I was discussing the meaning of life with my dad while cruising down Lake Drive Wednesday. Amazingly we sorted the whole thing out in a mere 33 minutes.
Meaning in life comes from knowing in the present you have something positive to achieve in the near future and then doing it. If you have nothing to do or fail to do what you planned, you feel worthless and life becomes meaningless.
Well, that's what we decided anyway.
The great Jordan B Peterson described a similar idea more eloquently on the Joe Rogan podcast.
"Life is very tragic and difficult for everyone and there's always something stupid that you or someone else could do to make it worse than it has to be. You have to find something, someone as flawed and insufficient as you can achieve. Which is probably nothing to go out on the streets and celebrate with placards. So I say clean your room. That's something someone as insufficient as you might be able to achieve. Then you are on the path to transcending your former self."
This is what I think he means. If things aren't going great and you want to make them better don't compare yourself with people who are miles ahead of you. Don't try and be Elon Musk by tomorrow afternoon because you'll fail.
Instead, compete with yourself. You are a good reference point. You only have to be slightly better than you were to be getting somewhere. Which gives your life some kind of meaning.
You're not going to be amazing in one step, so pick something you can actually pull off. Achieve a small thing once and you're on a path. Do it every day and over time you'll become a tougher, more resilient person.
Which is handy if things go really bad.
But what kind of things can people as lame as us aim for? What can we actually achieve today? Here are a few suggestions.
1. Don't be a dick
We know when we are being a dick to partners, friends and workmates. Like the Terminator we have options flashing up of things we can say. Often we choose the jealous, mean, stupid, weak or prissy option. Maybe on the path to becoming less flawed, you could aim to not be a dick once today. You might be one 20 others times but the one time you weren't makes you less of a dick than before. That's a win.
2. Tell one less lie
We all tell lies. It's not good. So how about tomorrow you stop yourself from lying just once. Don't tell a lie you were about to tell. Pull that off and you're moving in the right direction. You might tell a hundred other lies but telling one less is something. If you tell one less lie every day for a year, that's a lot fewer lies. You've become less dishonest. Great.
3. Get slightly less drunk
It's hard for New Zealanders to stop drinking completely. But you may wake up and wish you hadn't gotten so drunk. A few beers are fine.
Then someone yells 'shots'. That's when things go off the rails. So maybe decide in advance to not have that shot. Then don't have it. Easy.
Unfortunately, it's impolite to turn down a shot. They're gestures of kindness. When I was in a band, fans would offer me tequilas after every show. I appreciated the sentiment but it became hard to get up for the van the next morning.
So instead of rudely turning them down, I'd simply pour the shot over my head. I could have dozens that way and still feel great in the morning. Win-win.
Jordan B Peterson says "Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today." Wise words.
Definitely, don't compare yourself with him. He has the best selling book on the planet. His intellectual lectures sell out massive venues. He's changing the world.
The other day I failed to change a tyre. Had to ask a mate to come over and help.
It's also a bad idea to compare yourself with what friends pretend to be on social media.
Luckily we have someone we can all beat. Ourselves. If you're a total piece of crap one day and slightly less crap the next then you've won that round. You're moving in the right direction.
If things aren't going well. You can easily be slightly less drunk, slightly more honest and a bit less of a dick to the people around you.
Achieve small things over a long period of time and you've become more disciplined. You'll achieve significant improvement. There is meaning in that.
Note: My dad was only involved in the initial Lake Drive meaning of life conversation. He hasn't expressly endorsed the rest of this article, particularly the pouring of dozens of tequila shots over your head in public.