What Should You Dedicate Your Twenties To? — A (Very) Short Answer
Consider the life-long question:
What’s a meaningful life?
This is the perfect question to be asking yourself in your first real decade — that is, your twenties.
I call it the “first real” decade because you haven’t really lived until you turned 20. You don’t remember most of your childhood. And teenage years are full of awkwardness and fantasizing about sex.
You can’t really call that life.
And anyway, when else — if not in your twenties — do you have the freedom, the curiosity, the unstoppable drive to get to know yourself, the world around you, and how everything fits in it?
I a magazine I recently read (New Philosopher), one writer said the meaning of life is to “dedicate yourself to a cause greater than yourself.”
I’ve heard this thesis before.
But I’ve also seen people who do selfless work — the brain surgeons, volunteers, entrepreneurs, teachers of the world — and who’re still hopelessly unhappy.
Because they’re doing something they don’t enjoy.
Perhaps you’re a brain surgeon who dreamed of being an actor. Or an entrepreneur who actually wanted to be a musician growing up.
It turns out that just doing meaningful work that impacts the world at large is not enough.
You also need to love what you do. And to do what you love.
But doing simply what you love might also not be enough.
I personally know bloggers — people who travel the world and make money online — who wished they did something more meaningful.
So — it’s not that simple.
Marcus Aurelius, the famous stoic emperor, believed that a meaningful life consists of three things:
- Living in accordance with the nature of the world.
- Living in accordance with your nature.
- Finding how you fit into this world.
It’s a state of equilibrium when what you do is what you love, and it also positively impacts humanity.
In other words:
A life of meaning lies at the intersection of doing what you love and dedicating yourself to something greater than yourself at the same time.
Just one is not enough. You need both.
If you look at most successful people who do meaningful work — Elizabeth Gilbert, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Paul McCartney — you see that they all lived within that equilibrium.
So — when people ask me, “What should I do in my twenties?” I usually tell them this.
Find your equilibrium.
Nothing else can — or will — matter more.