Finding your purpose and living a meaningful life


Sometime ago I came across a letter that Hunter S Thompson wrote in 1958, and it resurfaced in my inbox this week.  The letter was in response to his friends' request for life advice. As you might have seen I left my job last week to launch my own wealth management firm.

My Mum (my biggest guide) has always told me that all through my life I have 'taken things in my stride'.  I am able to dust myself off, get up and keep going.  I have to say though, there have been a few moments in the last week or so...sleep has been patchy and at times, my stomach has felt like it was doing acrobatics.

Coming across this letter again was good timing.  It's a wonderful reminder of what life is all about, and today, being Saturday, things feel very much back in balance.

I highly recommend reading the whole thing but it is somewhat verbose, so I have quoted my favourite bits.  Enjoy!

n.b. - He was writing to a male friend so mentally adjust for yourself where appropriate!

"Remember that all advice can only be a product of the man who gives it. What is truth to one may be disaster to another. I do not see life through your eyes, nor you through mine."

"So how does a man find a goal? Not a castle in the stars, but a real and tangible thing. How can a man be sure he’s not after the “big rock candy mountain,” the enticing sugar-candy goal that has little taste and no substance?"

"When you were young, let us say that you wanted to be a fireman. I feel reasonably safe in saying that you no longer want to be a fireman. Why? Because your perspective has changed. It’s not the fireman who has changed, but you. Every man is the sum total of his reactions to experience. As your experiences differ and multiply, you become a different man, and hence your perspective changes. This goes on and on. Every reaction is a learning process; every significant experience alters your perspective."

"In every man, heredity and environment have combined to produce a creature of certain abilities and desires— including a deeply ingrained need to function in such a way that his life will be MEANINGFUL. A man has to BE something; he has to matter."


"The goal is absolutely secondary: it is the functioning toward the goal which is important."  (This is so true in financial planning.)

"Let’s assume that you think you have a choice of eight paths to follow (all pre-defined paths, of course). And let’s assume that you can’t see any real purpose in any of the eight. THEN— and here is the essence of all I’ve said— you MUST FIND A NINTH PATH."

"A man who procrastinates in his CHOOSING will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance."

"Beware of looking for goals: look for a way of life. Decide how you want to live and then see what you can do to make a living WITHIN that way of life."

And here is the ending, it's just SO good:

"I’m not trying to send you out “on the road” in search of Valhalla, but merely pointing out that it is not necessary to accept the choices handed down to you by life as you know it. There is more to it than that— no one HAS to do something he doesn’t want to do for the rest of his life. But then again, if that’s what you wind up doing, by all means convince yourself that you HAD to do it. You’ll have lots of company."

Hunter S Thompson Letter