The Winding Path: Life is Not a Straight Line

June 20, 2023

As I've grown older and [hopefully] wiser, I’ve come to a crucial realization: life does not move in a straight line.

Let me illustrate with my personal journey:

Point A - A time in my life when I engaged myself in the sheer joy of writing, designing, creating on an empty canvas, making things that didn’t exist exist in my head and then bringing them in to the real world, delivering value to others, feeling my energy increase when I work, chase after infinite goals, finding happiness and satisfaction in doing all of the aforementioned.

Point B - At this new point in my life, I started doing different things. Raising money for a venture, hiring people, managing said people, thinking of long-term vision and goals, sizing up competitors and feeling frustrated that we aren’t as good, feeling my energy decrease when I work, chase after finite goals (eg. making $X million in Y time) and so on.

All this change because I thought B was what I am “supposed” to be doing, once I had completed A.

The journey to discover Point A took the first 25 years of my life. I then found myself arrive at Point B a mere 2 years later. And another 2 years passed before I realised that all I ever wanted was A.

It seems like I took 10 steps forward, veered off course, and then retraced my steps back to the starting point.

What a mess!

What lights your soul up

During a recent conversation, a dear friend shared a similar journey. Until 2 years ago, all he did was be totally engrossed in coding, hacking together stuff, and truly enjoying life to the max while doing that. I would tell people about him, about how this guy is totally killing it in life. It hadn’t netted him millions (yet) but I could tell that what he did fed his soul.

What happened next will shock you (no it won’t, it’s fairly predictable given how this story is unfolding).

In the last 2 years, he shifted gears to build a team, a company, and build a bigger product that lasts longer and so on. His focus shifted from individual coding to managing an organization with a vision and mission.

I met him recently, just after he had just returned from a solo trip and journey of self-discovery. He told me that all he ever wanted was to code and hack together stuff build things that he loved creating and putting out there into the world. And he is going back to doing just that. It took losing that to realise how important it was to him in the first place.

I could not be happier hearing those words from him. His soul lit up as he told me all this. My soul lit up because I could sense that he will be doing something that he truly cares about.

Life teaches you what's necessary

Please don't misinterpret. The lessons we learned during our journey from Point A -> Point B are invaluable. These experiences have expanded my life in meaningful ways, and since the dots always connect when looking back, I have faith that these experiences and skills will come back to play a role in a way that I, and my friend perhaps cannot foresee today.

Life has taught me that everything that happens to you is necessary for you to become the person you are today, and the person you are meant to become tomorrow.

When looking back (and connecting the dots) - I had to veer off course from Point A to realise that it was everything I truly cared about.

Doing what we are meant to

This journey has deepened my respect for my inner voice, what my soul craves, and what I enjoy doing. I have also gained invaluable wisdom about what my inner voice does not care about, what causes my soul to wither, what I don’t want to be doing in my life.

Going forward, I am committed to being more conscious and aware of my inner feelings - you may call it gut feel, or the song of your soul, if you will.

We often rationalise these feelings away, thanks to our prefrontal-cortex, the so-called “smart” part of our brain. These rationalisations come from the voice in our head that says we are “supposed" to do something.

Life is too short to be spent doing the things you are "supposed" to do. I choose to do the things I am "meant" to do. I choose to listen more closely to my soul's song more intently and pursue what I am truly meant to do.

So there you have it. Life is not a straight line. It's complex, messy, and at times, resembles a knotted string. It’s circular where you might come back to the same point (for me, it was from from nothing -> Point A -> Point B -> back to Point A).

But you know what? That’s perfectly okay.

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