That which is complex, abstract, obscure, impenetrable and outside of our understanding is alluring. We pay for mystery.
One example of this is the never-ending barrage of books and articles and films that tell us just what to do with our lives. Once you trawl through twenty or thirty you start to see similar patterns. Similar answers.
So why, once we’ve found the answer, is that not the end of it?
One such pattern I’ve sensed over the last few years is the following journey.
Someone is trapped. Imprisoned in a job they despise, a poisonous environment, whatever. This person manages to attain freedom. That freedom allows them to explore, to see and think things that to them, are unprecedented.
Through exploration in this newfound world they stumble upon a purpose. Something bigger than themselves. And because they are now free, they have both the inclination and the ability to pursue, and eventually, fulfil it.
Here’s the pathway in short:
Freedom allows you to find purpose, and once you’ve found purpose you are endowed with a responsibility to fulfil it.
So you go from freedom, to purpose, to responsibility.
That is the common journey.
STEP 1 – FINDING FREEDOM
There are three components to freedom:
1) Eliminate debt. Those in debt are in the service of another. They are slaves. Slaves are not free until the debt is removed.
2) Exist outside of hierarchies. Not literally, but mentally. This means that the decisions you make, the actions you take, are determined by their inherent goodness and rightness. Not by how they will make you appear to people above or below you in the hierarchy.
3) The attitude of fuck you. This means being able to say fuck you to anyone and not be scared of the consequences. For example, a company like Apple has fuck you money. They have so much cash in reserve that they can do as they please.
Of course, I’m not saying go into work and tell your boss to do one. I’m saying that, in your mind, you must be prepared to stand up to anyone or anything and walk away from them or the situation.
Because if you can’t leave you’re not free.
STEP 2 – USING YOUR FREEDOM TO FIND PURPOSE
Attaining freedom doesn’t mean not having to work ever again, or being responsible to no one. It means simply thinking for yourself and having greater control of the distribution of your time, attention and energy.
Once you have those things, you can explore. You can read, write, learn, converse, travel, grow, listen, try, experiment, play. And once you start doing that you increase your chances of finding purpose.
Purpose isn’t make one million a year. Purpose isn’t the drive to buy yourself a house. Those aren’t purposes, they’re goals. Goals serve your purpose.
Here’s a good purpose for most people:
Be the best version of you, every single day.
Sounds simple. But sincerely try to do it. You’ll realise how staggeringly hard and important it is.
Which brings us to the next step.
STEP 3 – HAVING FOUND PURPOSE, YOU NOW HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY TO FULFIL IT
Purpose isn’t glorious. It isn’t Hollywood. It’s dirty, tough and it takes courage to confront.
Having purpose is like being told that your best friend is dying and only you can save their life. It’s not some airy-fairy thing. It’s a heavy burden. A constant, tiresome companion that is forever talking in your ear as you go about your day.
Once you’ve found it you can never un-discover it. You can try to forget it, but it will lurk there in the darkness, waiting for the quiet, for you to be alone so that it can rise to the surface again.
That’s the journey. That’s the trip most of us will end up taking. We are in prison. We escape and find freedom. Freedom allows us to explore and find purpose. And once we’ve found it, we are under an obligation to fulfil it.
To the cynical, it looks like you go from prison to freedom and right back to prison, just in a different form.
But the real tragedy is this. Some never even make it on the first step of the path. They never in their lives are free of debt, will never know what it is to live outside of a hierarchy or how it feels to say fuck you, to stand up to that which is wrong.
Some will find freedom, and then never explore and experiment. These people will be free, but ultimately, empty. Freedom alone makes for a good life, but not a fulfilled one.
Some will use their freedom, find purpose and then run from it. The hugeness of that responsibility will frighten them into trying to forget what they saw. Their life will be spent in an eternal struggle to forget and un-see.
Others will find freedom, find purpose and dutifully accept the responsibility. Their lives will be spent in the pursuit of it’s fulfilment, and some may even achieve it. But they are a minority.
Which class you’ll fall into, only time will tell.
But if you do manage to find freedom, remember that it is only the first step. The start of a journey much longer, much harder and much more rewarding than anything you’ve ever faced.