Jag Venugopal's Blog

March 7, 2012

What Brings The Greatest Joy?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jag @ 10:49 pm

I’ve had a career situation that got me thinking about what brings a person the greatest fulfillment and pleasure.

For me, I’ve realized that the greatest fulfillment comes from being useful to others.I’ve felt miserable when my work impacted no one. And, even if a particular project or initiative was wretched, I could look back on it with satisfaction if it helped some set of people in some way.

The beauty about the giving of oneself to others is that we can do it no matter what our station in life. The janitor has as much of a chance of being useful to someone else, as does the president of the United States. Whatever our vocation might be, by doing the things we do, we have the potential to improve the lives of our fellow humans, and thereby increase our own sense of self-worth and happiness.

Being useful to others does not have to be entirely altruistic. I believe that you can derive as much pleasure and satisfaction fromsellinga product that many millions will use (see Steve Jobs and Bill Gates) as you can fromgiving awaysomething that will benefit many (e.g. Linus Torvalds, initial author of the Linux kernel). Steve Jobs’ best work came after he probably knew that his diagnosis was terminal. In the years since 2003, he led the creation of Apple’s two major blockbusters… the iPhone and iPad. Surely, he did not do this for money, because he knew that he was not long for this world, and the prospects of taking one’s riches into the next are nonexistent. In my reading, he was driven by the desire to create great products that people liked — he got his satisfaction from being useful to others.

Indeed, the pioneers of the railroad, the automobile and the plane invented and perfected these things owing to capitalistic motives. Yet, there can be no denying the vast benefits of their work on the populace.

The absolute worst situation in life, as I consider it, is being in a position where the work you do matters to no one. Get into the universe of Downton Abbey, and think of Lord Grantham, just after war had broken out, but before his house was converted into a convalescent center. He felt miserable because he was all dressed up but, totally unwanted by those on the front. And this man was an Earl, with servants to wait on him hand and foot, with possessions to match. His malcontent second daughter, Edith, found fulfillment at last in tending to the sick and wounded.

You may be in possession of the finest things in the world, but if your existence or lack thereof is immaterial to your fellow humans, you will never find true happiness. Conversely, if you’re feeling low for whatever reason, recall a time when your work impacted others positively. I guarantee that it will lift your spirits.

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