A Response to Mark Manson’s Life Purpose Questions

I first came across Mark Manson’s article on life purpose a few years ago. At the time, I answered the questions quickly in my head without giving it much thought.

I stumbled across it again recently and was surprised how much my answers had changed. Between my first reading and the present, I’ve moved abroad twice, finished college, been through a health breakdown, and am currently sort of floundering for what my life purpose is.

Firstly, I love the opening story of Manson’s brother, who, at the age of 18, knew he wanted to be a Senator and went on to do everything in his power to become one. Manson rightly says his brother is a freak – although as a multipotentialite, I would just call him a specialist.

Secondly, Manson gave me a big wake-up call when he says;

Here’s the truth. We exist on this earth for some undetermined period of time. During that time we do things. Some of these things are important. Some of them are unimportant. And those important things give our lives meaning and happiness. The unimportant ones basically just kill time. – Mark Manson

Of course that’s what life is, but as someone who was intent on finding her purpose in life and how to best use her life for the earth and so on and so forth, it was both jarring and refreshing to realize that my life is just a series of some things.

Manson goes on to say that instead of asking what we should do with our lives, we should be asking, “What can I do with my time that’s important?”

So here are Manson’s 7 strange questions and my answers.

 1. WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE FLAVOR OF SHIT SANDWICH AND DOES IT COME WITH AN OLIVE?

Right now, my answer is writing. Writing, as all writers know, isn’t really about the writing. It’s about the psych-up and coming around to it. It’s the notecards and weird midnight text messages you leave yourself with ideas. It’s the getting up for coffee and then more coffee and the wondering if you have carpal tunnel. It’s searching for the perfect notebook to take notes in, and the guilt knowing you’re wasting all this time NOT writing.

The writing takes about 10%, I would guess, of a writer’s actual writing time. We deal with it. It’s the shit sandwich. But the olive (or bacon, in my case, I hate olives) is so, so good.

 2. WHAT IS TRUE ABOUT YOU TODAY THAT WOULD MAKE YOUR 8-YEAR-OLD SELF CRY?

I don’t wear what I want. My style is dictated by comfort, budget, and my perceived body shape failures, not by what I like.

Four months ago I would have said being a teacher though, so it’s some improvement.

 3. WHAT MAKES YOU FORGET TO EAT AND POOP?

Such a delicate question, Mark. Well, for me, right now, it’s D&D. I’m working on campaign prep for my first ever full DM experience, and when I’m in the midst of planning, time just evaporates.

Another big one is, as Mark mentions, getting lost in a fantasy world. Good stories just capture me, and I’ll read four hours straight in a good book (or play four hours in a game or watch four hours of a show – wherever I find a good story).

I wish I had written writing, but it’s not true. I spend a lot of my writing time thinking about lunch.

 4. HOW CAN YOU BETTER EMBARRASS YOURSELF?

One, in D&D, I’m going to be the DM for a group of 6 players, of whom I know 1. So I will need to be gregarious, extroverted, attentive, and goofy to make it all work. I’m so, so willing to do that.

Two, in writing, I’m embarrassing myself weekly with the flash fiction Friday things. I know they aren’t great, but I still keep putting them out there. Poetry too. Oh man do I embarrass myself. Let me do more.

5. HOW ARE YOU GOING TO SAVE THE WORLD?

Realistically, Mark? I have no idea. But I’d like to start volunteering. I have this great idea to take my two great passions, writing and D&D, and bring them to kids or the elderly. I wish the 826 Organization had a chapter near me, but they don’t. Hey, maybe I could start-

6. GUN TO YOUR HEAD, IF YOU HAD TO LEAVE THE HOUSE ALL DAY, EVERY DAY, WHERE WOULD YOU GO AND WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

Barring having to make money doing something, I’d pick something like foraging in the forest in Romania, or learning to sail in the Hebrides, or writing in a cabin on the cliffs of Scotland. Something tame, you know.

Really, at this moment, I’d just like to play and DM D&D forever. But I’m in one of my obsessive moods, so ask me in a week.

