Love, Ambition and Suffering

March 2019

In Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl argues that meaning in life can come from three sources: from loving someone, from accomplishing some great work, or from suffering.[1] I have a hypothesis that most people are predisposed towards one of the first two sources and (ideally) end up getting plenty of all three.

For example, I’ve noticed that one of the primary benefits of hard work is the relationships you build along the way. Inversely, you can indirectly have a large impact on the world by touching the lives of those around you. (And suffering will happen no matter what you do).

It’s ok to be either kind of person (or some other kind of person, since generalizations like these don’t fit everyone well). There is a misguided form of ambition that doesn’t yield good results, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dream big if you want to.

There are probably other implications that you could tease out. In general I think it’s helpful to understand what kind of person you are and accept those who are different.




Notes

[1] There’s some controversy about Frankl, but regardless I think it’s a useful way to frame the problem. Paul Graham framed it basically this way in a tweet.


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