One of the desires I’ve always had since I started properly thinking about my career options - sometime after GCSEs and before my A Levels - was that I wanted to have a massive positive impact on the world.
A bit vague, I know - but I'd like to think it's a common feeling. Helping people is innate in us as humans - it’s an urge that we all feel we need to fulfil at times. To be altruistic, and to do good, because doing good feels right.
But deceptively, that phrase ‘making an impact’ also carries with it connotations of fame, status and wealth. I mean, some of the most popular figures in society today got to where they are by making a positive impact on people - so it’s natural for others to want to do the same thing, and follow in the footsteps of those ‘greats’. When you think about it, it makes a lot more sense for people to want all of those material things, rather than ‘the betterment of their society’ or of ‘their fellow man/woman’.
I think it’s very easy to conflate the idea of ‘wanting to make an impact’ with wanting those desires to be met - to be wealthy, rich and famous, to have people validating you socially, and giving you money to meet all your needs. From a certain point of view, it can be taken as a disguised claim, for wanting to be selfishly concerned with your own agenda.
Which is why I feel like it’s very important to be honest with myself when considering that sort of thing. And I have to say, I’ve wrestled with the idea for a while.
I don’t think it has a clean answer. We’re humans, we’re messy creatures. We each carry in us the ability to do great good, and also great evil. But having considered that dilemma in myself, I’ve always found that acknowledging that selfish side, that wants to be validated, socially, monetarily - to find fulfilment - it helps me look past it and focus on living a much happier life, not tied down permanently by those needs.
I fell into the trap that a lot of people fall into early on, thinking that the only reason I wanted to make an impact was because it would give me the satisfaction of helping other people - seeing them grow and become more. But when considering my own life, I realised that to a certain extent I did want compensation - I had needs like everybody else - to feel respected, and loved, and to be given compensation in some way for what I did.
Now I know one thing for sure - I don’t look at it from the perspective of someone who wants to create a billion dollar business and make a ton of money for the sake of flaunting it and fulfilling my each and every whim. Coming from a religious background, I’ve been told many times that that kind of material validation really doesn’t satisfy you. Hunger and thirst always come back. They’re constant needs. We’re social creatures, so we’ll always want to feel connected with other humans. Chasing those feelings won’t bring you any more permanent joy than before.
I’m not going to lie and say I wouldn’t like those needs to be fulfilled either, but if I’ve learnt anything these past few days, from looking at the journeys of famous creators, entrepreneurs and CEOs, it’s that you don’t make an impact by going to work with the mindset of making money. You make an impact by providing value and solving a problem directly.
I know for sure that these sorts of hobbies (blogging, content creation etc.) could help me get to a lot of things that I enjoy, but right now I basically just see it as a game that I’m trying to win, I guess. And for the game of life, the next step, or the next quest, is to get experience, so I can do more.
I made a tweet thread recently about the concept of gamifying life, and how thinking about it as someone who spent my teenage years doing a lot of gaming, has made going after things in the real world a lot easier. You can check it out here:
I've always thought living life gets so much more fun when you start gamifying everything.— Mohammad Askari (@MohammadAskari_) August 12, 2022
Here's how I think about it:
Happy Sexy Millionaire
I listened to a fascinating podcast recently between two famous figures - Mo Gawdat, entrepreneur, writer and former chief business officer of Google X, and Steven Bartlett, a popular businessman, entrepreneur and TV personality featured on Dragon's Den.
For reference, here's the episode:
I got a lot of insight out of it, as something I'd randomly noticed through a clip while scrolling on social media, and decided to take a proper look at. A quick listen turned into a deep dive through a host of other podcast episodes, and in the end, to reading Steven's own book, Happy Sexy Millionaire.
Deceptively, the book isn’t actually about becoming a happy sexy millionaire - it’s about finding the things behind that veneer: fulfilment, love and success.
But that's quite easy to preach about when you're already a millionaire, isn't it?
Steven Bartlett makes a really good point in the podcast, saying something along the lines of - it’s easy to hand out this advice as someone who’s gone on the journey, ‘got the Lambo’, found success, and realised that it didn’t provide him with any more happiness than before. But to someone who’s just starting out, that might not be clear at all, and maybe it is important for them to go on that journey of self reflection themselves.
At least that’s how I took it - I want to go through the process of building some sort of business or external income, where I’m providing value and finding happiness from it, but also making enough to feel comfortable doing things I want.
The Chains of Time
Another key factor for me in this change, is my desire to free myself from work. I want to get out of the 9-5 work life, where my money is bound by the number of hours I put in, and instead get to a point where I’ve provided enough value to the world, that people can say - alright, we found this really useful, here’s your food for the day, money to pay the rent and bills, we’ll let you do whatever you want now.
Often people go into university, come out with a job, and assume that their lives - just like the lives that most people live - are bound by working around their jobs, maybe getting a bit of a holiday on the side, spending time with family etc. and then returning to work. I don’t want that.
In quite a literal sense, looking at things objectively for the span of my entire life - I want to ‘finish my homework early so I can play videogames later’. I want to put the work in now so I can reap the benefits of it in the future, and have the freedom to do what I want. Most likely that will still include working, but the difference is, that will be work I actually want to do, not work I feel forced to do to make a living, or a decent income.
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