Gabriel Mizrahi (@GabeMizrahi) joins us to deep dive into the elusive subject of purpose — why you’re not finding it as easily as the so-called experts say you should be, and why you should be following meaning to purpose instead of picking a purpose and hoping it’s full of meaning.
What We Discuss with Gabriel Mizrahi:
- The difference between purpose and meaning.
- Why reverse-engineering meaning from purpose is harder (and far less effective) than finding purpose through meaning.
- What an ER nurse taught Gabriel about the surprising ways meaning can manifest.
- Why you should be suspicious of what The Cult of Purpose is trying to sell you.
- The best ways to naturally follow meaning to purpose without forcing an expectation of what that purpose is.
- And much more…
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A few years back, researchers conducted a major study on Americans’ well-being. When asked if their lives have a clear sense of purpose, only one in five Americans strongly agreed. When asked if they have a good sense of what makes their lives meaningful, only one in three strongly agreed.
And when the researchers asked participants if they’ve discovered a satisfying life purpose, nearly 40% of people reported that they hadn’t. In this deep dive, we’ll explore the disconnection between meaning and purpose and what we can do to find purpose naturally rather than trying to force it from a distorted perspective. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
To dive even deeper into what you can do to organically find your purpose,
make sure to read this episode’s companion article here: Struggling to Find Your Purpose? Do This Instead. by Jordan Harbinger.
Please Scroll Down for Featured Resources and Transcript!
Please note that some of the links on this page (books, movies, music, etc.) lead to affiliate programs for which The Jordan Harbinger Show receives compensation. It’s just one of the ways we keep the lights on around here. Thank you for your support!
Sign up for Six-Minute Networking — our free networking and relationship development mini course — at jordanharbinger.com/course!
To dive even deeper into finding your purpose through meaning, make sure to read this episode’s companion article here: Struggling to Find Your Purpose? Do This Instead.
THANKS, GABRIEL MIZRAHI!
If you enjoyed this session with Gabriel Mizrahi, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:
Click here to thank Gabriel Mizrahi at Twitter!
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Resources from This Episode:
- Struggling to Find Your Purpose? Do This Instead. by Jordan Harbinger
- TJHS 94: Deep Dive | This Is the Vulnerable Truth about Vulnerability
- Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
- The Minimalists 163: Business with Jordan Harbinger
- TJHS 4: Deep Dive | Learning How to Cope with Instability
[Featured image by Smart]
Transcript for Forget Finding Your Purpose -- Do This Instead - Deep Dive (Episode 138)
Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:00] Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. Of course, I'm here with my producer, Jason DeFillippo. One of the most common questions I hear from both the old and the young is how do I find my purpose or my passion? I never liked this question because asking it implies that we're supposed to find something magical like this in the first place and it also implies that we haven't found it yet and if somehow failed in life as a result. I also see a lot of YouTube and Instagram, or other pop spirituality types trying to tackle this question -- usually in exchange for a hefty chunk of cash. This type of online balony peddling always rubs me the wrong way and I'm looking forward to salting up their game a little here on this episode. On this Deep Dive, I speak with Gabriel Mizrahi. He's the head of editorial here on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:00:45] That's a fancy way of saying that he's the guy that makes me sound much smarter than I really am, especially in written form, among other duties here around the office. And Gabriel and I are going to first distinguish between purpose and meaning and take a couple of jabs at the cult of finding your purpose, that pop culture wisdom that says, “You just have to have found your purpose and made it your job in order to be happy.” Well, that's BS and we'll show you why. And we'll also explore the concept of finding meaning. The good news is that we can find this everywhere and it's not only more important to your happiness than finding your purpose, if that's even a thing. It's the roadmap to finding your so-called purpose in the first place. Speaking of finding opportunities, the best way to do that is going to be through your existing network and if you think I don't have time to network or I don't know anyone important, well you should check out our Six-Minute Networking course which is free. It's over at jordanharbinger.com/course. I'll teach you outreach and how to reengage some of those weaker or dormant networking ties. It is a life skill that I wish I had known my whole life and it's the most important lever that I've ever had and that's why I made that free course. So check it out jordanharbinger.com/course. All right, so here's that finding your purpose deep dive with Gabriel Mizrahi. Gabe, before we get into finding our purpose and other grandiose visions here for what this episode is going to be, I think it's important to note that both of us have lived very non-purposeful lives in the past. I mean, I was a Wall Street corporate lawyer and you were a consultant, which is like if you're looking for some stereotypical how-do-I-find-my-purpose? Well, don't become a consultant like it's almost cliche. Don't do what we did. We were like had the most sort of soul-sucking jobs that you would, literally, if you had to pick a cliche corporate type, it would be what we did. So how do we separate purpose and meaning? Because clearly, I think just people now that they know we didn't just start off being artsy-fartsy, we should probably separate purpose and meaning.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:02:39] Well, part of the reason I love talking to you about this topic is that you are living what I think is probably your most authentic purpose as a broadcaster, as a host, but you weren't born doing this. You were doing something so different before, like you found your way toward meaning. And you might even say, stumbled your way toward meaning. But that's of what we can talk about today is like how do you find your purpose when so much of life is unpurposeful, when you go through periods where you're not in touch with your purpose, where your sense of meaning goes in and out. How are we supposed to figure out what we're “meant to do” when life is not always built in with purpose and meaning?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:20] Yeah, and I think people really, they get hung up on this because they go, “Well, I don't really have my purpose. I don't really have, I haven't found my true calling and all this stuff.” And it's dangerous because it sort of says whatever you're doing now is garbage and a waste of your time because you're not on purpose, you haven't found your calling. And that to me is dangerous because it's sort of like until you find this magical thing that never feels like work, you've been an utter failure.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:03:48] So a few months ago, we did a deep dive on the cult of vulnerability, which was sort of like the perverted version of vulnerability that we see at conferences and then like bonding exercises, self-helpy workshop version of vulnerability. And then we talked about a more authentic kind of vulnerability. And I think there's something very similar going on with purpose where there's this cult of purpose and the colder purpose says that you must have a very clearly defined external purpose in order to be happy, fulfilled, successful, grounded, and that purpose has to become your professional work. That if your job is not aligned 100% with this deep-rooted purpose, if it doesn't give you supreme meaning from the hours of nine to five, then you're doing something wrong. And I think that is a really misguided and totally not a fun and exciting way to go about
