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Ask HN: I implemented the life I designed: perfect but I feel lost. What now?
92 points by adv0r on June 7, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 174 comments
Thanks to a mix of luck, hard work, high energy, study, drive, and self-discipline, I achieved most of the things I wanted out of life so far. I got to a point in my life where I'm free from debt, free from mortgage, free from bosses, free from clients, and financially independent. I'm healthy, I live in one of the world most beautiful cities, loved by my family, surrounded by good friends, happily married with a kid and a dog. I travel, take pictures, hike, meditate, read. I got the full pack. Yet I feel lost.

I'm 33 and I feel I am now wasting productive years, setting slightly more challenging goals week after week, chasing a moving target, and never actually getting it. I feel I have way too much freedom, too many choices, and feel paralyzed.

What should I do? I am not the kind of person who can keep living like this forever... I feel like I realized (most of) my dreams, but not fulfilled a real hardcore purpose/mission.

How do I find meaning? What should I spend most of my time on?

This time I'd like to start really pouring my soul into something that can provide meaning to my life, without rushing into the next app/side project/hustle/startup to temporarily calm my curiosity.


Once you’ve conquered Maslow’s original hierarchy of needs, dig into his final need that he added later in life. Achieve not for yourself but for your community or your world. Transcend the self, and feel that higher order need.

As another commenter mentioned, altruistic endeavors are a good choice. Even things like being a Boy Scout leader can be hugely fulfilling of that broader need.

This. This is the thing that I have discovered gives back a sense of fulfillment like nothing else.

My wife and I went through an extremely rough patch in our marriage where we considered divorce. We got our finances in order (even after going through a bankrupticy) and went to marriage counseling with a fantastic marriage counselor.

Now more than a decade later, we are pre-marriage mentors and financial coaches through our church. It is more fulfilling that I could have possibly imagined.

I think I remember reading or hearing Malcolm Gladwell reccomend to visit less fortunate/developed parts of the globe, and understand what really matters for humans, as well as realising how small things even can help.

For an extreme case to seek inspiration from someone who has everything, and genuenly seems content with his life is Bill Gates.

Best of luck, and congrats on achieving what you have!

Where do I start? What's the first baby step? I googled "Volunteering opportunities" many times without success so far ;)

It's GREAT that you're in this position! CONGRATULATIONS!!!

I went through this as well. 10 years ago I was at the peak of a career but missing purpose. I rededicated my life to serving other people. It has given me a whole new lease on existence, and I can't recommend it enough. It really feels better to give than to receive!

The short, overly simplistic answer is that all you need to do to rededicate yourself to a life of helping people is to listen and learn to what they need. Volunteering is a good way to learn about people who need help, but it's not the only way. Volunteering in person can be tough right now because of COVID, but there are some things you can do online, and if you have a bit of patience you could wait until in-person volunteering picks back up again and then establish some goals for yourself (e.g., "volunteer at least 3 days each month for 6 months")

Outside of volunteering, you could take time to listen to and learn about people who you think might need help. Depending on your geography, those might be different folks.

If the things above STILL don't work for you, you could do something that is maybe slightly more dangerous, but still can work. Flip it around and look for things to be outraged by. Things you can't stand. Mass deforestation. Racial injustice. Human trafficking. 1000 other injustices to choose from. And then get active! (Be cautious with this one -- rage alone isn't productive -- you have to mix your outrage with your proactive strengths and positive energies too!)

In my case, I ended up discovering my passion for helping low-income youth prepare for careers, which became my full-time focus and it's been a true privilege to work on.

This. There is a group of computer illiterate people who do important work for our society but they were forced to work or learn from home, a team viewer sessions once or twice a day is really refreshing to see how our IT skills are useful - and that instant gratification "thank you" and joy in the camera.

I noted elsewhere, but directly to this q: one volunteering site that doesn't require you to figure out detailed extensive plans before getting started, is probably https://justserve.org . They let orgs and volunteers sign up and see what is available, for a given locality.

Baby steps?

Paint smiley faces or flowers on small stones and randomly leave them on sidewalks around your town. No more than one every few blocks. Never check on them again.

Study karma.

Learn how to adjust your presence to uplift the people you pass by. Positive comments, compliments, and even learning how to hope for someone’s recovery when they insult you.

Call a local publicly funded organization and ask if they have volunteer opportunities.

Maybe I should do this. I'd feel like a hippie, drawing smiles on stones, but ... who knows

Do it with your kid and it's a positive teaching moment for spreading joy.

Red Cross is worldwide and have lots of different volunteering activities. Also, most cities in the world have centras with volunteers doing different things. You need to find local engagement, and getting to know people, your network start to expand in that area. You can start by calling these and ask how to proceed, what would be suitable, or even just try out a course or something.

This is something that may enrich your life, but I wouldn't rely solely on volunteering and charity. They should be part of life, but your yearning is more personal than that.

Hey - just my two cents. You seem like someone of means (intellectual and financial). Volunteering and charity can be personally fulfilling but systemised charity is ineffective. Use your skillset and networks to resolve something from the root. Financial inequality is the root of most social ills - is there something you can do in micro-financing? Something in upskilling/education or employment?

Good luck! I feel you will hit upon something worth while.

The whole point of this thread is about doing something personally fulfilling. I think throwing money at some cause is not the way to get there.

It sounds like you can do much more than volunteering, especially if you're good at making and hitting goals.

Check out the Bill Gates documentary on Netflix if you haven't. One notable thing he does is he picks up a lot of books on the problems faced by the world.

Personally, I'd love to help out the average person. People in my area are underpaid and have terrible working conditions - the average "senior" programmer makes a little over $1,000/month and most end up in dead end jobs with few opportunities. There's also people in more remote areas, who are paid too little to find a better job, and labor laws are barely sustainable anymore.

As someone who has implemented what you wanted, maybe you can help others do the same. Instead of giving soup to homeless people, you can give them a reasonable goal to strive for.

Do you have hobbies? What do you like to do? Seek out opportunities that play to your strengths. Every small organization, community institution, or non-profit entity could use some volunteer help. Most of them aren't taking out google adwords.

What city do you live in?

In San Francisco or Seattle, Google "soup kitchen volunteer {city}".

Low commitment, no special skills required. Go try it. Talk to the other people there. Ask where else they volunteer. You can literally google this today and help this week.

Are you following Black Lives Matter? Get involved at the local level. Research your police department and social services funding for your city. Really dig into the details. Find organizing groups there that are working to enact real change through fiscal policies.

Barcelona. I will try to follow your advice locally. There is no shortage of social emergencies in southern Europe.

I'm also from Barcelona, and while I consider myself fortunate and relatively successful, I'm still far from the point you currently are.

However, I have experienced doing social projects purely for meaning during few months between opportunities. The most fulfilling one was setting up a mentoring program in high school, where I went through a set of sessions with a small group of ambitious young students. Not technical mentoring, more like practical general life advice delivered in a workshop manner, as if I was an older friend. They all enjoyed it a lot, and to this day, few years later, we still stay in touch and I'm very happy to see how much they have grown since then.

