A week ago a friend of mine shared this video on her Facebook wall:
A little background info: Alan Watts is a British-born American philosopher best known for bringing Eastern wisdom into the Western world. Following his 1999 publication The Way of Zen, Watts has since then been hailed as, in the words of philosophy professor Brian Bruya, “the godfather of Zen in America.”
Here’s the full transcript of the video:
So I always ask the question: What would you like to do if money were no object? How would you really enjoy spending your life? Well it’s so amazing as the result of our kind of educational system, crowds of students say ‘Well, we’d like to be painters, we’d like to be poets, we’d like to be writers’ But as everybody knows you can’t earn any money that way! Another person says ‘Well I’d like to live an out-of-door’s life and ride horses.’ I said ‘You wanna teach in a riding school?’
Let’s go through with it. What do you want to do? When we finally got down to something which the individual says he really wants to do I will say to him ‘You do that! And forget the money!’ Because if you say that getting the money is the most important thing you will spend your life completely wasting your time! You’ll be doing things you don’t like doing in order to go on living – that is to go on doing things you don’t like doing! Which is stupid! Better to have a short life that is full of which you like doing then a long life spent in a miserable way. And after all, if you do really like what you are doing – it doesn’t really matter what it is – you can eventually become a master of it. It’s the only way of becoming the master of something, to be really with it. And then you will be able to get a good fee for whatever it is. So don’t worry too much, somebody is interested in everything. Anything you can be interested in, you’ll find others who are.
But it’s absolutely stupid to spend your time doing things you don’t like in order to go on spending things you don’t like, doing things you don’t like and to teach our children to follow the same track. See, what we are doing is we are bringing up children and educating to live the same sort of lives we are living. In order they may justify themselves and find satisfaction in life by bringing up their children to bring up their children to do the same thing. So it’s all retch and no vomit – it never gets there! And so therefore it’s so important to consider this question:
What do I desire?
I’ve thought a lot about how my life would look like post-college ever since my junior year in 2010, which then led to my obsession with overthinking, which led to many fears, which led to plenty more worries, which led to chronic anxiety, which led to severe depression. I’ve been opening up about this since my previous posts. So far, for me, enduring depression up till the day I graduated out of college was the best accomplishment I’ve made in my life, and I believe there’s so many more accomplishments to come.
It’s no wonder that during those dark times, I’ve had my troubles when it comes to money. I nearly went homeless because I was too stuck up to ask for money from my dad. I went many nights starving. I no longer shop for leisure; not even window-shopping. I turned down social events as I didn’t want to spend time or money for things I didn’t think I need. Up to the point where I didn’t even have to spend a dime, I became so messed up that I voluntarily flaked out of every decent date and every potential guy who’s genuinely interested in me. I crashed my bank account every month because I kept using my living cost to buy books, spending lots of time reading them voraciously, and consequently skipping classes. I felt that, to prepare myself out of college, I had to equip myself with the knowledge and skill sets I need to have by the time I’m out.
And so the question becomes: What are these skills you need to have? What do you have to know? What’s so important that you have to skip classes and purposely fail all of them, waste your parents’ money, make them worry, and disappoint everyone else who really cares about you, just so you can outsmart your way to quit college and jumpstart your lifelong career as a dropout to do what you’re really passionate about? What if today is your last day on Earth? Are you still going to do the things you’re doing right now?
What are you going to do?
WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO WITH YOUR LIFE?
The question lingered in my head up to this day.
I’m ripe at 22 now. Other than knowing I’m meant to write, I don’t have the complete answers yet, but my life has turned around as I grow more and more hopeful each day.
As time goes by, the more I realized that it’s easier for you to grow when you start thinking more about how you can help others rather than focusing on yourself. Yes, we all want to make enough profit to save up for retirement, but for me, at 22, I refuse to put my most valuable asset at risk (time).
I know I won’t be as energetic as I am today by the time I’m wrinkled and silver-haired. In fact, at 22, I already have problems with under-eye bags and severely dark circles.
It helps to know where you will be 10 years from now. I have roughly a decade to prepare a steady cashflow, manage my assets (those knowledge and skill sets), and build my investment portfolios. But more than any amount of money in the world, I’m building my work around the desire to make a lasting impact.
It’s not easy to connect the dots. It’s difficult to break down the steps. It’s even more difficult to determine any step at all if you have no idea what you’re passionate about.
That’s where I think focusing on how you can help others will benefit you more than focusing on how much money you want to make.
Until you’ve shifted that focus, you can only ponder upon these big, hairy questions: What do I desire? How do I get that kind of living (profits)? How do I earn that kind of living (equities)? To whom can I offer my goods? To whom can I be of service? What are the things I have in excess that I can never get tired of giving?
I believe everybody has something.
At 22, I possess 0% credibility to have my say on everything I’ve just said on this post. But if you’re as perfectionistic as me and have a history of anxiety issues, allow me to share with you the most invaluable teaching as delivered by my Best Teacher: “I just don’t want you to be like me – just do what you love. You don’t have to worry about money.”
Money is indeed alluring. It sways people into doing things that they won’t normally do – both positive and negative things.
Is it worth all your heart and all your mind and even all your soul to earn a six-figure? Does your thoughts, your habits, your actions, and everything that you do repeatedly, every day of every year, over and over and over again, actually have an impact to your community? To the larger society? To the rest of the world?
Do me a favor – do not ignore what your heart says. Listen to what it’s saying about YOUR values:
Aside from the money in your pocket, what makes YOU different?
What can YOU give to the world?
What can YOU leave behind?
What I know for sure: You can make better use of your time by choosing to do what you love.