[00:04:44] the most important question that we're going to get to ask ourselves as human beings. So look, it's great if you can find a job that fits your purpose, of course, but for most of us, life just doesn't work that way. Finding your purpose is not that easy. It's circuitous. It's confusing, it's random. And yet there are certain principles and things we can do to find our way towards authentic meaning and purpose in our lives. And I think it really does start with separating out these two things, which is we have to talk about purpose and meaning as these two separate concepts. And they're very closely related. But there are subtle differences.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:05:16] Okay. So what's the difference between meaning and purpose? Because I think people probably they just put them in the same…
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:05:22] Yeah, we use them interchangeably. But when people talk about finding their purpose, I think they're usually talking about feeling a sense of meaning and meaning is about finding our lives significant that finding our lives worthwhile, interesting, exciting, challenging in the right ways. Purpose, to me, at the simplest level is the way we explore that significance. So to find a purpose is to discover an activity or a role or a set of actions and projects and goals, even relationships that help us access that deeper sense of meaning and expand them. So meaning for me, the way I think of it is meaning is like the ‘what’ and purpose is the ‘how’. And as human beings, we are wired for that sense of meaning, like we are meaning-making machines as the old adage goes, right? Like that is part of our makeup. We seek meaning and even when we get into those periods as I think you and I still experience from time to time where you're like, “Nothing means anything.”
[0:06:24] Where is the meaning? Even that is meaningful because it implies that we are still searching for meaning and even if we walk around the earth being like, “Nothing means anything”, right? Then there's meaning even to that meaninglessness. So there's really no way around finding meaning. Why? The reason this is such a difficult and absorbing topic for so many of us is that we all want it so badly.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:45] Right. Because otherwise, what's the point? Like my life has to mean something. I have to have some sort of significance and then we say, “Well, that's going to come from work.” And I think that's probably one of the primary problems is everyone assumes that's got to come from your work. But if you talk to somebody who's raising three kids and is a stay-at-home mom, I don't think they're going to be like, “Yeah, my life is completely meaningless.”
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:07:06] Not at all.
c But we somehow think that unless we're doing this thing that's a hobby as our job that we have failed. That's what we're trying to sink. That's the ship we're trying to sink.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:07:16] And whether a lot of people, including self-help experts, would admit it or not, I think a lot of people feel like the person who was grinding away at their so-called purpose as part of their professional identity is more meaningful or purpose-driven than the mother who derives a ton of meaning from raising children. But these two things are equally meaningful to those two people. It all comes down to what they value and what they've built their lives around. And I think that's another thing that we missed in this conversation, which we're definitely going to get to later. So I think the important thing to understand is that we do have this built-in drive to find and explore and expand meaning. Our purpose, which is there are so many different purposes available to us, but that's the way we access that meaning and when those two things line up, then life becomes a lot more interesting.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:07:59] Right. So meaning is about finding our lives significant in general. And purpose is essentially maybe the way we try to find that meaning or that purpose. It's hard to do without even using the words. The purpose is the way we explore that significance in the first…
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:08:15] 100%. And I think it is important to keep it as simple as that because it really doesn't need to be any more complicated. It's complicated enough trying to find it. So when we walk around with that sense that life matters, not only do things become more meaningful and fulfilling, I think for most of us, but there's this other big benefit to it and it's worth talking about, which is that having a purpose gives us an anchor in life and kind of a protection against some of the more difficult aspects of life.
[00:08:42] Viktor Frankl, the philosopher or psychologist, kind of the great granddaddy of the modern meaning movement, who of course, wrote the book, Man's Search for Meaning, after his crazy experience in a concentration camp and surviving and seeing, you know, how meaning played such a significant role in whether people survive the most traumatic experience of their lives. He said, “Those who have a ‘why’ to live can bear with almost any how.” And I think that's also a really important thing to remember that like this isn't just about feeling like, “I'm so excited to go to work”, or “Man, this is like getting me through this meeting”, meaning getting me through this meeting, not meaning, but my meaning is getting me through this painful meeting because you know, I really want to build this company. There's something very profound going on here with this conversation about meaning and it goes beyond just professional identity. It goes about how we navigate life itself.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:35] So meaning is the ‘what’, purpose is maybe the ‘how’ we get to the ‘what’? And then you're right, when our meaning and our purpose line up, we have sort of this path, this is what people say, “This is the calling, right? I've got it. I know how to get it”, or more truthfully, “I think I know what's going to make me happy”. Because I think a lot of people are like, “Oh, I don't know, how does it…” If you are doing something that you think is going to make you happy, you're kind of at least, stumbling in the right direction perhaps.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:10:04] And I want to dig into that too, in a little bit. But here's the interesting thing and I think I just want to call this out at the top of that, in this Deep Dive, we are not going to tell you what your purpose is.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:16] Right. Spoiler alert -- We're not going to tell you what your meaning is or your purpose is.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:10:20] No, no, definitely not. Because that's part of the cult of purpose that purpose is like some menu item that you just get to choose from this grand menu of meaning and that if you just sign up for it, then everything will sort of fall into place. But the truth is that meaning is deeply personal and it's different for every single person and it changes over the course of your life. So what we're going to be talking about today is principles that will help you figure that out hopefully a little bit more easily and in a more interesting way and not just feeding you this external idea because I think that would perpetuate the myth that we are fed by so many self-help experts that like you need to figure out your meaning and it's somewhere out there and these people can tell you if you just listened the right way or pay them enough money, right? It’s just not the case.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:11:07] Right. And it goes along, even just people teaching you how to make money online. Nothing wrong with that inherently, but some of the ways in which this gets sold. This tyranny or cults of purpose is that one, you've got to have that purpose to be happy. If you don't, you've failed and it has to be your job. You can't just have hobbies and then enjoy your family and then have a career, right? Everything you do has to be like “I am a whatever coach, and that's my business and that's my career and this is all that I'm ever going to do. And it's all I ever think about.” And so we see these influencers online that have somehow figured out how to make dressing up nicely and standing in front of classic cars, their job, and we don't see the rest of it. And they're kind of like, “Hey, if you're not in London and standing in front of a Rolls Royce in a new sun dress, you suck at life.” And that's not really healthy.
