All of the foregoing is to my mind excellent advice, so let me make my contribution in a different way- starting by observing things often said by others. One paraphrased quote that always comes to mind is "no one rises higher than he who knows not where he is going". Accordingly, I would not be too concerned about not having all of life's answers down at 21, or even at 40
The only constant in life that you can really bet on, is that things will change and it is one's capacity and willingness to adapt to those changes that ultimately defines success, and not just for humans. A lot can be learned from nature, for in the end, she controls all. Don't believe me? I give you.......
"Seer's Law of the 20 mph Curve"
which goes as follows:
"I don't care how much money you have, who your father was, what movie star you date, what kind of car you drive, or how much your rolex cost you, or which government
or how many revered wise men
voted on what to put on that speed limit sign, if you try and take one of 'natures' 20 mph curves at 70...you are headed out of the genepool, period, end of story."
Life is all about identifying and respecting nature's 20 mph curves. There are a lot of them, and some closely hidden. Detecting them in advance is "job 1" for if you can't do that, you'll never get the chance to do anything else.
So, assuming you get that down, as to what you should do with your life, let me put it this way, unless you live a rather remarkable and public life, when its over, only those you knew well, your immediate family, and perhaps your grandchildren will even remember, much less give a damn about what you said and did. People tend to see themselves as far more important in the overall scheme of things than they really are, even the 'important' ones
Accordingly, since barring reincarnation, you're going to get one shot at this game and it makes little sense to live your life patterned on anyone else's design, whether a parent, preacher, priest, minister, rabbi, (you get the drift) or anyone else, you might as well live your life (within reason) trying to please the one to whom it is most important, i.e. YOU!!!,,,so .....seek to know your own heart, your own mind, your own soul. They will reveal the path YOU will find most satisfying and rewarding, for I will submit to you that in the end, life is about trying to find a way to be happy
Deciding how to proceed to do this can be a daunting task. Let me put it this way. If I were to give you a hammer, and you had never seen a hammer before, how would you go about trying to discover its purpose? By 'using' it of course.
You would find it excellent for bashing the hell out of things, but very poor at say combing your hair, or playing 'catch' etc.
Well, lets rephrase the question, if I was to give you...well YOU
How would you go about finding out what YOU are 'for'? As several posters have already stated..go out and look around, try different things...USE your life, try things out, see what pleases you, what doesn't etc., eventually you will fall into into the right slot, or create a new one
The answers are easy if you find you only do one thing well and it pleases you. If so, have at it and consider yourself blessed. The problem comes when you discover a number a things you do well, now you're going to have to make choices, and things can get a bit dicey here.
The first matter people in our consumption
based western society confront is that of wealth. While clearly helpful, I would advise an intelligent man to not be overly concerned about financial wealth and power. As my grandfather once remarked, "there were damned few black sharecroppers diving
out of skyscraper windows during the depression...." On the other hand, some degree of financial stability is a great dream enabler soooooo, keep things in perspective as you conduct your search for what you are 'for'.
Now, this next part is the point where a lot of sage's advise 'moderation in all things'. Well I think that is horseshit. It has been my experience that you can never be happier..than you have been sad. If you reach for the heights, be prepared for the depths, for I have never seen one achieved where the other did not surely follow. It is an easy and 'safe' thing to live a 'moderate' life and it appears to be the path most traveled...probably because it takes a substantial amount of courage to risk all to pursue a dream to its end, knowing the obstacles, trials and tribulations that must be overcome along the way. But, consider the rewards
A professor at Caregie Mellon who is dying of cancer, recently gave a rather remarkable lecture in which he said many things worth hearing among which was this one which resonated most with me." Walls (i.e. obstacles to your dreams) are there to weed out those who simply don't 'want it' enough". I have seen this to be true. If you really want it, GO FOR IT! If you don't, keep searching
I am reminded of the old Sophists' tale of the retiring master leaving his academy after a lifetime of service to seek peace and solitude in his remaining years. As he is gathering his things, his most trusted subordinate comes to him and tells him that there has arrived a very special young student, one showing remarkable potential, but needing extreme care in the manner of his training, training which only the master is qualified to give. Well, the old man begs off but after a time of continued entreaties, he commits to at least an interview with the young 'prodigy' and so goes down to get a look at this student which has caused such a commotion. In appearance the lad is not remarkable, but detecting a spark behind the eyes, the old man beckons him to join him on a stroll down the path alongside the stream near the school. They converse in meaningless chit-chat for a bit then the master suddenly stops and extending his arm, points at a large boulder out in the middle of the stream.
"Where should that rock be? " he asks the young man.
Well, the pupil looks at the old master in bewilderment for a moment then turns to contemplate the rock. When he turns back, the master detects the gleam in the young man's eye and begins to smile. The student proclaims:
"That rock is exactly where it should be" ,
Well the old man,without missing a beat, rockets back.
"and why, pray tell, is that? "
To which the younger man, never loosing his gaze into the master's eyes, states calmly.
