Whenever I meet someone new I like to countdown the seconds before they get to asking me what it is that I do. We are taught from a young age that where we head Monday through Friday, 9 to 5, the jobs we hold are our purpose and so I often think this question strangers ask is a search to find out what it is that I am passionate about. We put so much power in our day jobs that they have come to define us and what it is that we live for. I write this week’s post with the hopes that you may begin to deviate and separate your identity from your work because unless you are of a select few whose career will be safe, stapling your purpose to your 9 to 5 may prove to be quite dangerous.
Why? Artificial intelligence.
Whether you inhabit a white or blue collar job, if your function is manually or cognitively repetitive, expect a wave of change and relatively soon. I am talking about if you work at the mall, as a radiologist, lawyer, truck driver, Uber driver, financial analyst or even model (see @shudu.gram) anything that is routine and predictable in nature, the machines are coming and many of us, in fact 1 out of every 3 of us, will be left to leisure (Andrew Yang).
We are entering an age of irrelevance - but perhaps this new age of human history may not prove to be so daunting. Although it is predicted that economic systems and governments will alter to cushion the fall of so many of us out of work (see blockchain, look up Andrew Yang), maybe with coming change, we will be moved to value our days differently beyond just chasing a dollar.
Which leads me to my point - lift the veil and go inward. Work week aside, what is it that you are passionate about, what is your calling? This week I reveal a simple question you can ask yourself to find out what it is that you are truly meant to pursue on this fine Earth.
What’s Working Against You: The Age of Irrelevance
From a recent discussion on the Waking Up with Sam Harris podcast, author and historian Yuval Noah Harari explains, “given the dawn of this new technological age … irrelevance is going to be a very big problem. It already feels much of what we see today with the rise of populism is the justified fear of irrelevance.
If in the 20th century the big struggle was against exploitation, then in the 21st century for a lot of people around the world, the big struggle is likely to be against irrelevance and this is a much more difficult struggle. A century ago, if you were the common person, there were all these elites that exploited you. Now as a common person, you increasingly feel there are these elites that just don’t need me.
On many levels, both psychologically and politically, it is much worse to be irrelevant than to be exploited. First of all, you are completely expandable. A century ago [governments] needed us - who is going to work in the factories, who is going to serve in the armies...even authoritarian regimes needed the masses. They invested a lot of resources in building schools and hospitals and vaccinations for children and sewage systems and teaching children to read and write. They knew perfectly well if they needed a nation to be a strong nation with a strong army and a strong economy, they needed millions of people, common people to serve as soldiers in the army and workers in the factories and in the offices.
In the 21st century there is a serious danger that more and more people will become irrelevant and therefore also expendable [because] if you are irrelevant, you are totally expandable. We already see it happening in the armies that where the leading armies of the 20th century relied on recruiting millions of people to serve as common soldiers, today the most advanced armies, they rely on much smaller numbers of highly professional soldiers and increasingly on sophisticated and autonomous technology.
If the same thing happens in the civilian economy, then we might see a similar split in civilian society where you have a relatively small, very capable professional elite relying on very sophisticated technology and most people, as they are militarily irrelevant, they may become economically and politically irrelevant".
In a nutshell, Harari is touching on the point that the already happening rise of technology will accompany an age of irrelevance. We the humans are no longer needed when a computer can do it faster, cheaper, more effectively and most importantly autonomously. What is this recent rise of populism, but an already human cry for regard.
I do not think this shift has to be so daunting - we are all just going to have to move to revalue the way we live life. The cognitively and manually repetitive work and chase for money that currently fills our days and defines our worth requires reassessment. If creativity is defined as non-monotonous work that relies on a meandering mind, one that sets us apart as human in fact, then maybe our days will be filled with more creativity and recreation. I don’t know what the answers is, but on the precipice of major change it seems the perfect time to ask oneself, why exactly am I on this planet? What is my meaning?
Ask Yourself This Question To Find The Purpose of Your Life
Although many people link the two, often times your day job has nothing to do with your purpose which sadly means for many of us 70% of the time - that is 9 to 5, Monday through Friday - we are stuck not living meaningfully.
Furthermore, purpose is intrinsically tied to well-being and wellness. Research shows, “having purpose is linked to a number of positive health outcomes, including better sleep, fewer strokes and heart attacks and a lower risk of dementia, disability and premature death. Those with a strong sense of purpose are more likely to embrace preventative health services like mammograms, colonoscopies and flu shots” (New York Times).
The good news is having purpose is not a fixed trait, rather it is a “modifiable state” (New York Times). With effort and awareness you can find and implement meaning into your life.
But how do you even begin to realize what it is you are here for?
In her recent book The Awakened Woman, author Terari Trent reveals a simple question you can ask yourself to find out your meaning in life:
“What is it that breaks your heart?”
Trent explains, “my own experiences have taught me that dreams are achievable when we unlock and tend to what breaks our heart. You see, at the core of what breaks our heart deeply, lays an insatiable hunger–a yearning or a desire to make things right and to live an authentic and meaningful life”.
The answer to this question in other words, is a fuel that can light the fire in your everyday, and so I ask you too, what is it that breaks your heart?