[00:11:54] It's dangerous because it causes you to veer way off of what your purpose might be so that you can sort of play this role on Instagram or tell your friends that you quit your job to go all in and it leads you to make bad decisions.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:12:06] Exactly. It's so important to see that for what it is that a lot of self-help, especially when it comes to this question of purpose is really selling you something and it's also exploiting this insecurity and this obsession we have with finding meaning and feeling like we haven't found meaning, but to me that just points to the fact that this really does matter. If it didn't matter so much to us, then we wouldn't be so susceptible to people exploiting our unease about not having found it. But here's the thing…
Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:33] Yeah, it's like dating. “Hey, are you still single? Oh, you thought you were happy? Well, you're somehow a huge failure because you're still single.” -- farmersonly.com, right? Like they're trying to sell you a problem so that they can then sell you the solution.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:12:48] Which is unfortunate also because in many ways, this is a very simple, not easy, but simple concept. It's not something that you need necessarily to pay to understand. I mean at the end of the day meaning generally comes from a handful of common sources, I think. And those sources, I mean we should just talk about them so that we can get a handle on, you know, where do we derive meaning and from life. And I'd say the one of the biggest ones is relationships. That could be a romantic or love relationship. It could be a platonic relationship, it could be friendships -- both close and far. It could be family and it could be professional relationships.
[00:13:24] That's like one huge bucket of meaning. And I think all of us, to some degree, derive some meaning from that. Another big one is beauty, which I think includes art includes nature, and includes any connection we have to what we find interesting or stimulating or beautiful out in the world. And another one, which again to bring it back to Victor Frankl is suffering, which is a weird thing to say that like we could derive meaning from this very, very painful experience, but the truth is, suffering is actually a very interesting teacher. Not always immediately useful and definitely not something we'd want to sign up for, but how many people have gone through incredibly difficult circumstances only to discover that it is what gave them so much meaning, whether they went through a breakup or they lost their job or they lost a loved one.
[00:14:09] I mean, so you know, moving through those experiences consciously is a huge vehicle for meaning. Not necessarily purpose but meaning. Another one of course is service and generosity, which you talk about on the show all the time and that just comes down to giving, helping, adding value to people's lives -- that could be professionally, personally. There are so many different forms of that. There's volunteer work, there's pitching in at work. There is making connections among your friends. There's all different ways to be generous, but service is a big one. Creativity, which kind of links back to the beauty we were talking about, which includes not just art but also entrepreneurship. And I would say, any invention of any kind. And then the last big bucket is kind of achievement and growth, right? Which is so much of what we talk about in the self-help world.
[00:14:57] So ambition, goals, betterment, self-growth, these are all profound ways to find out how much we can grow and learn in life, which is a big source of meaning. So the reason we're talking about this is that these are the foundational sources of meaning, that in my mind, underlie almost every purpose you can imagine. You could explore those sources of meaning in so many different ways, right? Like to explore the meaning of art, you could be a painter or a sculptor, you could be a teacher, you could be a critic, you could be a musician, you can be an archeologist. These are all different purposes, but they all are accessing the same source of meaning. To explore the meaning of like service for example, you could volunteer, you could offer your skills to your company, you could join a nonprofit, you could switch careers and work in law enforcement, right?
[00:15:42] Depending on what you particularly want to do or what you want to do in this world. Like there are different ways to access the meaning but you're still getting at the underlying meaning of service, of serving other people. So purpose is variable and you could even argue it's probably infinite, but the deep sources of meaning are fixed. So let's keep that in mind as we move through these principles because at the end of the day, I think you're going to find that meaning can only come from a handful of places, but it's really up to us to figure out among the thousands of possibilities what our purpose really is.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:14] Okay. So now we know that it's not just having a job as a professional whatever, actor, because you love acting slash theater when really, well, let's be honest, most people do that for ego reasons or a lot of people do that for ego reasons, but you don't have to be a professional broadcaster because you like doing a podcast on Sundays with your friends after you watch football. It doesn't have to become your job. You don’t have to become the next J Moore on ESPN or whatever like that. You don't have to worry about this. But how the hell do we find our purpose now? Have we made this easier or harder by showing people that there are a bajillion different ways to do it? I'm not convinced we've simplified this for anyone.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:16:51] Well, if you're not convinced, let me tell you a quick story. So a few years ago, I remember I went to the ER for a minor cut. I think I was cooking with my family and I cut my finger or something like that. And I remember when I was finally seen at the ER, I was helped out by this really nice and actually hilarious nurse who was taking care of me before the doctor put in the stitches and we ended up talking. And this nurse seemed so, you know, when you meet someone, Jordan, who's like in a very unlikely place, who is so good at their job that you're like -- You are this job. Like you don't just do this job, but like you embody like exactly what this person should be.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:17:29] Yeah, like the dude at DMV who moonwalks around the office and like says all the instructions in a rap. And you're like, “What? You enjoy working here? What is going on?”
