This year been reading plenty of biographies. This includes biographies of Julius Caesar, Napoleon, Alexander the great, and Churchill. What is interesting about reading these biographies is that I am beginning to see a set of common patterns between some of these great characters.
I noticed something remarkable about these individuals: they are incredibly productive and energetic. They seem to achieve the same work that five or ten people would typically do. How do they do it?
Many renowned historical figures achieved great success by finding a unifying purpose that motivates them to work daily. This goal helps them to achieve their short-term objectives and leads to a fulfilling life. It is interesting to note that it is difficult to stay motivated and have an organized life without purpose.
Humans have often tried to discover our ultimate goal in life and how to cultivate purpose. In Ancient Greece and Rome, people sought immortality through heroic deeds that would be remembered for generations and carved in marble. Christians sought eternal salvation and entrance to heaven by doing saintly deeds. Other religions have a concept of eventually escaping life and reaching enlightenment.
Creating something that will outlive us is a cornerstone of purpose. Our short mortality means it must extend beyond the grave. I have discussed before that everything becomes pointless if we extend timelines to how long enough timeframe. I believe that this is one method to combat this tendency somewhat.
I wonder if achieving purpose was more straightforward in the past than it is today. Reading the biographies of Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar paints a picture of an otherworldly place where everything seems magical. An eagle flies in the morning and perches in a particular way – this could be a signal from the gods. There was a sense of fatalism, and, in some ways, religion was more conducive to creating purpose than atheism.