From my experience being born here, there is a strong pull from society to conform and stay mediocre. I want to change that, and help those ambitious to create their own path.

Unfortunately, working at a startup I don't have time for that currently. But I will definitely get back to something like this once I'm financially independent.

If you would like to discuss more, email is in my profile.

merci Oriol ;) We should connect, I'll send you an email.

Is the Catalan Independence still a big topic?

I'm not sure I can provide an actual measure of how big of a topic it is.

Read "The most good you can do".

+1 for altruistic endeavors. Nothing beats the fulfillment you get on helping others, even a small act might mean a huge thing for someone else.

When I was older than you, I left technology to try for medical school. After several years of studies, some of it absolutely brutal, I had to go back to technology; my brain is just not wired to memorize large amounts of information as required to pass med school exams. It was a fascinating detour and I was fortunate that I had the tech skills to get back into technology, though my dreams of becoming a doctor had come to an end.

I guess my message is, push yourself to try different things, ascend to new heights. You may, like me, crash and burn, but it's also a way to grow (perhaps, at least, like me, learn some humility and understanding of your own flaws and limitations).

There's a wonderful book, a bit dated but still worth reading: "What Should I Do With My Life" by Po Bronson[1], a set of interviews with people who became restless and changed careers, sometimes succeeding, sometimes "a work in progress". I got a lot of inspiration from reading others' stories and perhaps you will, as well.

1. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B000FBFMKC

Did you do a post-bac program for this? I'm in the process of trying to leave software and become a PA, but I'm not sure what the best path would be, or how to budget/plan.

Yes, I did a post-bac program. But you don't need a program; you can just take the prerequisite courses: physics, chemistry, organic chemistry, and biology.

PA is a tough program, and very competitive today; it's not much different from med school (shorter, though).

I'm not sure if PA programs offer a medical masters program, but many med schools do: a 24 month degree program featuring two semesters of coursework that is identical to the first year of medical school followed by two semesters of other stuff including thesis. Usually people do it to prove to themselves and to med schools that they have what it takes; it significantly improves their chances of admission. Probably would help with PA as well. I wish I had done a medical masters degree and that would have helped me either pass med school, or realize it wasn't for me!

PA is also different in that it is rooted in the Vietnam era, giving a pathway to war medics who have lots of field experience but lack the schooling and credentials of med school. To get into PA school, you're expected to have around 1,000 hours of field work -- volunteering, EMT, nursing, etc. This may have changed recently, but was true 10-12 years ago for sure.

I've spoken to quite a few M.D.s who said they wish they had chosen PA -- a shorter path, less stress, and very satisfying.

My wife just did this. Basically she took the prerecs over two years while working as a clinical research manager which also gave her the required hours of med-related work experience.

Total cost is 100-200k depending on the program, including living expenses. Most people borrow that.

I can speak to this a little bit. I am in the process of finishing a post-bacc with the goal of applying to medical schools next year after having switched from a career in tech.

My biggest piece of advice would be to not let go of your career too soon. It's tough taking classes and working a full time job simultaneously but I think it's really important to make sure that you can handle that kind of work load and that this is a change you really want to make before giving up your livelihood. It might take you an extra year in your post-bacc but IMO the extra year of financial security and time to figure out the correct path is just worth it... I think what's tough about the PA route is that many programs require applicants to already have thousands of hours of patient contact before applying. This likely means that you will have to find some kind of job in health care prior to applying for a PA program... If I were you, before I set my heart on a PA program I would take a good hard look at nursing programs, NP programs, and MD/DO programs because you can get accepted into those types of schools without having the same kind of professional background a PA school require of you. With that said, if my heart was still set on PA, I would probably try to go for some kind of certificate or associates program first in something like respiratory therapy, pathology/radiology/laboratory tech, or EMT/paramedicine in order to move into the healthcare space with some kind of skill/career prospects before quitting my tech job. Then you can get the hours you need and take any classes the programs your interested in require of you while also confirming that you do indeed want to be a PA. That whole process, from making a plan to finishing your PA program could probably be done in 5 years which, when you consider how long medical school is, doesn't seem too bad. Especially, if you are able to stay in a lucrative profession before beginning PA school.

This is just my two cents. I am by no means an expert but I am at the end of my third and final year of post-bacc classes and I have spent a lot of time thinking about which path out of a tech and into healthcare makes the most sense.

Thanks so much for the info. I just finished getting my EMT certification, it's just gonna be really hard to get the hours of experience done without leaving my regular job. My job isn't lucrative (mid-$50k), but I'm not sure if I can afford to live on minimum wage + no health insurance as a full-time EMT. Plus I have no idea how I'll pay to get a post-bac. It seems like you need a certain amount of financial security to do this.

30 years old here and starting the prereqs for RN next week part-time (online). I figured at this age I don't have the time or mental acuity to be a MD. My first class being A&P should be a tell-tale sign of whether this experiment will go well.

30 is young, you'll be fine.

The tricky part (for me at least) is the memorization. After 20 years of working in a field where I can look up everything I need to know, suddenly I had to commit thousands of data points to memory to pass a test (then promptly forget the data afterwards). It's an archaic system.

Anyway you'll have to find a way to memorize and regurgitate. If you can do that, the rest is just common sense.

Try utilizing Anki for spaced repetition. Brilliant program used by many medical students.

thanks for the feedback! I'll take your advice into account and dive into the book

I was once in a similar situation: I felt full but empty at the same time. I was very content with my life but I knew something was missing and I had no idea what it was. Some people have suggested to spend time ‘giving back’. But why? There is no real objective reason to be altruistic. It seemed to me that it was all meaningless. The very foundations of morals and ethics became weak. I hated this perspective and tried to inject some pseudo logical reason to give me purpose in my empty life. Like yourself, I concluded that I simply can’t carry on living like this.

What took me out of this loop was a stronger belief in God. I acknowledged that I was lost, submitted myself, and simply asked for guidance. This required a level of self-honestly and introspection. Incrementally, my life became filled with meaning as I began to understand Allah. Everything that I do, I do it in worship of Allah. I live and love in His light and life has never ever been better. My love and trust in Allah has given me a sense of purpose that is unparalleled. My relationships have improved tremendously and I am no longer subject to intense emotions of anxiety and existential dread. In turn, my productive output has improved as well as my mental clarity.(all by the grace of Allah)

I understand a lot of people may not believe in God. I implore you to throw your ego away and truly seek your wellbeing.


Note: Allah literally translates to “The God” as Islam is strictly monotheistic.

Is submitting yourself to the concept of a god not the opposite of introspection? You are forgoing the need to find meaning in yourself and the world around you and instead choosing to believe a pre-made 'answer' to those questions.

To me this is like choosing to throw yourself into a relationship only because you find that you struggle with being single. Using an easier, readily-available external source of comfort found in being part of a 'collective' rather than the more difficult path of becoming comfortable with yourself as an individual.