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:17:37] Who is like found this unexpected joy and meaning, and that was the feeling I felt when I met this nurse. We ended up talking for a little while and she was so interested in her patients and she was kind and easy to talk to. And I asked her if she felt like, I think I said something like, “So this was like what you were meant to do, right?” Like this was your purpose basically is what I was saying. And she like totally surprised me cause she instantly, without any hesitation was like, “Honestly not really.” And I was like, “Wait, what do you mean? Like you're so good at taking care of people. I just assumed you were cut out for this.” And she was like, “Honestly, like nursing is fine. I enjoy it, but I can't say I love it.” Like it didn't get her out of bed in the morning. She actually fell into the job by chance, I think she told me. But what I really love, she told me was – “Making sure that people are okay when they're going through a really scary moment.” Like she enjoyed taking away the anxiety and the pain and the fear that you experience when you hurt yourself. And honestly, even though I was like not a life threatening thing, like cutting your finger in a bad way is kind of a little bit traumatic. Like I was sort of in that place and she was like, that was what I was feeling when I was in her presence, you know? So I didn't realize it at the moment, but years later and after you and I talked about it, I kind of realized that what she was describing was having a real connection to meaning -- even when the larger job wasn't “her purpose”.
[00:19:02] And the fact that she understood that being an ER nurse wasn't a literal expression of like her fundamental purpose or her True North, which is a word you hear a lot. She found a connection to something deeper than the nature or the surface of the work itself. The relationships and the emotional experience behind it. And if you think back to the list we just went down, she was accessing a number of those areas. She was feeling a connection to service. She was feeling generous. She was investing in relationships, even relationships with people like me she would never see again. She was adding to people's lives. She was really in touch with the meaning underneath the work. So I think the first principle and to simplify everything we've been talking about so far is when you're struggling to find your purpose, put on pause for a moment, this obsession with finding the idea, the headline that is ‘this is my purpose’, and start looking for the meaning behind it. And it doesn't mean that you necessarily know what your larger purpose is, but when you have a connection to the fundamental meaning, then all different kinds of work can actually become quite purposeful. And I think that's what she was experiencing when the job itself wasn't meaningful 100% of the time.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:16] So we're looking for things like, “Well, I really like my co-workers and we've developed all these cool friendships and I see this other position in medicine that maybe I'd like to go for later on. And also, I love helping kids and seeing that they feel cared for when they come in and I was otherwise maybe going to be a teacher. But now I've found that same meaning by being a pediatric nurse or whatever.” Right? And I think you can find the emotions behind it and we all have these emotions so we can easily transfer if I'm a broadcast or one day, but then I decided, you know what? Growing a show is hard. I'd rather just do speaking tours. I could then go and do that and I could find pretty much the same meaning I'm still helping thousands of people. I'm still teaching people. I'm just not doing it through a microphone.
[00:21:04] I'm doing it in person or vice versa. I recently decided, “Hey, I might do fewer live events or I might only do small live events instead of large ones and it's not because I don't want to do the teaching anymore, it's because I want to do specific things that I think are more interesting. Or maybe I want to only teach civilians instead of military, or maybe I only want to teach corporate instead of civilians because I'm honing them down”, but I don't have to totally jump ship and be like, ‘Nope, I'm a painter now.’
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:21:32] Exactly, because you're not wed to this idea that my purpose is this one thing and it's fixed, so I better keep doing that thing.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:21:38] Right. “I have to be in movies. I can do local theater and be an accountant.”
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:21:42] Exactly. And both of those things could help you access the meaning of performance and connection and creativity and beauty, but in different ways. It's a lot easier to follow meaning and let meaning show you what your “purpose” is as you follow it than to try to pick a purpose and then reverse engineer the meaning.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:22:03] You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest, Gabriel Mizrahi doing our next deep dive in finding purpose and meaning. We'll be right back. Support for The Jordan Harbinger Show comes from our friends at Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans, America's premier home purchase lender.
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Jason DeFillippo: [00:24:19] Don't forget we have worksheets for today's episode so you can make sure you solidify your understanding of the key takeaways from this Deep Dive. That link is in the show notes at JordanHarbinger.com/podcast. Thanks for listening and supporting the show. To learn more about our sponsors and get links to all of the great discounts you just heard, visit JordanHarbinger.com/deals. If you'd like some tips on how to subscribe to the show, go to JordanHarbinger.com/subscribe, and now back to our Deep Dive with Gabriel Mizrahi.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:47] So instead of trying to find the purpose and then reverse engineer the meaning like, “Okay, I'm famous now. I'm an influencer.” We actually want to find the meaning first and then just follow that.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:24:58] Now, the natural next question is, “Well, how do I find the meaning?”