."Because in all of existence, from the great cataclysm's of antiquity, every storm, every flood, every quake that ever shook this land, ALL the forces of nature have combined to put that rock where it is,,,,
therefore it IS,
where it SHOULD,
Now, I tell you that story as a backdrop to what I think is the most difficult problem faced by intelligent persons during their life's search; and that is trying to keep an even keel
psychologically as one discovers the various 'truths' that reveal themselves as you progress along your way. This internal struggle can present a most deadly dilemma; "deadly" in that many of the best and the brightest ultimately fail miserably when seeking to face the truths about this world, about our species, and ultimately about themselves-and believe me, there are things that are true whether you choose to believe them or not. Those who fail this one of life's tests, find themselves falling into depression, drug/alcohol abuse, and all too often, suicide. Ask yourself why so many of those now deceased notables who appeared to have had *everything*, ultimately decided they had *nothing* of real value....
Ghandi used to say that to contest life's greatest battles, one must 'turn your eyes inward' and I believe him to have been correct. Conquer yourself and the rest of the world is easy...but I warn you, going 'inside' without being well 'armed' so to speak can be, as I just discussed, a very dangerous and unforgiving place indeed. To be prepared you must see the world as it is, as it 'should' be in the meaning of the Sophists.. As the story illustrates, there iare reasons why we are the way we are, and why we find ourselves in the state we are in, i.e. why our 'rock' sits in the middle of that stream.... The history
of our world and of our species has made our world what it is. To succeed in it, you must understand how it got to be the way it is, and how our different peoples got to be the way they are. There are reasons that the Turks are attacking the Khurds, and vice-versa; there are reasons why Ms. Bhutto died this morning; and there are reasons the United Nations is screaming about 'human caused' global warming while increasing numbers of climatology experts are tending towards the opposite view... There are also reasons why warring nations can call a temporary truce to attempt a joint rescue
operation; or even stop the killing for a bit to engage in games of sport- we call it the Olympics
. You can undertake the search for as many of the reasons for our condition as you wish, and in as many fields, but just beware, the answers do not come cheap
, they all carry a price
; and in many cases, a price
not all are able to bear. To fight the battle inside is a lofty ambition, just be forewarned, you may learn things you would rather not have known.
So, how to live ones life
Well, most of the answer lies in seeking to find what it is that makes you "happy" and pursuing that. Only among the rarest of men will you find those willing to subjugate their own happiness, wealth, health
and sometimes lives, for the welfare of others, and I will tell you they live by different rules than the rest. I would not advise following that path, unless you find that the essence of all that is YOU, demands it.
So take YOU out into the world, try it on, see what you can and cannot do, , be careful, thoughtful, find what makes YOU happy and pursue that and you will be a long way ahead of most. When confronted with a career issue, when presented with alternative courses of action, ask yourself: "which path leads me towards my goal, and which leads away from it..." then choose. CAVEAT! You may find, its not always an entirely direct path
BUT..... one little problem remains.....
That of dealing with moral dilemmas. Once it occurs to you that your initial 'faith' is a function of where and when you are born and to whom, it becomes difficult for an intelligent man to follow strictly one creed or another at the behest of who, whom, or whatever passes for the local religious authority. As you can read in the headlines on any given day, most people never reach this understanding, and therefore cannot bring themselves to allow that other equally intelligent persons might see things in a different way, and therefore might not require conversion or extermination-which is unfortunate.
Nonetheless, humans have evolved with a desire or need (use whichever term you deem appropriate) to believe in something larger than themselves, and yes, some have found this need useful in seeking to control the thoughts and actions of large populations, ergo the situation I described in the previous paragraph. That is one "rock" we should do our damnedest to get the hell out of the stream.....
In any event, it has occurred to me that at the core
of most major religions there are similar teachings that are helpful in facilitating people getting along with one another. These can be readily adopted. However, the strict and innumerable do's and don'ts which have over the years been added- supposedly derived from these core
basics through the interpretations of 'learned and or 'inspired' men', conflict between the major theologies and have resulted in the infliction of mind-boggling pain, suffering and cruelty beyond belief. An intelligent man might be justifiably repulsed by what such faiths have done in the name of a good and just god. Accordingly, where do you turn to resolve moral issues if not to faith? Well, as my parting offering, here is a way to accomplish exactly that
Since one of my names is Morgan
, it is referred to by people who know me as 'Morganism" ( or by the more irreverent few as "Morgasm" which connotes something entirely different ..tho still on occasion posing a moral issue lol). In any event, it goes like this:
"When confronted with a moral issue, close your eyes, calm your breathing, focus your thoughts and picture yourself near the end of your life, reflecting over the course of your life, and those 'choices' you made...then ask yourself this question: "am I going to be glad I did this, or wish I hadn't".
You will be amazed at how seemingly Gordian choices are thus rendered elegantly clear.
Perhaps its possible that at the core of each of us there really is some 'spark' some sliver, some inherent trace of what for lack of a better word, I'll call 'providence', such that if you can just remove the distractions and influences of others, and just listen...well...it can serve as one's moral compass
. However, I have found that this internal compass
CAN stil be debased and corrupted. In years passed I used to refer to the supposed *universal truth* that mothers in all cultures always mourned the deaths of their sons, something regrettably, I now know to not be true. Sigh, one of those *truths* I'd rather not have learned.
In any event, there you have it, a pocket manual for living your life.
To be fair, I must point out that Shakespeare said much the same thing, but phrased it this way..
"To thine own self be true".
Clear evidence of the genius of brevity...
which I evidently sadly lack.