To create your own life’s meaning

I stumbled upon this wonderful post about Bill Watterson today, who is the genius and creator behind Calvin and Hobbes. I really love how his deceptively simple cartoons capture such powerful insights about the human condition.


(this one is my favourite)

There are two quotes from his speech that I love (although the entire thing is a worthy read).

The first quote is about creating your own version of what a successful (read: meaningful) life entails:

Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement. In a culture that relentlessly promotes avarice and excess as the good life, a person happy doing his own work is usually considered an eccentric, if not a subversive. Ambition is only understood if it’s to rise to the top of some imaginary ladder of success. Someone who takes an undemanding job because it affords him the time to pursue other interests and activities is considered a flake. A person who abandons a career in order to stay home and raise children is considered not to be living up to his potential — as if a job title and salary are the sole measure of human worth.

You’ll be told in a hundred ways, some subtle and some not, to keep climbing, and never be satisfied with where you are, who you are, and what you’re doing. There are a million ways to sell yourself out, and I guarantee you’ll hear about them.

To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy, but it’s still allowed, and I think you’ll be happier for the trouble.

The second is about asking questions:

Your preparation for the real world is not in the answers you’ve learned, but in the questions you’ve learned how to ask yourself.

Last week, while travelling through Hong Kong after a week in Vietnam, I remember talking to a Dutch friend about the things that we learn while on the road. We came to the conclusion that the most important things that people learn over a lifetime are the things that we often already “know”. The problem is that it takes time, experience, and mistakes for us to truly understand their meaning and significance.

I suppose this is why parents always end up being “right”, why reading a book for the second time can still feel fresh, and why, reading Bill Watterson’s speech again two years after coming across it for the first time, his words can still provide so much guidance for the journey ahead.


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