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:00] Exactly. Okay, you read my mind.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:25:02] But here's the thing and again, I really believe that it's important to make this super simple because when it gets complicated is when it gets not useful and probably wrong. Meaning, we are meaning-making machines, we are wired to find and experience meaning. I would say 80% at least of this journey, is paying attention to what automatically is meaningful in the day-to-day of our lives. You could be 100% lost in the bigger picture and still have an intuitive grasp of what you find significant. You could be at a dead-end job, but when you laugh your ass off with that one colleague, as you guys build a spreadsheet, you are in touch with a little bit of meaning. Now that meaning might take you to a very different place. It might mean you got to get out of that job. It might mean you start something like a side business with this person, it might mean that you want to find a job that makes you laugh and lets you work on spreadsheets in a funny way, like there are so many different ways they could go but you are in touch with meaning and you didn't even have to think about it. You just notice what you find significant automatically.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:00] That's interesting. I just did a show with my friends, Ryan and Joshua. They are these guys, they call themselves The Minimalists. I could be getting their history wrong, but basically they both worked in telecom and I mean talking like some sort of corporate cellular phone plan sales thing. You know they were maybe like more corporate than retail, but they’re just in a soul-sucking position nonetheless.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:26:23] They weren't into it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:24] Yeah, nonetheless. They weren't really into it, and Joshua had like a bunch of stuff happen at the same time. His marriage ended and his mother died and he was just like, “F this. I'm up to my eyeballs in debt because I have all this crap that doesn't mean anything to me.” So he starts doing, he starts shedding all of this stuff because it's making his life complicated and he doesn't want that anymore.
[00:26:44] And then Ryan who works with him and his partner at The Minimalist says, “Wait a minute, I kind of like what you're doing over there.” So these two guys who are in this soul-sucking boring job that they both thought like, “Oh well, at least it pays the bills.” They both jumped off and out and now they help other people literally find meaning in less. And that became their purpose. And I thought that was interesting because these two guys were not sitting around the office at whatever cell phone company and being like, “Let's do something that means something to both of us. Here's our purpose. Let's start podcasting and doing a documentary and hit Netflix.” None of that was what they decided to do. They just wanted to get rid of their stuff, simplify their lives, and then that became their purpose. Then they made a documentary about it. That's what hit Netflix, which spawned this huge movement for them, which made them start a podcast, which dot, dot, dot -- pays the bill.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:27:35] And the other way wouldn't have worked. I feel like that's what so much of us, by the way, me included for many years, was trying to do, is to be like, “Well, I don't feel this sense of meaning. So I guess I just haven't discovered or decided upon this external idea of purpose yet.” But it doesn't, it never works that way because it might sustain you or motivate you for a short period of time. It might be intellectually interesting, but there's no substitute for following your most like personal and innermost sense of meaning sometimes in the smallest of ways where you're like, “I want to spend part of my day laughing”, or like, “I have too much stuff in my apartment. It's getting in the way of my happiness. I want to just clear that out.” And then before you know it, that's spawning an entire business and a movement that is so much more significant and longer lasting than the idea.
[00:28:25] So I do think that's really important and there is one more thing and when we can move on to the next principle, which is that we're sort of talking about meaning right now as like a conduit that can take us from purpose to purpose and kind of bring us closer to what our purpose is. Even when we aren't clear on what it is, but like the ER nurse story, having a good sense of meaning can also help you find your purpose within your circumstances when you didn't even know it was there. So for example, I remember when I was back working as a management consultant, I think back then I had an intuitive sense that this is not what gave me deep joy and I probably wasn't going to do it forever. But there was a moment during that job when I started just deciding that, “Well, if I'm here and I'm going to do this job and it's going to be this many hours of my life. I'm going to at least try to make it a fun and pleasant and as un-stressful an experience as possible.
[00:29:19] I'm going to be cool to my colleagues. I'm going to be helpful with my clients. I'm going to take moments to really connect with people, and I'm not just going to be this like miserable spreadsheet slave for four years.” And even though I didn't end up sticking with that job and it clearly wasn't my “purpose”, I remember feeling like that job was so much more meaningful when I decided to find the meaning within it and in another universe, maybe it would've been my purpose, right? But even short of that, it was still that much more awesome of an experience because I had made a choice to sort of invest more deeply in the meaningful aspects of the job, even though I didn't love it. And so there's a really important thing which is meaning doesn't just help us navigate from situation to situation, hopefully getting us closer and closer to our purpose. Sometimes it helps us discover the purpose within the place we're already in that we were missing because we weren't connected to the underlying meaning.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:11] Interesting. Okay, that makes sense to me and I hadn't really thought about that, but I can see this even I was able to find meaning on corporate Wall Street, whether it was learning how to make connections, turning that into a networking game, which spawned me learning nonverbal communication and all that stuff for purposes of generating business for this law firm, which then turned into what this show is and my training company is because that's where this all started. I could've just been like, “Weh, I have to do this for four years… I'll find my true calling later.” But I ended up sort of shaving off and finding things that I could find meaning in and I got really passionate about that, as you all know. So it's important to note also that I think you should be willing to be lost. And a lot of us aren't. We go, “Oh my God, I just feel adrift.” And you see all these posts on social media and I get it -- Uncertainty sucks. We did a whole episode on uncertainty. But this journey is ongoing. It's dynamic, it's lifelong. It's a process. And if you're afraid to be lost ever, you're going to have a harder time finding your purpose because we love expecting to be on purpose 100% of the time. Our life should feel purposeful all the time. It's not just unnecessary. It's actually impossible.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:31:27] I totally agree with that. And I think that anyone who has found their purpose has gone through periods of uncertainty and confusion and deep self-doubt. And the weird thing is that people don't like to talk about that because it's not very sexy. And once you're on the other side of it, you forget how scary it really was. But this really, to your point, is a process and is a journey. And if we're going to get away from that model of finding your purpose where it's like there's the external idea, you decide what your purpose is in a six-hour workshop, you write it down on a whiteboard -- end of story. Live your life. Like if we're going to leave that behind, then we have to embrace this much more confusing and messy process of stumbling and trying and experimenting and sometimes failing to find the really meaningful stuff of life.
