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Column: Asking why of the meaning of life

Column: Asking why of the meaning of life

November 06, 2019

Two weeks ago we muscled past the impulse to run out of the room at the sound of the words “meaning of life”, and last week we looked at the attitude required to live a meaningful life—namely, gratitude. This week we will see the action of the meaning of life, the way meaning and purpose changes our lives.

First, meaning grounds companies and drives sales.

Simon Sinek writes, “It’s worth repeating: people don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.” His book “Start with Why” is full of examples.

Like Apple.

“Regardless of WHAT it does, we know WHY Apple exists. The same cannot be said for their competitors. Although they all had a clear sense of WHY at some point—it was one of the primary factors that helped each of them become billion-dollar companies—over the course of time, all of Apple’s competitors lost their WHY.”

What is Apple’s why? Simon summarizes it for them: “Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user-friendly. And we happen to make great computers.”

As every other computer manufacturer grapples for a piece of the market by showcasing their faster processors or slicker software or higher definition displays, Apple changes the conversation. It starts with its cause, knowing that is what people buy.

Simon Sinek writes, “Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. When I say WHY, I don’t mean to make money—that’s a result. By WHY I mean what is your purpose, cause or belief?”

Second, meaning inspires people to become their best selves, focusing their passions and talents on something actually bigger than goals—on a mission. The book “Chop Wood, Carry Water” is a story about a young man named John on his quest to become a Samurai archer. It clarifies the difference between goals and a mission.

“Do you know why so many people love goals, John? Because they secretly let them off the hook. If your goal is to become a doctor, there are a lot of people who can stop that from happening. There are many checkpoints along the way where people can tell you that you aren’t smart enough, or that you don’t

qualify. But if you look at Mother Theresa’s mission, ‘to serve the needs of the sick and the dying,’ no one could ever stop her from living that out. Goals actually allow you to shirk responsibility. But a mission? Only the person in the mirror can stop you from living that out. I think one of the reasons so many young people today are floundering around chasing all the wrong things, is because they are bored with goals. They need a compelling mission.“

Americans are all about goals, but if we exchanged our goals for a compelling mission, and connected that to our entire life and business, there’s no telling where we’d go. One of the greatest joys of being in the consultive business is that you get to explore the deep connections between the business of personal finance and one’s personal mission.

German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said, “A man with a why can endure almost any how.” If the “how” of our lives is to stand up and do hard work, then grounding that work in meaning is the only way to make it worthwhile, sustainable, and life-giving.

Adam Setser

Financial Advisor

Kerrigan Capital and Risk Management

3543 N Crossing Cir, Valdosta, GA 31602


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The opinions contained in this material are those of the author, and not a recommendation or solicitation to buy or sell investment products. This information is from sources believed to be reliable, but Cetera Investment Services LLC cannot guarantee or represent that it is accurate or complete.