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