[00:32:13] Because if you don't go through those phases, then you don't end up finding what really matters to you and what really matters to you is not always immediately obvious. It's not consistent. It's tough, but your story, my story and so many of the stories that you've talked about on the podcast, all share this one thing in common which is that there is a journey that is not entirely logical and that is very, very difficult, but if you keep paying attention and that word is so important just to pay attention to what you find meaningful and keep trying to expand that, then those periods of uncertainty and self-doubt turn out to be the roads to your purpose -- almost every time.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:32:51] It ends up giving you sort of a roadmap for this and then what we have in the notes here is even Space X has a compliance department where you can find meaning and pretty much anything if you're looking for it and you're not expecting. What people I think expect is one day they go, “This is my calling and like the clouds part, blue jays land on your shoulder and start singing and you go, this is it, I've found it. I've officially found it.” Check off the box that says, ‘I found my calling. I found my purpose.’ When really you're supposed to look really hard to find this in whatever you're doing and then figure out what it is you want more of and less of in your life and evolve it. It's not this instant “the door opens and Oh my gosh, the Truman Show”, right?
[00:33:32] This is something that you are willing, if I can use it, and do people even still do that? You're carving this out of a block of wood. Your life starts to look more and more like what you want it to over time, but you don't even know what you're carving. You're just shaving things off thinking, “Well, this can go’, “Oh, and I want to do more of that.” And then eventually, if you've paid attention to what you like and what you don't like out of your life, your career, and you're following that meaning, it ends up looking as it should. It's only when we try, sort of paradoxically, to suddenly find purpose that we go, “Wait, that's not it. Next”, “Oh, this is it. I want to write children's books.” “Well, that's not it. Wait, I want to be an actor. Well that's not it.” If you just throw in darts at the board, you're going to miss your opportunities to follow the meaning because you're just unplugging everything and plugging it back in every three months.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:34:22] It's a verb, not a noun. I think it's really like the bottom line what you're describing. And this segues nicely into a couple other really important principles that we can touch on really quickly and one of those which you're already alluding to is the importance of play. So we're talking about a way of finding your purpose that is not external and is not intellectual. That is a process, that is a journey and that is emotional and intuitive in addition to cognitive. And that is the process of play. What you just described about whittling is a great metaphor because when we play and think about this for a second, think back to childhood when you did stuff just because you loved it, not because it meant anything, not because it was getting you anywhere, not because somebody sat down and said, “Hey, you should really build that Lego set because when you're done, we can totally take pictures of it and you'll look really good to everybody around you and we'll show it off.”
Jordan Harbinger: [00:35:15] Or put it on Instagram.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:35:16] We’ll put on Instagram or we're all going to get a bunch of likes and by the way, in 25 years, you can do the same thing on a large scale by becoming a civil engineer. No, no. You played with Legos or dolls or make-believe characters or whatever because it was fun, because you enjoyed it, because you just wanted to do it for its own sake. That's the definition of play. And the really sad thing about becoming an adult is that you lose that connection with play and it's on us, especially in today's society and modern times where there isn't a lot of room for play. It's up to us to rediscover that instinct. There are hundreds of beautiful books written about this. There are probably lots of good therapy sessions to be had about it. We can't teach you everything about finding play in one podcast. But it's important to realize that when we were kids, we knew how to do something that would really help us out right now. And it turns out to be one of the most powerful ways to find your purpose because children navigate the world in a very pure way. And as adults, when we don't navigate the world in a pure way, by finding and following the meaning that we already feel, then we miss out on all of these ways to discover our real purpose.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:36:25] Also, I think it's important to note that things can just be in service of purpose. So if you've got a side hustle and you love it and you want to make it your full time job, but you've also got a day job that you think is okay, maybe you don't even like it that much. That job which allows you to do the side hustle at night and still survive, that is in service of purpose. And I've rallied against this a lot, but there's this cult online of ‘Quit your job. Go all in. You want to be an entrepreneur. You've got to commit, burn the ships.’ Don't do that. That's bad advice. If you've got a day job as a consultant and that pays the bills and you live comfortably and then at night, you can work on writing children's stories because that's what your “purpose” is, and that's where you find the most meaning, then you are still doing your day job in service of that purpose. Because let me tell you, and there's a lot of people out there who are going to agree with me. Try turning every hobby you have into a job and see how much you still love all of it. You know, it might be better to be a consultant and then write an hour a night because that's what you really love doing. Once you try to become a professional children's book writer and you have all these bills to pay, you might find that this is a huge problem and so things can be in service of purpose even if they're not really a part of that particular job. Like you're not going to become more of a consulting manager, you're not going to be the project lead. You can still do that job in service of the purpose and additionally, other things just kind of are going to meetings, hitting up the post office, doing performance reviews at work, paying your taxes.
[00:37:58] It's fine for things just to be stuff that you have to do. You don't always have to be on purpose 100% of the time. Going back to the original plan, and I feel like that's important to note because a lot of people say, “How do I know if I found my purpose?” You find it slowly over time because life is you're creating and following that meaning. You're not just going to find a career or a job that's 100% purposeful all the time. Even people who are working in service of their church and all they do, 99.9% of the time is write sermons and talk to their congregation, there's still to be the 0.01% where they have to meet with like the finance board and pay taxes and they're like, “Oh, this is so annoying.”
