“Today’s grads enter a cultural climate that preaches the self as the center of a life. But, of course, as they age, they’ll discover that the tasks of a life are at the center. Fulfillment is a byproduct of how people engage their tasks, and can’t be pursued directly. Most of us are egotistical and most are self-concerned most of the time, but it’s nonetheless true that life comes to a point only in those moments when the self dissolves into some task. The purpose in life is not to find yourself. It’s to lose yourself.”—
When I was younger, I had a distinct black and white view of the world. People had either “made it,” or hadn’t. People were either happy, or they weren’t. In terminology most relevant to me, I thought of people as products: some were being built, some polished, and some had made it to the market, now feverishly looking for their next buyer.
I’ve come to a realization recently that this is no longer how I think about the world. My worldview today sees people more as frameworks rather than products — constantly being worked on, iterated, improved, changed, and judged. Nobody has explicitly “made it,” and nobody is truly happy. People who seem otherwise have only refined their framework to the point that they are given, and are able to tackle, the larger complexities in life.
When we meet someone, we’re not judging them based on the product they’ve become, but the framework they’ve come to define for themselves. And as frameworks, the real products in our life are the people around us — the people we bring into the world, support, be around, and look up to. The people we build and shape. If it weren’t for them, we’d be unneeded and redundant. Likewise, as products of other frameworks ourselves, we only want the best to be around us — the ones whom we think can build us into better, smarter, richer, and happier people.
So, if you ever find yourself contemplating your existence, just remember that you’re not defined by your strengths, flaws, shape, size, appearance, personality, and values. Instead, you’re only ever the person for whom these things are maintained based on the people and interests you have in your life, love, and care about. The more important role for you, however, is in inevitably shaping these qualities in others.