I believe you misunderstood the concept of submission. In life, worship is inevitable. For instance, people could worship material gains or the longing for the acceptance of society. Whether you like it or not, you will worship something(or multiple things) in your existence. In the act of submission, you conclude that there is nothing worthy of worship but Allah, the creator and sovereign of all worlds.

Part of this conclusion involves introspection. I believe there is a false dilemma in your approach where you imply that you can either find meaning in yourself or follow a 'pre-made answer'. These are not mutually inclusive. In fact, in numerous verses in Quran(the word of Allah), you will find that Allah strongly encourages the reader to sincerely reflect and find truth in him/herself and the world. Allah has given us the gift of reasoning and introspection and we can use that to reach the ultimate peace in submission to Allah.

Islam, being very strictly monotheistic, promotes that true comfort and solace is provided solely by Allah(in submission), not in being part of a 'collective'.

I hope that was insightful. :D

Disclaimer: Don't take my word, or anyone's word regarding Islam, for granted. I strongly recommend reading the Quran with an open mind and open heart.

Yet there is a lot that seems not so great about religion and very human in the evil done in its name. I find it hard to devote myself to a 'god' if the teachings could well be made up by a person and just be used to control people. How do you make sure you have the truth and not a man made ideology?

You can try to worship "god" thru appreciation of surrounding nature, laws of physics, math, life complexity. Just use common sense and your own moral barometer.

keep searching and investigating independently. don't just follow someone else. evaluate everything that you see on whether it makes sense to you and, to the world. evaluate what the various religious communities are doing, how they put the words into action.

don't stop searching until it all makes sense to you.

Not a Muslim, but I think this is right answer. You were made for something, what is that thing you were made for? What set of tasks? Why live? The answer is really not up to you, but up to God.

> There is no real objective reason to be altruistic.

> stronger belief in God

This is a bit conflicting, no?

I meant that without belief in God, there is no real objective rational reason to be altruistic.

Evolution has built altruistic behavior in many animal species. Just recently I read about some single celled species where in extreme circumstances, a few of cells self-scarfice so that rest can survive.

Thank you for sharing. Your journey also resonates for me as a humanist. The only difference is that my belief lies in other people.

>This time I'd like to start really pouring my soul into something that can provide meaning to my life

Meaning comes from within. If you're looking for outside sources, you've already lost. If you've achieved enough material success that you no longer have to worry about working to survive, excellent! Be grateful, for you have something 99.999% of the world will never have. Use the free time you have achieved to think about things that matter to you. Not what you 'think' should matter, not what other people say matters, but what actually matters to you. If you haven't done this before, (and it sounds like you haven't), don't be surprised when it turns out to be a genuinely difficult question. That's ok! Take your time, roll it around in your mind. Don't try and go 100% all-in on things. That only works when you have a concrete goal already defined. You need to let your default network roam around for a bit.

this resonate quite a lot with the state of things. Thanks.

Tomorrow morning I'll plan to spend some time in a library just pondering about it

This is a symptom of someone that lived a 'square' life style all their lives... and never did something out of bounds or take risks

You really need to spice up your life... Go to the dessert, do some 'safe' drugs, (aka, mushrooms)..., get a mistress.... get a motorcycle (and be safe about it), buy one of those trycycle open air cars and ride the coast, start playing some social sports seriously, (volleyball/soccer) etc... etc...

It is up to you what you think you like, but often you never know until you try it. The fact that you are not happy, means you are getting a mini burn out from being so 'square' all your life. Time to rebel a bit, just don't throw the baby with the bathwater, (aka, don't destroy the good stuff in your life, just incorporate some more risky fun)

I love this comment. I could not agree more. I would love to re-live those years, but I am content to have "been there/done that". I would feel so empty without all the stupid shit I've done in my life. But of course I'm lucky to be alive, and also to have come of age pre-911, but I'm not sure how one can know how great they have things without having seen the edge. For passer-bys, I highly recommend reading the book Siddhartha for insight into this idea--finding bookends to your existence has brought me incredible peace.

I spent much of my 20's struggling with finding purpose in life, similar to the OP, and this is the only comment here that matched with what I landed on. I'm now about to begin my 30's with many of these things either done or in progress.

The biggest one has been taking up climbing as a sport. Climbing has a clear path to improvement, has a wonderful social element, takes you to amazing places around the world, and can be as safe or risky as you're willing to push.

The other big component in life that I've taken up is art. Writing, painting, music, poetry, you name it. There is something innate about producing art that I think every human can benefit from. On that note, I think it's also easy for us to dismiss ourselves as untalented in any of these arts, but they're like any other skill and they'll become more fulfilling with time.

not the case here. I don't think that adventure and spicy is what's missing. I did a lot of those things and more, luckily... It is true, however, that it's getting increasingly harder to convince friends to join me in adventures.

Are you sure you actually implemented the life you wanted or what was expected from you? Sounds like you had a checklist/recipe for life and you went with it.

The good thing is you have so many doors open now. Do whatever. You're young enough to pick up any hobby or career. Don't think about whether it's financially worth doing or if you're on some "mission" or "purpose". Don't think about whether it's safe or unpopular.

Sometimes the most fulfilling things are inherently worthless. Learn an instrument, buy a motorcycle, make a painting, become a scuba instructor, run a marathon, try drugs, move to another country, sit at a park/cafe and talk with people - you get the picture. You'll find something that clicks, just get out of your checklist view of life.

> Sounds like you had a checklist/recipe for life and you went with it.

Yep, tried to follow a mix of passion and checklists.

> Do whatever.

love this. This is also the problem itself. I can do anything. But what will I miss out if I do x instead of y?

> Learn an instrument, buy a motorcycle, make a painting, become a scuba instructor, run a marathon, try drugs, move to another country, sit at a park/cafe and talk with people - you get the picture.

The instrument sounds good. I. did run a marathon, bought a motorcycle (and a sailboat), I can't paint, lived in 6 countries, drugs scary the shit out of me after teenage THC-related panic attacks.

Give me more.

> You'll find something that clicks, just get out of your checklist view of life.

Hahaha, some friend call me the "list man"... they also made a drawing of me holding a checklist at my wedding :

Take those lists of yours and burn them. Find the files you rely on to plan, and rm the crap out of them.

Be here and now. Talk to people you normally wouldn't talk to. Do things without needing justifications. Be an absolute clown for a day, or just do something really crazy (ie. involuntarily funny) without justifying it to anybody. Notice what piques your curiosity and engagement, and pursue some whims of fancy. Notice variations of feelings and how they play with the rest of mind-body system and vica versa.

I think I know your problem (source: achieved something similar like you few years ago, had a similar 'crises' like yours, and now I've a better grip at life).

So here's my very simple, steeped in wisdom, two word advice: dream bigger.

When you reach the top of the mountain, the only Zen you will find is the Zen you brought with you. Meaning: you must find fulfillment within yourself and not in outside things or accomplishments.