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:38:40] Yeah. And does that mean that they've done something wrong or that they need to eliminate that? No, because it's part of the bigger picture. So not expecting purpose, this like deep-seated purpose 100% of the time is a really important principle. And you're absolutely right, we get told that everything we do should be aligned with our deepest sense of meaning. But modern life just isn't like that. And so I think this links up so many of the great things we've been talking about so far, including the fact that, you know, sometimes it's on us to reconnect and discover the meaning within those things. Like people who have side jobs, they don't love to support passions that they do love can feel like they're not living authentically 100% of the time. Now, that might be true in the sense that they would love to be children's book authors all day, every day, but they need to pay the bills so they're still teaching.
[00:39:29] But that doesn't mean that teaching isn't in service of this thing that really matters to them. And once they see that, they suddenly become so grateful for the teaching job and it becomes part of the bigger picture. Another important principle that we should touch upon is how powerful it is to help people as a matter of practice, as just this ongoing thing. Because there's something really interesting about being of service to other people that gets us closer to our meaning. When we look at the world, and I think this is one of the things that you teach so beautifully on this podcast, when you look for ways to help people in small ways and in big ways that could be sitting next to somebody after a bad breakup or just texting them a recommendation for a restaurant when they're in town. Whatever that is, you end up adding value to that person's life.
[00:40:16] And it's really interesting to notice the sense of meaning you get from different acts of generosity because if you help somebody and that is meaningful to them and then you feel a sense of meaning and having helped them in that way, then in general, there's usually a purpose lurking nearby. It's a really great little hack because you can almost see like, “Okay, what are the ways in which I can help the people I know? How can I add to the world in some way? And then of those ways that I've helped, which one means the most to me?” And when you line those two things up, you're almost certainly going to stumble across something that could very well be your purpose.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:57] Yeah. Most people who have found deep meaning, deep purpose, their path also involves helping other people, and I don't want to get too woo-woo about this, but the reason I do this show is so that I can lose myself in service of others and I have a lot of fun doing it. There's not this whole, “I want to change the world and inspire.” No, I literally just want to give people tactics and amazing wisdom from the guests on the show so that they can improve their lives and be entertained. Because that's what I like doing. There's not this whole, “I have a vision of the world where everybody has the tools to improve.” I really don't ever think about that stuff. So I looked for overt and subtle ways that people were asking for my help when I was talking about literally dating and relationships 10 years ago.
[00:41:40] And then I offered that information for free and had fun doing it. And the model of my life slash this show has really not changed that much since. That was really meaningful for me because I paid attention to the acts of generosity on my part and on my team's part that made the most impact on other people and just kind of doubled down on that. And that's what we're doing literally right here as well. And once you kind of dive down that rabbit hole, and it's not to say that your purpose always has to be helping other people. Maybe you're just creating something and it doesn't help anyone. But I bet you that if you look hard enough, you're going to find what you're doing and find anything that really has deep meaning for you is somehow in the service of others. I think Gandhi was pretty fond to that kind of thing too, right?
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:42:23] I literally have nothing to add to that. That was perfect. The other important thing to keep in mind is that purpose can come from multiple places. So to go back to that tyranny, that cult of purpose that we talked about at the beginning of this episode, you know, this idea that like we can only derive our purpose from our work and that should really only be one thing is a really limited and probably misguided way to think about this really interesting journey that we're on, right? Like when people talk about finding their purpose, they almost always mean finding a job that expresses that purpose. I think Leonardo da Vinci said this thing, I hope I'm not misquoting him, but I think he said, “Make your work to be in keeping with your purpose”, which is great if you can do it. Nothing wrong with that.
[00:43:04] More power to you, but it's not necessary and it's not always possible. And work is not the only thing that can give us purpose. And it's definitely not the only thing that can give us meaning. So when we treat purpose, like a feeling that we can only find in our professional work, we usually set ourselves up to fail. And maybe even more importantly, we miss opportunities to find meaning in other places. And it's really important to think about the values that you hold because the values that you hold will determine where you find your purpose. And that's something that gets missed in this conversation a lot. At the top, we talked about, you know, a mother raising a family and doing a brilliant job at it. That could be her sense of meaning. And that's her purpose. And that is giving her a ton of like really deep meaning. But somehow we would treat that differently from somebody who has this job that is deeply meaningful. Like why are those two things treated differently? If you live a life where family matters a lot to you, relationships matter a lot to you, you want to raise great children, like if that's important to you, then that can be deeply purposeful.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:10] I remember a while back we helped this federal agent on, I think this was a Feedback Friday. In fact, I think you and I were tag team in this one. This federal agent who had said, “I'm working here and I've got like 11 more years before retirement and I just don't feel like I'm helping anymore. I feel like I'm just doing bureaucratic baloney. Should I quit and do other things that are more meaningful potentially, or should I just stick it out, 11 years is a long time?” And our solution was, “Wait a minute. You can try to transfer inside the agency. You can try to work past this position that you're in. You can try to do some other government jobs so you don't lose your pension. I don't know how that whole system works, but furthermore, what you should do is figure out how to do your job quickly so that you can volunteer outside of work.”
