When I heard today the Steve Jobs had died, I thought to myself that he must have been much sicker than he let on. And I also thought about how much he must have loved his job to keep going back to it everyday while still sick. I had a similar thought several years ago when I watched Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture. How lovely it must be to go do something everyday but not measure it against every other thing you could be doing with your life and find it wanting.
At the time of Pausch’s lecture, I was going through some huge Changes in my life and dealing with it poorly. I searched desperately for advice of finding happiness. I found that I wasn’t the only one out there struggling with the idea of “happiness.” I discovered Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project, which has since become a book. I found David Nettle’s book, Happiness: The Science Behind Your Smile, which studied what makes people happy and came up with some surprising answers. There was Happiness: A History, by Darrin M. McMahon, which took a look at what “happy” even means given a time and a culture. Then there was the surprising article in the Atlantic, about the Grant Study, a 72 year study of 268 men.
This is just a small selection of what I found. There were literally hundreds of blog posts from people all wondering the same thing, “How can I be happy? I’m not happy?”
Twistedly, it seems we are all searching for a moving target. The definition and measurements are different for every person. Yet we can’t help but contrast our lives against those of others. We desperately want a map, but really all we get is a wave toward a vague direction.
If anything, Jobs’ Commencement address and Pausch’s Lecture, remind us that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The willingness of Jobs and Pausch to be open about where they struggled and lost and where they struggled and won, gives us all a chance to see how a vague direction will still get you to where you need to go. By sharing, not a road map, but some possible landmarks, Jobs and Pausch remind us that in the end we alone sit in judgement of our lives.
In his Commencement address, Jobs said an now frequently quoted line, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” And all I can say in response is “I’m trying. Thanks for the landmark.”