I'm kind of sick of myself, honestly.

That seems like a good place to start. Figure out why and what it would take to correct.

Any tips on how to get started on this?

Not really. I think one reason koans are general and kind of vague is that everyone's specifics are different and advice that works for some people may not work for everyone and may be exactly wrong for some.

Once, my then girlfriend was telling me that she was having trouble at work and always felt bad asking people for help. I gave her advice that had really helped me - which was to not worry about it and ask, ask, ask for help! It's the most efficient way, and all that.

My natural inclination is to never ask for help and figure it out myself. That can wind up taking me ten times as long to figure stuff out, so for me, really pushing to ask for help balances my natural tendencies and, if I try to ask for what seems like lots and lots of help, it'll wind up being about right.

My then girlfriend, on the other hand, was already inclined to ask for help. She was rightly worried that she was annoying other people and asking for too much help and I, though well meaning, gave her exactly the wrong advice and pushed her to keep doing exactly the wrong thing. The advice she needed was the exact opposite of what I needed. This is a specific example of how you can't really give advice to people without understanding them and their problems.

To go back to koans (which I quite like) - if you meet the Buddha, kill him. Meaning: you can't listen to other people to find enlightenment, it has to come from within you. Other people cannot tell you what you need to know, only you can do that.

And, of course, I'm not an enlightened guru living a perfect life or anything. I try my best. I think about problems and take steps to solve them.

It's a huge lie that once you've achieved the "american dream" (which I don't think is the real american dream anyways) then everything will be sorted out. yes your life will be more amazing, and it's 100% important to reach this place, but once you've hit that place you'll lose a lot of motivation and energy, cause now lack of money, lack of family, lack of anything, doesn't kick your ass during the day. so you have a huge new challenge on your hands, and that is to re-invent yourself and discover what can move you now. you're embarking on a set of veryyyy difficult questions around what's the purpose of all this, what's the point of this, what the heck should i do with my days now. just know that you've been put on this journey for a reason and there's a way out and listen to your heart more than anything else. trust yourself. and be patient. there are answers out there and they will make you more fulfilled than you can imagine. the worst thing you can do is turn a blind eye to what your heart is saying and dive back into work and whatnot. you're doing the right, difficult thing by sitting patiently and staring right into the eye of the storm, so despite it appearing you're doing nothing with your life now, you're going through a lot of inner changes that will ultimately lead to a lot of outer changes.

I would recommend the following video that may not provide explicit answers, but will perhaps provide a contextual understanding for how you're feeling.

Why Passivity Breeds Mediocrity and Mental Illness: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUs6NDsMWVI

It sounds like you've slammed your new life full of ephemeral busywork to, well, keep yourself occupied. It also sounds like you don't have a professional network that relies on you and that you rely on (since you're financially independent and just poking around these days).

You may want to take a step back, enmesh yourself for a few weeks or months in all the possible paths you could focus yourself on (which will likely be chaotic and unenjoyable), and then just dedicate yourself to pursuing a given path. Try to build up a network, feel you are helping others in the network, and see where it all goes.

Whether this path ends up being financially fruitful or being conventionally successful along some other axis should be viewed as irrelevant given your current status. You'll likely find just having a thing to do, that other people are also working tangentially on or are interested in, will bring you all the success you need.

Watched the video. I am definitely the kind of person he describes, and I agree with the diagnosis he makes about the human condition. I honestly don't think the cure he is suggesting is working, otherwise, I wouldn't be here. I am very very very far from being passive, indeed I (try to) fill (most of) my days with challenges and creative activities from which I get pride (cit.) pleasure, and make me feel alive. I've always lived this way, and it starts to feel like a "challenge addiction" that doesn't really take me anywhere long term. It makes me perpetually and intermittently unsatisfied so that I need to go find "the next thing" to create/do/work on, that will make the discomfort go away, and let me feel PRIDE. For 10 minutes. And then back to it... It's a hamster wheel, and it's the very reason I started this thread. I started to somehow look with envy at the "content people" which seem to get away with passive and superficial relaxing lives.

It's hard to get the idea across.

Content = I am happy the way I am.

Not Content = I want to improve myself.

That's it. Being content is being passive by definition.

A lot of people don't want to be passive and that is perfectly okay.

Ok, this is a very good reply and feedback. I am not even sure I am fully grasping it at the moment. I will get back after I watched the video. But it seems like you read between the lines pretty well.

>enmesh yourself for a few weeks or months in all the possible paths you could focus yourself on

Can you expand a bit on this? Maybe provide some examples...

Because sometimes with the "pocking around, keeping myself busy, ..." I do have the illusion I am exploring some paths. In a very shallow way

Some research says that helping others brings much more meaning to life. Consider https://www.effectivealtruism.org/.

True, finding purpose by helping others will help you figuer out where you fit in this world. It's seems like you are one of the few that can plan,execute and accomplish. I would look at ways you can work toward accomplishing goals bigger than yourself. It will help you immensely.

thanks, I love practical advice, accompanied by an URL ;)

+1 We're social animals after all. If nothing else, just spend a month learning about human psychology and motivation.

Schopenhauer wrestled with this problem and came up (paraphrasing so do your own research - lots to read about this discussion) with the telic vs atelic duopoly with respect to meaningfulness. What you seem to have achieved are telic goals - things with a clear end point, like a certain amount of money or no debt or living in a certain place. What he says, and I’ve found in my own life, is that the struggle to achieve these is often motivated by a belief that the end result is more than it actually is in reality and that we are left feeling empty once we’ve achieved them (or emptier than expected). Instead, we should struggle to achieve atelic goals, which have no end. Think of it like being an artisan - there is no endpoint, just continuous honing of a craft. Fatherhood is an example - there’s no “endpoint” - you find meaning from being an ever greater father.

What’s nice about atelic goals is they tend to be mutually exclusive and force you to choose where you will devote your time to lifelong improvement. Telic goals are the opposite - there’s always another race to get under your belt or another country to go visit or a bigger house to buy.

> This time I'd like to start really pouring my soul into something that can provide meaning to my life, without rushing into the next app/side project/hustle/startup to temporarily calm my curiosity.

I'm not sure it's wise to link seeing life as meaningful to any future project you might take on. Projects can succeed or fail and they can start with good intentions but have unforeseen bad consequences.

Also, Rolf Dobelli, author of "The art of the good life", makes the case that doing what you do best and donating some of the money that you earn to worthwhile causes is far more efficient in obtaining results than doing volunteer work a professional could be paid to do much better (especially if that professional is in a part of the world where earnings and the cost of living are low).

In general I believe people find meaning either through a religion or some sort of philosophy of life (such as stoicism).

Congratulations on your life this far, you have certainly checked off everything there is in this material world. Honestly, I mean it. Your work ethic is great, as is your abilities to get you this far.