7. IF YOU KNEW YOU WERE GOING TO DIE ONE YEAR FROM TODAY, WHAT WOULD YOU DO AND HOW WOULD YOU WANT TO BE REMEMBERED?

I’d definitely start a local chapter of 826, and then I’d write a letter to each one of my friends and family, and then I’d write a journal detailing my year waiting for death to be published posthumously.

I’ll end with a quote from the article, which sums it up nicely.

Discovering one’s “purpose” in life essentially boils down to finding those one or two things that are bigger than yourself, and bigger than those around you. It’s not about some great achievement, but merely finding a way to spend your limited amount of time well. And to do that you must get off your couch and act, and take the time to think beyond yourself, to think greater than yourself, and paradoxically, to imagine a world without yourself. – Mark Manson

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Hello, I’m a Multipotentialite: Discovery Series

I am a Multipotentialite, MP for short (Military Police, Member of Parliament, Multipotentialite, all basically the same thing…).

I was going to start off this post talking again about how uncomfortable I am adding all these labels to myself, as if trying to apologize for my uniqueness. As if trying to explain away the part where I’m justifying all my odd behavior.

That’s a terrible thing to do, especially when part of the purpose of the discovery is becoming MORE comfortable with me.

Here we go then.

What is an MP? This is the simple definition given by MP hero, Emilie Wapnick, on her site Puttylike.

A multipotentialite is someone with many interests and creative pursuits.

(If you want to read more or think you are one, head to her website. Seriously, I could spend hours there.) 

An MP has many interests, and those can be far ranging and disparate. They don’t have to match or verge on any scale.

There are different kinds of MPs. Some pursue one passion for a while, then completely switch to another, while some pursue many at the same time and some switch between these two paths.

I learned I was an MP when I heard Emilie’s TED talk. It was serendipitous. I wasn’t looking for it. In fact, I think I was so bored I resorted to TED to pass the time. But when I heard her describe Multipotentiality, my brain sat up and took notice. Yes! I cried. Yes YES! This is me!

All my life I have felt like there was something fundamentally wrong with me. Something ingrained in me that was just…off. I could never settle on any one passion or hobby. When I was young, I was very artistic and hands-on. I did knitting, jewelry-making, needlepoint, quilting, doll-making, woodworking, and any other kind of handiwork. I basically lived at Hobby Lobby.

As I got older, my interests expanded to be more academic as well as artistic; I got into 2D mediums like drawing, started reading about science, linguistics, history, politics, and scoured every shelf of the nonfiction section in my library.

From there, it has continued to expand. Self-help, comic art, philosophy, feminism, spirituality, herbalism, holistic living, Asian culture, team building, the psychology of creativity, dream meanings, and so on.

Right now, I would put my biggest passions as writing, blogging, self-discovery, and multipotentiality itself (exploring what it means).

That’s a huge list. You can see how frustrating it was to bounce back and forth and think each new “thing” was “the thing” that I was meant to do with the rest of my life. I kept thinking I needed to settle down and find my “soulmate” of a career. Never mind that I never believed in romantic soulmates either…

When I never could settle, when my passion inevitably wavered after a month or six months, I felt like an utter failure. A short period of bluesy depression would fall upon me. Until the next passion hit, and I was off again, convinced that I had finally found it. And thus, the cycle would repeat. I thought I was a flake. I thought I lacked grit. I thought it was just laziness.

Now I know it’s not. Now I know that in reality, I’ve been embracing and living out my life as a multipotentialite. A scanner. A renaissance woman. I learn what I need to, and I move on. I enjoy this life. It’s not like having all these interests has ever stressed me out. On the contrary, I love that I can talk about raising horses, WWII politics, quantum theory, language families, and whatever else. It makes life a heck of a lot more interesting.

I could never thank Emilie enough for opening my eyes. It has given me new direction in life as I try to understand how to leverage my strengths and varying passions for a new kind of career. It has also given me comfort. I don’t hate myself every time my interest in something wanes. I don’t feel guilty for letting something go, even when I’ve spent tons of money on it. I don’t feel like I have to justify myself when people say, “Weren’t you going to do/be this?” Most of all, I don’t feel pressured to settle on one thing, an idea that made me feel suffocated.

