The Meaning Formula

goes something like this:

The more responsibility = the more meaningful your life.

If you define a meaningful life as a life in which everything you do matters, it seems that this formula is correct.

The more responsibility you adopt, the more it matters what you do and don’t do. It becomes increasingly important what you do and how well you do it, because your choices have more consequences. Additionally, if you adopt more responsibility your choices affect the lives of an increasing number of people which makes what you do and don’t do even more important. But, responsibility also increases your ability to do good. The more responsibility you take, the more good you can do.

Take the example of someone who is nihilistic or hedonistic. They can “enjoy” more of life’s pleasures, but by doing that they also limit their ability to engage in meaningful activities that can improve the world. They avoid responsibility. As pleasures are always fleeting and don’t hold up against the suffering intrinsic to life, doing what is meaningful and not what is expedient is a lot more beneficial for everyone.

The more responsibility you have, the more your choices matter, the more meaningful your life.

John W. Gardner on Meaning

In his latest newsletter, James Clear shared the following paragraph as part of a speech given by John W. Gardner in 1990.

It’s one of the most memorable speeches I’ve read – or heard. I want to share the last paragraph of it, but urge you to read the full speech here (if you read it in full, don’t read the following quote, read the whole speech first. The last paragraph will have a deeper emotional impact):

“Meaning is not something you stumble across, like the answer to a riddle or the prize in a treasure hunt. Meaning is something you build into your life. You build it out of your own past, out of your affections and loyalties, out of the experience of humankind as it is passed on to you, out of your own talent and understanding, out of the things you believe in, out of the things and people you love, out of the values for which you are willing to sacrifice something. The ingredients are there. You are the only one who can put them together into that unique pattern that will be your life. Let it be a life that has dignity and meaning for you. If it does, then the particular balance of success or failure is of less account.”

John W. Gardner, The Road to Self-Renewal

Socrates on Being a Philosopher

“For I go around doing nothing but persuading both young and old among you not to care for your body or your wealth in preference to or as strongly as for the best possible state of your soul, as I say to you: ‘Wealth does not bring about virtue, but virtue makes wealth and everything else good for men, both individually and collectively.'”

Socrates, Plato: Collected Works

What is one of the most important characteristics of a philosopher?

According to Socrates, it is taking action.

In his view a philosopher distinguishes himself from others by acting virtuously.

This should be a reminder for us today:

Let’s not focus too much on theory – on reading books, thinking about our plans or talking about them -, but instead to act. To create, to accomplish and to make.

Just as it was important to Socrates 2000 years ago, living virtuously is the key to philosophy today.

Do It Now

“If you want to do a good deed, do it now.
The time will pass, and you will not have the chance again.”

Leo Tolstoy, A Calendar of wisdom

Everything changes. Sometimes for better, sometimes for worse.

This means that open doors won’t stay open forever.
You have a limited time to do good.
Opportunities of the present can be gone tomorrow.
Maybe forever.
You don’t know.

Thus, seize the day.

Do something good with your time.
Improve yourself so you can be a better person tomorrow.
Work on your weaknesses so you cause less unnecessary suffering.
Alleviate the suffering caused by others and the suffering intrinsic to life.

Today might be your only opportunity.

Quiet Confidence

comes from being on the right path.

It’s the path that is in harmony with your values.
It’s the path on which you do what you should do.
It’s the path of your conscience.

When you walk down that path you are happy.

Happy, because you make the right decisions.
Happy, because you make progress on what matters.
Happy, because what you do is good.

Doing what is good leads to confidence.

Confident that you are living your life – not that of others.
Confident that what you do matters – because it does.
Confident that you can do it one more time – because you already did.

In the words of Marcus Aurelius:

“Just that you do the right thing.
The rest doesn’t matter.”

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Bill Walsh on Getting Back Into The Game


  1. … expect defeat.
    It’s a given when the stakes are high and the competition is working ferociously to beat you. If you’re surprised when it happens, you’re dreaming; dreamers don’t last long.
  2. … force yourself to stop looking backward and dwelling on the professional “train wreck” you have just been in.
    It’s mental quicksand.
  3. … allow yourself appropriate recovery – grieving – time.
    You’ve been knocked senseless; give yourself a little time to recuperate.
    A keyword here is “little.” Don’t let it drag on.
  4. … tell yourself, “I am going to stand and fight again,” with the knowledge that often when things are at their worst you’re closer than you can imagine to success.
    Our Super Bowl victory arrived less than sixteen months after my “train wreck” in Miami.
  5. … begin planning for your next serious encounter.
    The smallest steps – plans – move you forward on the road to recovery.
    Focus on the fix.


  1. … ask, “Why me?”
  2. … expect sympathy.
  3. … bellyache.
  4. … keep accepting condolences.
  5. … blame others.

Bill Walsh, The Score Takes Care Of Itself