How is your faith life, do you believe in religion? As some others have alluded to, having gratitude and giving back I feel are your next steps you should consider taking. I think you are at a great time in your life to start that dialogue of faith, start giving back, start believing there is more in your life, more people you can help.

Life begins when we give back :) (and I don't doubt you haven't, but I think it's the next step for you after reading your comments).

Where would you start?

Lots of possibilities: Local churches (where young adults go), philosophy groups, search around on billboards and campuses, yoga classes (ie. Art of Living), etc. Some groups are open to newcomers. Just keep in mind, many groups try to suck you in and you may need to review why and if you should continue from time to time. Any place you start, you might connect to people drawn to you, so could end up in a different group after some time.

ohhh would love to join philosophy groups... is it a thing?

I've been to such event, though wasn't a regular and it was more of an alternative gathering. That was before all the web services, but nowadays there's ie. meetup, and college/university is bound to have something too: https://www.meetup.com/topics/philosophy/

Meetup could be a good place to connect about lots of stuff. Don't be surprised if the thing finds you, but one need to be open to try new and unplanned experiences.

following up on this: I signed up for a local meetup. in 8 hours I'll go to the first zoom socratic chat

A good question, and I'm sure many people ask this every day. I'll try to do my best to answer.

It takes different forms, different paths for everyone. Not everyone goes down the same path. I think the best question/mindset you should start to think is this is a life with many people. You are only one piece of that puzzle, try working on your empathy first. You don't seem judgemental, but consider how others are feeling when you talk with them, listen to them more closely. Put your thoughts and replies before them, make _them_ the more important person in the conversation. (Again, not saying you are judgemental, but just in general).

Eventually, this desire to help others before yourself grows; it becomes your default response. With this, I've felt myself grow more humbler, more understanding of others and less judgemental. What you may experience is just this greater joy - helping others is giving you this happiness that nothing else gives.

At this stage, you typically start to realize bad habits you may have, distractions. We as people distract ourselves with a myriad of things in order to avoid feelings or situations. Try to uncover that, dig deep down and look at and help heal your hurts. This will likely take time and a change of behavior if you have them, but it's well worth it. Once you feel you have a good handling of this, you might start to notice others who have their own hurts. As you speak to them and gain trust with them, bring it up from time to time (if you are close), you may have an opportunity to heal them (which in of itself really makes you feel like you are doing good with your life).

If you read this, please do not be dismissive of what I am about to say, but without my belief in God - I really wouldn't know what I'm doing here. Honestly, even _in_ my belief I still very much question my purpose here on Earth. With everything else I have said up above, there was still this piece of my heart that felt like it was missing, and no matter what, nothing could fill in that gap. Point being, even though I still feel lost often, knowing and believing in God, makes me feel better that the path I'm on is on a purpose for God and for others I meet, touch, and heal along the way.

I hope this message helps you along. If you have any questions, feel free to respond.

Life is like a piece of music. The "point" of listening to it lies in the listening - not the getting to the end of the track. If you build and optimize your life around "getting to the end" - whatever that has meant for you, getting a degree, reaching a certain amount of wealth, a certain amount of success, a certain kind of partner, etc. - you will eventually find that there is no more "end" to get to.

Well, the way out of this is really stupid - you just have to learn to enjoy the music instead of always looking forward to reaching the end of the track.

Struggle. No one likes it, but meaning comes from pain. The story that goes "iunno, I was kinda lost so I started volunteering because some guy on an internet forum said it was a good idea" isn't compelling. You need a compelling narrative to generate the meaning you're seeking, and that is only possible in hindsight.

Don't focus on you, focus on the world. Go heads down and focus on making life better for others. Lose yourself in that, and when you look up you will have become your answer.

Shit, help people like me, 30 and not really near that level of accomplishment yet. Help explain how you got there and what less motivated people could do to reach even half that. I have a decent job and make enough to travel and all, but I'm single and could certainly be higher up in the professional sense than I am at the moment. It'd be nice to know what motivates other people or what they did to get off their ass in their free time to make it happen.

Or, you can learn something from reading this and realize that you're not really missing anything, because it's a distraction.

A more constructive path would be to focus on passion, follow your heart; wherever it may lead you.

Just like to add "Life is NOT a Journey", by Alan Watts, here:


Life is not a journey helps put things in perspective.

already in my favorites

The problem is not that you have advantage, it is that so many do not. You find yourself in a position to assist them. To the extent that what you've accomplished cannot scale, perhaps consider scaling back. To the extent that you can scale what you've accomplished to others, pull them up too. Identify some of the systemic problems and begin solving them because your further increased wealth results from expanding the world in which you are embedded. You'll discover new riches and help build an even more fantastic and comprehensive world around yourself. There are many dynamics taking others down including some within those others but the external ones need counter action. The internal ones compassion and support which you are in a position to try and provide. More abrasively, if you have run out of ways to use your capital your deficit is in creativity. Wealth buys healthcare and a feeling that things will be okay and your excesses can be employed to systemically create such a state more broadly.

When I was in my early 20s I had to spend some time working on freeing my inner-mind from itself. I managed to get to a point where I can feel satisfied regardless of my external life situation. Since then due to a mix of bad luck, laziness, and low-energy I haven't achieved almost anything I thought I wanted from life back when I was graduating from high school. I've spent some time in remarkable places doing remarkable things I didn't even know were possible to do and I've also spent some time being homeless and in jail. In all of these situations I have felt satisfied and fulfilled because I can generate that feeling from within myself.

Now I also live in one of the world's most beautiful cities surrounded by good friends and family. I spend a lot of time helping strangers with their problems for little to no reward. I still have a mortgage, but I feel at peace with that, and I probably never would have made it to where I am without taking those detours and getting my head straight first.

Help others.

If you’re a programmer then automate your charitable work.

How many people can you help this week? 50,000?

Can you buy fertiliser for an entire city? Can you pull a ton of carbon out of the atmosphere? Can you speak for the defenceless, downtrodden, voiceless people who are suffering? Can you eliminate hunger for a whole village? Can you teach 10 kids to code and teach them to all teach 10?

Start helping people


It seems you have a lot to be grateful for -- I'd recommend embracing that feeling, along with your family.

Or, are you maybe humblebragging? To have all that at 33 years old is quite good. Are you seeking advice, or acknowledgement? For someone who has been so effective in their life, it seems odd to me that they feel the need to seek this advice.

There are probably some good ideas in other replies. Having purpose in life is everything (I think). I suggest building humanity through learning and service, and hopefully coming to know eternal truths that support that learning & service in the best ways. I wrote my further thoughts here (a simple site, that I hope is skimmable, allowing one to drill into whatever parts are more interesting, for more details, no cookies etc etc): http://lukecall.net/e-9223372036854588981.html .

All the best to you.

Edit: ps: one volunteering site that doesn't require you to figure out detailed extensive plans before getting started, is probably https://justserve.org . They let orgs and volunteers sign up and see what is available, for a given locality.