I want to share more about this. I want to talk about it until WP has to impose a new word limit on posts. I want to hear about your stories. I want to spread them all, and let the hidden MPs know it’s okay to be you. I want the world to accept us, accept our way of life and thinking, and make it a little easier to live our way.

My next post about Multipotentialits will be about how I’m seeking an Umbrella – a general theme or idea that links my passions together. And when I have it, I can think about a business that will use them.

It’s an exciting life, and I’m grateful to be excited again!

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More in the Discovery Series:

Hello, I’m an INFJ/HSP

P.S. For more information, head over to Puttylike. Or read Emilie’s book, How to Be Everything. There are other books and resources as well, but I’ll try to make a neater list and share that seperately.

P.P.S. I was on vacation in Middle Earth recently. I’m still going through pictures, of course, but you can expect some amazingly awkward stories coming soon!

The Missing Years: Dealing with a quarter-life creativity crisis

I recently watched Adam Westbrook’s video about the missing years on a recommendation from a friend. It changed my life. Sound dramatic? If you’ve been struggling as a twenty-something who feels you’re destined for something greater, or as a creative trying to jump to the successful period in your life, or as a graduate set adrift who feels lost, this will help you.

I’ve read a host of books about the dream life, the creative life, the twenty-something life, the productive life, the gritty life, the minimalist life, and any other book that might potentially give me the ultimate secret to finding my way. Almost every book I’ve read has given me some valuable nugget of wisdom. Slow down, everyone’s in the same boat, purpose is a by-product of pursuit, and many more. I could write a thousand blog posts about each grain of truth I’ve found.

But somehow I still feel like I’m wasting time. I’m twenty-five now. My twenties, the formative years, are half over. And I look at my dream of being an author and it still feels a decade off. I’VE WASTED TIME, I think in a panic. Only I haven’t. When I look back over my accomplishments in the last five years, they’re substantial (taught in Taiwan for a year, graduated university, moved to Korea fulfilling a dream, wrote and finished my first novel, started exercising, found amazing friends). Those are all good things that could not have happened any faster.

Now, on to the missing years. If you haven’t watched the video, here’s a brief summary. Culture, in the last few decades, has shifted to idolizing youth. Everything must happen when you’re young, including success and finding your life purpose. But that’s not how it is for the majority of people, and that’s not how it should be. Da Vinci, Van Gogh, and most other famous people had a period in their lives when they were just…working. Not famous, not making money, not necessarily even doing okay, just working. Da Vinci, hailed as the true renaissance man, had a period of time when he didn’t have a steady job and couldn’t really draw what he wanted. He worked a lot of bad jobs (sound familiar?) and kept sketching because he could. He just kept working on his craft even when it wasn’t paying the bills or wasn’t what he wanted to create.

Van Gogh, as we’re aware, lived a destitute life without fame. His work didn’t become well-regarded until much later.

Now ask yourself, if you knew that you would never be famous for what you love doing, whether that’s art, writing, or another creative pursuit, would you stop? If you were to become an Emily Dickinson, a recluse whose poems were only discovered after her death, would you still do it? Could you stop, really?

I asked myself that and realized I couldn’t. Even if I never make a dime off my writing, I’m still going to write.

So now, we come back to the missing years. I hate the idea of waiting. I hate the idea that I could publish ten books in the next ten years and maybe only the last one will get read widely. Maybe my writing career won’t take off until then, when I’m thirty-five or even forty-five. Would I stop writing now? The obvious answer is no. Of course not. If that were really the case, I’d bend down and start learning and practicing more.

But if we buy into the idea that we need to have instant success because we see others having it, we might throw everything away and relegate ourselves to a safe, secure, and ill-fitting career.

During the missing years, you have to keep working. Stop thinking about fame. It’s like the old adage of “love will kind you when you stop looking.” Fame will find you when you stop seeking it. Work hard, write or draw or whatever it is you do. Promote and market and hustle but let the result go. Don’t beat yourself up over low numbers. Build the habit of working hard. But never, ever stop.

Let those missing years guide you to your dream life, no matter how long it takes. I’m right there with you.

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Video Series: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3