I admit I’ve had a love/hate relationship with work. I hated the glorification of work for work’s sake when I was in school forced to learn stuff I didn’t care about like old literature, or a wagie chained to a desk in NYC who on occasion had to do work that I didn’t feel was particularly meaningful.
But after living out my travel and digital nomad dream, I appreciate work more now than I ever did as a young office wage slave knowing that hedonism and pleasure inevitably gets old and are not the ticket to lasting happiness. More precisely, I value fulfillment – of which work is the means to an end. I believe that fulfillment is a core component of happiness.
When I was young, inexperienced, and chained to an office desk – the idea of traveling the world and being free sounded like paradise. And to be fair it was paradise for a moment when it was all new. But once you get used to paradise, paradise just becomes the new normal. The beach is awesome for a few days when you’re escaping a cold dark winter in NYC, but then quickly loses its novelty.
It’s only through challenging oneself and overcoming obstacles that life feels fun, and when done in pursuit of meaningful goals will create a sense of fulfillment. This is why competitive games can be so fun. But if becoming the best at the game doesn’t feel meaningful in itself, then it will not create a sense of fulfillment.
The trick is to find a challenge that is both fulfilling, and can also make you enough money to not have to sell your soul. (I deliberately use the word “challenge” instead of “game” because “game” implies it must be fun all the time, but work never will be pleasurable all the time. I don’t use the word “work” because that word has been conflated with modern wage slavery, which is more closely related to slavery than working under one’s own autonomy).
Humans are inherently adverse to challenge and escaping the comfort zone. In the past these conservative instincts facilitated our survival back when losing the acceptance of the tribe or going out on our own could more easily translate to death. But now that we have evolved past the survival stage of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs with all of our modern technology we all take for granted (eg. smartphones, internet), this clinging to comfort and adversity to challenge makes life feel boring and meaningless, and it’s no wonder we’re facing an epidemic of depression.
Instead of running away from adversity, we should be running towards it and embracing the challenge. Its only through taking risks and overcoming challenging obstacles that we evolve and accomplish meaningful things.
If you’re suffering from unhappiness and unfulfillment, then your life is probably too easy and lacking in challenge and fulfillment. That is on you to create, stop waiting around for a man on horseback to bring meaning to your life on a silver platter. Instead of mindlessly scrolling Instagram and Netflix and crying that life is meaningless and depressing, create more ambitious goals and start working towards them. Instead of endlessly swiping on Tinder and DMing random girls on Instagram and crying that you can’t get any dates, grow some balls and start approaching the girls you actually want in real life (even when you get “rejected”, you will become a much more confident man through this than just sending DMs from your bedroom in your pajamas).
Create more ambitious goals and start working towards them. When faced with challenges and obstacles, push through them instead of giving up. Through pushing yourself past the temporary discomfort, you’ll find fulfillment in getting closer to your goal, and in evolving to become a more resilient person / warrior. This resilience will end up translating to various areas of your life outside of just that one domain. For example, overcoming challenging obstacles in pursuit of meaningful goals will likely lead to greater overall confidence and contentment, which can translate to you being more confident and attractive in dating or in relationships.
There is no paradise. When you achieve your goal, you will at best feel momentary pleasure before that accomplishment becomes your new baseline. Elon Musk isn’t all the time feeling a sense of elation for being the wealthiest person and CEO of Tesla, SpaceX, etc. – those things are already ingrained into his identity. Barack Obama and Donald Trump know that they are leaders who served in the highest office in the nation – it’s just part of their identity, and they’re focused on the next challenge.
The takeaway isn’t to not try in the first place, it’s to embrace the challenge itself. The challenge is needed to accomplish anything useful for humanity, and without the challenge, life is boring.