Go for a pilgrimage, especially the Way of St. James in Spain. Start near Lyons in France and plan 3 months of your life. Let your friends and family accompany you for a week on some stretches of the way, but insist on walking alone for at least two weeks.

This way you will find your answer.

Im in a similar position after selling a company last year and recognise all for emotions.

After a month of golf, I realised that I needed to be in the game to feel alive and challenged, so went back and started another company pretty quickly.

At 33 it’s way to young to “retire”. Some people could probably do it and amuse themselves with hobbies and family, but I think most people driven enough to be self made financially independent at a young age would find it hard to switch to a life of leisure overnight.

If you do return to work or entrepreneurship, doing it because you genuinely enjoy the work and challenge rather than needing the money is a good place to be. I’m enjoying my work more than I have for a long time because the motivations are completely different.

I suggest finding a therapist and talking it through with them. I feel like I'm in much the same situation - I'm lucky, have more than enough of the things I need, job that makes enough money, health more or less, etc. but feel lost on purpose.

I think talking with a therapist is so great I recommend it to everyone, not just those who are suffering from some kind of "problem." Only you can really find the solution, but that doesn't mean you have to do it alone. Many times I find what to do to be somewhat counter-intuitive.

Sometimes external review is required to make sure the requirements are met for such complex problems as implementing a life. ;)

Thanks to your exceptional focus and determination you've arrived early at what is widely called Midlife Crisis. The aphorism your story brings to my mind is "Don't just do something, sit there!". Not sure what will help you but I highly recommend a 23 minute investment in David Foster Wallace's "This is Water": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PhhC_N6Bm_s


“We thought of life by analogy with a journey, a pilgrimage, which had a serious purpose at the end, and the thing was to get to that end, success or whatever it is, maybe heaven after you’re dead. But we missed the point the whole way along. It was a musical thing and you were supposed to sing or to dance while the music was being played.”

Alan Watts

This may sound like a flippant comment, but perhaps you're ready to start exploring the great unknown: yourself.

"Know thyself" is one of the tenants of old, and people naturally think they know themselves well. (I used to think the same way too... but it's actually an illusion - a self deceit that we have all built in.)

Start by digging into your own uneasiness. Where does it come from? What triggers it? You'll find some personal thing, most likely from childhood, tucked away in the recesses of your psyche that drives you. Meditation and self honesty are key here.

You can also start by looking at other things, like anger & see how something like a small irritation early in the day can lead to more irritation later on, which can lead to a blow up.

As you dig into your own psyche, you'll hopefully uncover how to love your wife, kids and place in life even more. It will then allow you to dig into yourself more, with increasing levels of gratitude, compassion and love as a result. It's pretty cool.

Pay attention to your nightly dreams also, as they often reflect your day time psyche and can also influence how your upcoming day will be.

Maybe this is what you're looking for?

Are you sure? I spent the last 30 years focusing on myself, on what I wanted to do, to learn, to get, to reach... Idk...

>Start by digging into your own uneasiness. Where does it come from? What triggers it? You'll find some personal thing, most likely from childhood, tucked away in the recesses of your psyche that drives you. Meditation and self-honesty are key here.

I somehow feel like my "uneasiness" are the real engine that makes me go around so fast, honestly faster than most of the people I have around. Do I need a cure from it? I am not sure I am ready to kill the engine.

Absolutely sure. I'm an infinitely better person for it... Add have gone barely a step down the road.

There's a big difference between going along with your drives and understanding their root cause. There's this freedom and peace that comes whenever you uncover the dirt about yourself, that honestly can't be found anywhere else.

This road is not be for everyone, however. Your initial request for suggestions showed that it could be. You mentioned that you're happy, that you have everything, and yet you have an uneasiness driving you. Would it not be better to be master of your own vehicle, rather than be 'driven'?

Although it seems very selfish, the opposite actually happens. You're more Here. You're more available and ready to help others, etc.

Although I heartily recommend this way, it's a personal choice on whether to even try it.

You are also very good at reading between the lines!

> Would it not be better to be master of your own vehicle, rather than be 'driven'?

Very deep question. As I mentioned, I don't know the answer.

One of my ideas for an end game is to get a PhD in something genuinely useful (cancer research?) and then work as a researcher. This way, you take care of something greater than yourself and your immediate family.

If I were better at dealing with people, I'd probably go into local politics. The government is always a mess and a person who is not there to fill his pockets/stroke his ego would be a net plus.

My wife and I are both programmers, both enjoy our jobs. She works for Google, my job is less prestigious. We don't need two incomes to live very comfortably. Our solution is to work fewer hours (both on 4-day weeks now) and aim to donate all of my salary to charity. So far we're only around 40% because we're trying to spread the money around and it gets awkward to give over $1000/mo to smaller organizations, but we're adding new charities on an ongoing basis.

Volunteering is a good suggestion, of course. Trying to inject a new insight into the conversation here, perhaps it's simply that what you're missing is a broader scope to your life direction. Volunteering is one way to achieve that, but as tech people we can also change the world with our work - are doing so whether we realize it or not. The question is, how? And do you change it for better or worse?

"The Danger Of Seeking a Life Purpose" from Sorelle Amore is an interesting video that lightly touches on this subject. Whilst I do not agree with everything mentioned, I do have one word of advice: Find hobbies, find many hobbies, switch constantly, and you might just find one niche you love... and once you find something you love, you'll dig into it like the hacker you are, and then you'll dig deeper, and you'll dream, and you'll envision, and you'll write, and you'll create, and you'll go leaps and bounds beyond what you thought you'd be capable of... and you'll fail, but you'll rebound... and you'll enjoy every single moment of it.

"Pouring your soul into something that can provide meaning to your life" doesn't just happen, your life has no meaning, just like mine doesn't... but you can pour something into your life regardless, and this will be much more satisfactory, knowing we all die, accepting we all die, and still having fun in this short moment of time we are here... and creating for fun, and... living!

In my case, I've started delving into creating a new language, creating a typography for this language, writing a universe where people talk in this language, writing a story that happens in this universe, and further down the line I plan to write poems and music that happens in this universe... and all along I know this is not my life's purpose. This is just a creation... We don't need a purpose per-se, we need something we love, like the love of exploring, the love of creating, or the love of pursuing new dreams.

The last thing you say is that you'd like to pour your soul into something that can provide meaning without rushing into the next side project... I'd argue against that, pursue ALL the problems, ALL the side projects... and then you'll find one thing that really clicks, and at that moment you'll know where to invest your energy.

And maybe, purpose. But purpose is a side-effect.

> Find hobbies, find many hobbies, switch constantly, and you might just find one niche you love.

I think that if there is something that defines me, is that I change hobbies quickly, after a deep dive. That's basically how I got where I am. Should I keep doing what I always did then?

Learn about something totally alien and "beyond" your current scope of life skills. Find a new passion. Find a passion.

Perhaps consider a means of not losing the advantages of what you currently have, while allowing you significant leeway to alter your future course in a way that will become clearer to you as you discover it.

