People are weird. But, are people actually weird, or is it pretty simple what most people want? Most people chase one of the following:
Broadly speaking, this encompasses a good chunk of the population. Add more shit to the list, get more nines.
However, I think people really only chase the following: Fulfillment and happiness. I think, if you gave every person on the planet 5 million dollars, the suicide rate would actually go up not down. Not at first, but I’d bet within 1-2 years it’ll uptrend.
Actually, let’s run through that.
So everyone has 5 million dollars. It’s a great time. You and your friends drink for free every, everywhere you go. You buy fancy fast cars, useless toys, etc. You fly to far away places, spend large sums of money, and you feel happy. For a bit. Probably.
And yet, this doesn’t work indefinitely. At some point the money, or the dopamine released from spending that money, stops hitting on the same level. Why? I don’t know, but I can posit.
I think truly being happy can only come from a feeling of fulfillment. And we’ve got a huge ass problem on our hands, and I believe it’s what leads to mid life crisis’, suicide rates escalating, depression rising quickly, etc. And it’s something other than your doctor using his script pad like a blank checkbook.
Here’s my problem: it’s easier to create meaning from something than to create something of meaning
This, coupled with people’s desire to feel important, is a deadly combo.
If you went to a job, and your job was, as so many people put it “meaningless” (Of which a very nonzero percentage of people believe), what do you do? You’ve got a couple options:
Create importance of this meaningless job
Do literally nothing
People are predisposed to a couple things which trends the answer towards #2. Humans want to feel meaning, and most humans don’t like change. So they create meaning from nothing, which sounds wonderful but I’d argue it’s actually one of the most detrimental things facing our society.
Many people who create meaning don't actually create something that’s meaningful; they simply create more work. More meetings, more rules, more things to make themselves feel important. At some point they become bored, like most humans, and move jobs. Now there’s so much shit in that job that you have to hire someone for it. They’ve created a job from nothing, but it’s not a meaningful job. From there, the cycle continues.
I personally believe you can use this framework to trace back the vast majority of corporate bloat, company disfunction, political disfunction, and many other things. This really begs the question though, how do you prevent it?
I think the only way to do this is to think to yourself “Is this one of the most important things I can be working on”. If it is, seek to create meaning from that. If not, go draw meaning from elsewhere.
Where you spend most of your time should be where you derive most of your meaning, but don’t create meaning because you’re forced to spend your time there. Say no to empty fulfillment, say no to bloat, and say no to people who are trying to mortgage your time for their meaning.