, note that the word rich or wealthy is not in that description. To me, success means really enjoying each day of your life without need or worry about the future. Success is the constructive understanding that worry, fear, and doubt are only stories, and that by living to experience the joy of life, we see that life is not a fight for survival. We're all going to die. So why fight for survival and stress the whole time?
People in the success arena prioritize lifestyle over possessions, accumulation, titles, prestige, or fame.
The coolest part of this life journey I've found is that by relaxing and only doing what you love, material wealth and abundance naturally increases - because the universe honors a person who is true to and honors themselves. Possessions, accumulation, and notoriety become easier when you vow to live life on your own terms - no fight necessary.
Success means really enjoying each day of your life. And few get to this place.
We are now entering rarified air. Service is about using your life to make a positive impact on humanity - not for material gain, not for fame or fortune, but for the fulfillment of making a difference. You know who these people are, and you've seen them. These are those people who are remembered long after their deaths for their contribution to our planet. Sure, some of these people were (or are) wealthy beyond belief, but their fortunes have come through service, not out of desperate accumulation.
When someone is in the stage of service, they devote their lives to a mission or a positive vision they have for a more advanced, more loving, more livable planet. These folks wake up each day to make a positive difference in the world, and they do. Any fortunes they have are secondary to the mission they are engaged in.
I once saw a video of Elon Musk receiving shipment of a $1MM McLaren F1. He wrecked it a few years later. After his initial infatuation with material wealth, he moved completely into the service stage and has sold almost everything he owns and sleeps mostly at his office and a small studio apartment instead of one of the 6 mansions he once owned. He is now more committed to moving humans to space than life of materials and possessions.
Service is about using your life to make a difference instead of just focusing on personal comfort and convenience. That's a hard pill to swallow for so many just fighting for survival.
But service is the only place we find real fulfillment and purpose in this lifetime.
Putting it All Together
I heard an awesome fable about service one time and I'm going to do my very best to share it.
A man who committed his entire life to service died and went to heaven. When he got to the pearly gates God himself met him and said "My son, I've been waiting for you. You've done great work. Before I let you into the gate of heaven, is there anything you'd like to ask of me, or see?"
The man thought for a second and said "God, I know this might sound strange, but I really do want to see hell so that I can really appreciate heaven as much as possible."
God thought a second and responded, "That's a great request," snapped his fingers, and instantly they were in hell.
In front of them sat a dinner table so big that it faded into the distance, and in the center, piled to the ceiling was all sorts of delicious and amazing food. Seated at the table were all the people who were sent to hell. They were each skin and bones and visibly miserable and unhappy. In front of each of them sat an 11-foot fork. They could reach the food with the fork, but they could not use it to feed themselves. Each of them had given up trying to feed themselves. They were trapped in states of hopelessness, despair, and starvation.
After the man had seen enough, God snapped his fingers and they were in heaven, beyond the pearly gates. In front of them was the same table, same amount of food, and the same 11-foot forks, but the people around the table were nourished, happy, and filled with love and joy. The man said "God, why are these people so happy while the people in hell were so miserable?"
God said "Because my son, in hell they are trying to feed themselves and they can't. in heaven we feed each other."
When you get caught up in only trying to take care of your own needs without seeing the bigger picture of how you can contribute to a more loving, happy, and prosperous world, you are only keeping yourself trapped in your own version of hell.