What about sport? Something challenging, that requires years to master, e.g. martial arts or skateboarding or climbing? I feel like our happiness is tightly correlated with how much physical activity we get. I feel most happy and satisfied with life and myself, when I'm completely physically exhausted.

I was not that successful but I've reached to a point that I thought I could do anything if I had enough time and I started feeling boring. And then, it's always come to my mind the question "what's the point of this life?". Then I started to seek for something more "meaningful". Something more spiritual, and one day I found "Falun Gong", it's kind of practice that teach you how the world works in a very special way, the meaning of life, why we need to be a good person, ... it maybe not for everyone but I think you should give it a try. There are some free book online, you could start here: https://en.falundafa.org/eng/zfl_2018.html

PS: I am not a native speaker of English.

“The highest of distinctions is service to others.”

You need personal connections with meaningful care of and for people in your community. Don’t donate: put in the sweat equity, and let your life change and fill up naturally as much as your service changes and fills up your community’s and it’s people.

Get out there and make a difference in your world with a humble heart, and you’ll find that it’ll make a difference in you, too.

If you’re in the US, there are a host of things of great value you can sink years into, ranging all over the spectrum from voter registration to homeless work to volunteering for literacy in libraries to doing trail maintenance work in a national park or something. The possibilities for civic service are plentiful!

The best thing according to me is to see smile on other people's faces. Atleast on those people's faces who have lost all hope.

If I was in your position, I would concentrate on two things. Doing something to provide free(or atleast affordable) best quality

- education to everyone, especially under priviledged kids e.g. from poor families and orphans.

- healthcare to poor people.

Atleast do these two things and the world will be a far better place.

Take a break from your comfortable life and go travel to places like asia, africa and south america and you will find your calling.

Here is some advice from a well know person: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYfNvmF0Bqw

Edit: typo

You need an idea to pursue. The idea cannot be a simple myth about changing the world in some way, it has to be somehow more intrinsically engaging to you.

Studying some philosophy can help - not for getting the idea, but for usefully evaluating it after you get it.

Consult your experiences and channel your internal value systems into altruistic endeavors that could help others. Communication comes into play here more than ever. If you think you have something good for the world, you need to somehow deliver that message. I see the Arts as a great medium especially for this type of communication. A combination of science and creativity seems to be able to pierce through the noise around us and deliver the signal (message) in a gentle way.

EDIT: A playful example: https://artful.design/

Hope you will find your way :)

There is this game called Warframe and it has hundreds of weapons. The top 10 weapons are so good that they take out the skill involved in the game. Veterans get burned out after spending 1000 hours in the game. The "meta" (hyper optimization) is actually quite boring. I've had way more fun using "bad" weapons. Once you made it there is no need to hyperoptimize. If you find something you like then don't beat yourself up because you think there are better ways to spend your time.

Is your life really what you want?

I'm asking, because what you said sounds like copied from somewhere, without any own toughts.

You also sound a bit narrow minded. Life is more than just getting rich, marry, make, kids and travel. You can make art, draw, musik, sing, dance, sport, research.

Also, you seem rather goal oriented. That isn't bad, but it can lead to problems. While chasing a goal, you don't have it and long for it and when you finally reach it, it's done again.

The way should be the goal. Love what you do and the goals become some nice extras.

>Is your life really what you want?

Not really, you are right. Those things are culturally superimposed on a great extent.

>You can make art, draw, musik, sing, dance, sport, research.

Besides sport and research, which I basically practice daily, it's been ages since I last danced/sang/played an instrument. Let alone drawing and art :) Are you suggesting that I can find meaning by adding some of those to my weeks/days? It can be an improvement, but I don't feel it like a silver bullet.

> Love what you do

This sounds very cliche to me. Some day I'm loving programming, other days it feels like painful uselessness. The same applies to everything. "what I do" changes often, and so does the love I feel while doing it.

Can you accept yourself the way you are and feel? If you do stuff to drive away feelings, you'll always be chasing away from life and its many depths. Sometimes, life throws you curveballs or one just feels like shit. Doing something to "remove" shitty feelings, doesn't really resolve or accomplish anything. In Hinduism this is called "karma" (action), which is the opposite of "dharma" (right action). When we get trapped in patterns, we tend to go in circles (karma). When we break patterns, mend stuff and go on with life, intuition about our life's purpose is unwrapping and what we then do, even when superficially misunderstood or unseen, is called dharma. The root of dharma is often intention to do good, while the root of karma is often the chains of action-reaction. Without karma, there's no dharma, they go hand-in-hand.

You're not wasting 'productive' years. You have a wife and kid. Ask them what they want out of life, and do that if you can't think of anything yourself.

Look at the spiritual dimension of your life. The spiritual realm goes far beyond this brief mortal existence.

Pray to God in the name of Jesus Christ. It will require faith at first. But if you have a real intent to know, and are willing to listen and make changes, you'll get the answers you need.

"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths." ~Prov. 3:5-6

[I missed the kid part, ignore the rest of this comment as it's wrong] I'm surprised no one asked about/suggested procreation? You've literally set yourself up for that, at this point of your life. If you and your spouse are unable to, you should look into adoption. The lost feeling could be from not having a real, good use of what you've built up. It's like building a kingdom but not having any people in it.

He already has a kid, he said.

Thanks, I missed it.

I too have found that the material world and its rewards aren't enough for me. For me, meaning is found in the work of care for others, often at my own expense. The 5 necessities of life are usually said to be 1) food 2) water 3) clothing 4) shelter 5) each other. Given that food, water, shelter and clothing are so easy to come by, it has come to seem to me that the more work I put into number 5, the happier I become.

Do what all people who achieved personal goals do and that's charity. Either with money or time or perhaps both. Will give you a fuller meaning to life.

> loved by my family, surrounded by good friends, happily married

You got the most important thing right. Whatever you end up doing, don't forget that.

I went through a similar experience around the same age. Like you, I had everything I wanted except purpose.

Did you consider asking while meditating? In that state it's easier to reach into the unconscious, where there may well be an answer waiting for you.

That's the easy part, the difficult part is accepting the answer as it will potentially change your life dramatically.

> Did you consider asking while meditating?

hehe funny enough, I did it 20 minutes before writing this post. I couldn't find the answer inside so I though: "Fuck it, let's ask HN"

Patience :)

From my experience the answer comes when you least expect it, you might not even recognize it unless you keep an open mind.

Get more ambitious and try to change the world for the better. Look at any person you may admire, may it be Elon, Gates, Bach. Try to achieve what they could.

Or just take the one thing from your interests you think you're best at, and make a website for others to enjoy.

Or take the regular route and study philosophy - it was created to find the meaning of life.

They say it's the journey, not the goal that matters. Having achieved everything you ever wanted sounds kind of scarry. But there's so much stuff you can do. How about helping other people or our planet? Doing some charity work or environmental projects?

Alongside effective altruism, if you don't want to work to donate to things learn about ecosystem restoration, and cultural patterns that may leave your kid with problems later on. Instead of mere travel, consider real participation with people that need help.