[00:44:52] You don't have to find all of your meaning in the federal building at downtown Los Angeles or on the West Side or wherever that building is, right? You can find meaning and purpose elsewhere while having things in service of your purpose, as we talked about before, and people are kind of afraid of doing that because they don't want to leave the cult of purpose. And you're right, we can easily find multiple places from which to get purpose, but if we're looking for the one magical halo around it, purposeful career or job, we're going to ignore the 10% of our purpose and meaning we find from volunteering and the other 15% we find from playing in an adult sports league and the other 20% that we get from our current career and then the other 10% we get from this hobby that we do on the side. You have to add those things together. You don't magically get everything covering all the bases one day because you've looked hard enough. It's rare.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:45:44] Some people value a thriving career and they find that they access the most meaning through their professional contributions. Other people value, you know, a great set of personal relationships with friends and family and they find that they derive meaning through their friends and family. Like it's up to us and it's on us and it's a gift that it's on us to engage our meaning in whatever way aligns with our values and priorities. So there's no really right way to find your purpose. There's only this common pitfall which is to believe that it can only come from one place, usually our job and that is the tyranny of purpose that I think we have to leave behind.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:46:18] Last but not least, certainly not least, perhaps most importantly is finding your purpose alone is not necessarily going to make you happy. People conflate finding your purpose slash calling with being happy. This is not the case.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:46:30] No, and it makes sense because you know, purpose is a powerful component of happiness. Like several scientific studies have shown that there is a clear link between purpose and happiness between our ability to find meaning and how fulfilled we are in life. But that doesn't mean that finding our purpose will automatically make us happy.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:46:47] That's an important point because if we keep thinking that finding our purpose is going to make us happy, you're going to be in deep trouble because you're going to keep looking forever. And if you decide that you're not going to be happy during the search, God help you.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:47:01] Yeah. And the truth is that happiness as a function of way more than our ability to find purposeful work, but also FYI, following your purpose often creates more pain and anxiety and frustration because then you're working or working towards something that you deeply care about. And sometimes working on something you deeply care about can be really painful because it actually matters. So it's a myth that meaningful lives are automatically happier lives. I do think that it's a huge part of being happy and there's definitely joy in finding meaning but in many cases, you find meaning but you also discover a lot more stress and if you need a good example, we can go right back to Elon Musk. I mean despite the fact that that guy spends every day trying to like I think his mission as he puts it is to like do useful things, maximize the probability that the future is good, make the future exciting. He talks about that all the time. I would say that that's probably Elon Musk's purpose, but he also revealed that like, “I don't think you necessarily want to be me. It sucks to be me.” And like okay, Elon Musk is a complicated guy. There are probably a lot of reasons for that, but we have to separate out purpose and happiness because one does not give us the other. It's just they're intimately connected but it won't guarantee it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:11] Right. So because if we can't be happy when we found meaning in life, then what's the point of finding meaning? And the answer is, well, meaning in many ways is more important than happiness because of the long-term viability of meaning versus happiness. And also, meaning is a necessary but not wholly sufficient condition for happiness, right? You kind of have to be, you need some sense of meaning to be happy, but having a sense of meaning will not make us happy by itself.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:48:38] Yes. And I think a lot of people who might've just heard the really profound thing you just said might be like, “Well, that's depressing”.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:44] Right. But it’s liberating.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:48:45] I find it liberating also, totally, because if you don't build in this expectation on your hunt for meaning that it is going to make you happy and fulfilled and connected all of the time, then it means that your happiness doesn't depend on this abstract idea of purpose, right? Like you can engage with meaning without the added pressure of also making it make you happy. So I wish everybody who hears this, both of those things, and I think that's ultimately the end goal. But the most important thing right now for us is just to listen to our lives, to pay attention to them in the right way, discover the meaning that it's already presenting us with, and continue to expand that sense of meaning because that's the best way to find our purpose. And ultimately, it's the best way to find joy in our lives.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:28] Gabriel, thank you very much, man. Well said, and frankly I think it is. You're right, it's liberating. We don't have to have all of this together to be happy, but we do need this long-term and we don't have to find it all in one place. And I think this is extremely useful. Even if this seemed a little lofty, I think this has very good meaning in the very practical sense for a lot of people listening. I should take the weight off people who feel a little bit lost, who now find, “Hey, it's okay to be there. It kind of means you're on the right track.”
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:49:55] Totally agree. My pleasure, Jordan. Thanks for having me.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:59] You know, I love these deep dives and I think that there's some of the most popular episodes, and for good reason. We really put a lot into these. These are really important lessons that we take and that Gabriel does a lot of work thinking about this content. Him and I deliberate on this stuff for a long time and it sort of a distilled version of a lot of life experience. So I hope this is as helpful for you as it is for us to create in the first place. And I'd love to thank Gabriel for helping make the show as incredible as it is. He does it all for the love of helping other people as well. And we've got a lot more projects with him in the pipeline. Of course, as you might imagine, and if you want to know why I've got such an amazing network and amazing friends.
[00:50:38] Well, part of that are the skills that I teach here in our Six-Minute Networking course, which is free. You can find that at jordanharbinger.com/course. Pick it up now. Again, it's free. It's not like the put your credit card in the first levels for you. The whole thing is free. It's just skills I think everyone should have and the drills I have. They're designed to take just a few minutes per day. It's really stuff I wish I knew a decade ago and you can find all that at jordanharbinger.com/course.
[00:51:04] Speaking of building relationships, tell me your number one takeaway from this Deep Dive here with Gabriel Mizrahi. I'm @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram. And I'd love to hear from you there. This show is produced in association with PodcastOne. And this episode was co-produced by Jason “Deep Dive” DeFillippo and Jen Harbinger. Show notes by Robert Fogarty. Worksheets by Caleb Bacon. And I'm your host, Jordan Harbinger. The fee for this show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful -- which should be in every episode. So please, it's the holidays. Share the show with those you love and even those you don't. Lots more in the pipeline. Very, very excited to bring it to you. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
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