Have you implemented what you wanted or what you thought you wanted but society told you was "good".

Sometimes in life its nice to have a bit of nihilism and purposefully let stuff go or be imperfect.

If nothing else work you could also try ayahuasca, lsd, or simply MDMA.

I would suggest seeing a therapist before self-medicating.

therapists are usually people who had psychological problems during their studies and though precisely they could self medicate by doing said studies. most are insane and can't help anyone

I recommend, instead, surrounding yourself with healthy people.

Dostoevsky, Steinbeck, Shakespeare, and The Bible all have very thoughtful takes on these kind of questions. And that's just a start.

I've been in your situation before, and immersing myself in great works of art was probably the most useful thing I did.

I admit I definitely need to do some more reading of those authors. Anything, in particular, you'd suggest to get me started?

You might want to read Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse. Small novel(~150pages) but very relevant to your question.


Particularly, Hinduism has its highest corpus of philosophy devoted to the question - What next ?

In fact, that is literally the question the treatise starts with 'After enjoying all material desires, what next ? let's start with God'

I have found foster care to be very rewarding, in a difficult kind of way. My wife and haven't been able to have our own kids yet, but bringing in these other kids it is great to see them grow and be happy.

There is a planet to save. I think you have a lot of work ahead of you.

grazie ;)

If you want to give back and are looking for a mentee then I would like to volunteer because I can’t seem to be successful with my side hustles for the life of me.

What I can answer is my plan once I achieve what you have: spend half my time contributing to open source projects and the other half writing fiction.

Have you discovered Mathematics? One can lose many joyful lives just studying and understanding, especially when there's no pressure for achievement.

yes, math was my major in BSc. Felt in love after reading Du Sautoy. it's probably being 10 years now I don't do any serious abstract math tho

How can you, with your specific talent/skills, make your family/community/the world better? In that struggle you will find your meaning.


Curious to know how you've done so well? And congratulations! Hope you find that next thing to keep you motivated.

How financially secure are you? I would day invest in people's small companies if you had the money to.

Try volunteer work in a really poor country.

Capitalism tells you progress is moral. Progress is achievement. one day there will be no tomorrow so not everything can be about tomorrow, not everything can be about change. There is no way to have contentment in our world because your goals _have_ to be about change. You have to work out what you need and want - this probably isn't going to be list of cliché capitalist aims. The game isnt getting things, it's understanding yourself. The western world isn't setup for humans to live happy lives really, good luck my man.

Work to solve one of the tough problems in the world. Renewable energy, systemic bias, corruption, health care etc.

"This time I'd like to start really pouring my soul into something that can provide meaning to my life"

Your kid?

Have you heard of Sadhguru? Listen to some of his videos in youtube. You should find peace.

Talk about it with your wife.

Sure, she is aware of my inner struggle, but those are mine and there's not much she can do. Can she?

And you think that strangers who don't know you can?

I'd trust my wife's advice more than some anon's. Ask your friends. Family. I'd ask the dog first before asking online. We don't know you. They do. They're more likely to understand you and what could help you. Asking here is no better than asking google "what is the meaning of life?".

lol. True but I don't personally have anybody in my circle of friends who had experienced this kind of "I have everything" crisis.

Just a suggestion...

Help other people, make art and listen to "Skating Polly"...

I've been exploring pretty much the same questions for the last few years. The first couple years felt distressing because I didn't feel like I was making progress quickly enough and I had way more questions than answers. Lately, I feel more positive about the direction of travel, and I've made peace with this being a slow, difficult journey. Seems like it should be "easy", but it's really not. Accepting that and not feeling too hard on myself helped a lot.

I haven't figured out a Grand Unified Theory or anything, but a few ideas that seem important to me:

1. Altruism & Relationships - covered extensively here already. Cultivating a few deep relationships and picking altruistic goals seem to be the scalable approaches to escaping the Hedonistic Treadmill and they're probably necessary components of any post-financial independence life strategy.

2. Growth - I'm not sure if this is a universal human thing or just something entrepreneur types are predisposed to, but I've realised that I'm much happier when I'm learning and growing. When the learning curve flattens out, I get feel unsettled. This seems to line up with your observation that you intensely take up a hobby, then shift to something new. Startups scratch this itch well because the company's growth forces constant personal growth. Initially, I tried to transcend this need to always be in motion thinking it was unsustainable over the long term - but lately I've been more accepting of it.

3. Change the Game - the trouble with growth as you approach the peak of whatever career/goal/journey you're on is it becomes exponentially harder to level up and satisfy that need for motion. I think the solution is to pivot to a totally different journey where you can start as a beginner and have a lot of attainable learning & growth ahead of you. I suspect this is a big part of why successful people tend to pursue philanthropy at the height of their careers - it's a whole new game, with new challenges to overcome.

From those ideas, I decided to pick a difficult, new domain to focus on with a goal of figuring out how to do some meaningful good. I happened to choose climate change, but health, education, poverty reduction, democracy, or any number of other issues fit the bill of "hard enough to provide years of learning/growth + focus is helping others". By picking something and committing, I avoided getting stuck in and endless loop of trying to decide what the optimal area is - a bias to action helps a lot when you get stuck with too much choice.

For me, the concrete starting point was Googling "best climate change books", reading half a dozen of them, and trusting my curiosity to guide me from there. I've spent the last year learning, and now I'm converging on starting a startup - although there are plenty of other structures that could work too (non-profits, volunteering, working on open source, consulting, advising, etc). The journey hasn't given me total clarity or magically solved everything - but by imposing some structure ("work full-time to figure out how you can help with climate change") on my life, things are at least less confusing.

Happy to discuss more privately if you'd like.

I'm thinking AI...

Sounds like a great space to dive into. Plenty of depth so you won't run out of interesting things to learn and there are lots of ways AI can help others.

If climate's your thing, you can check out https://www.climatechange.ai/. I'd bet similar communities exist around other areas for social good too. Good luck :)

Autonomy? Check. Mastery? Check. Purpose? <== you are here

Read some Aldous Huxley and see if that changes you ;)

I can appreciate the fact that you reached out for advice -- thanks for that! I'm curious to know what parts of Aldous Huxley's work would present an inspiration for change here?

You are most welcome. Personally I found the genius and the goddess made the greatest change in my perspective. Obviously I can't say it will have the same effect on you; however I've found that many of his writings are very thought provoking so perhaps just pick a few at random :).

I wish you the very best and I'll leave you with a quote from the man himself:

"Every man who knows how to read has it in his power to magnify himself, to multiply the ways in which he exists, to make his life full, significant and interesting."

Be grateful?

Be grateful

Volunteer in your community.


Matthew 6:33

Donate all your time and money to the abolition of the carceral state

Would probably pursue religion/spirituality at this point, but you are older than I am so I'm not sure if my advice holds much credence

This quote from Pascal might apply here. He said "There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ."

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