A couple of weeks ago, in the process of learning how to become financially independent, I was searching high and low for the perfect business idea. I knew I didn’t just want to do something for quick money.
One of those days, I stumbled upon the Japanese concept of "Ikigai" which almost described exactly what I was looking for.
But finding my personal Ikigai didn’t prove to be as easy as it looked. My buddy and me started to fill in the diagram in every corner to look for overlap until we found something right in the middle that we could start a business around.
After following the formula, the results were far from what I expected:
Apparently there was only one option in the middle of the Ikigai diagram for me, and that was to become a dating coach.
The problem? It didn’t feel like what I needed to do. I know I do have a message to spread when it comes to dating, and I’m already spreading it in places (hmm… spreading it sounds kinda nice, doesn’t it? 😉 ) but it’s just not something that makes me feel the burning flame of passion all over my body when I imagine doing it (alright, I do feel that when I imagine doing it, I meant the dating coach thing 😉 ). And besides, I already have a friend who’s doing a much better job at it than I would.
Back then, I had no idea yet that the perfect business idea was already super obvious and lying in front of me all this time. So I was really disillusioned. I had all my hopes up that this Ikigai thing would help me come up with the perfect idea and no I had no clue where to look next.
But I had given myself a deadline of 50 days to set up a business and only 40 left, so I found myself putting a lot of pressure on making the right decision fast. And I felt even more pressured because it had to be perfect. If I could only pick one thing to work on for 40 days straight while putting everyone else on hold, it could not be just something random. The idea had to be so well aligned with my life’s purpose that it put all the others to shame.
I felt a little sad because of this. I just didn’t know where to go next.
I knew I was hungry though. So I went to the supermarket.
I soon found myself browsing through the aisles in search for something to indulge in. Some chocolate or some rice crackers or something. As if comfort food would somehow put an end to my doubts about what type of business I wanted to have. What a ridiculous idea, brain 😉
As I left the store I decided to go for a spontaneous walk. I started looking through the windows of all the different stores and businesses, wondering who the owners were and why they did what they were doing. "What made what they were doing so great that they considered it a worthwhile reason to get up every morning and spend most of their waking hours on it?"
I looked at the friendly old lady in the chocolate shop and asked myself “Has she found her ikigai?” “How and when did she realize her life’s purpose was to run a chocolate store?” “Was that really the perfect thing? Or was it just a thing?”
I went on to the shoe store. There were no customers and the saleswoman (or owner) just stood there admiring all the different boots.
“Would this woman have always known that her future had something to do with shoes specifically because she loves them so much? Or did she just pick a random profitable idea and went with it after that?”
I passed one of the local opticians and asked myself the same questions about him. “Maybe he just owns the store now because it used to be his father’s and that was all he ever knew?”
The optician ran outside. It was 10 minutes before closing time but he clearly needed to frantically smoke a cigarette right now instead of waiting for 10 minutes. Contrary to the other 2 business-owners he didn’t look happy at all. I felt like he hoped this cigarette would bring him relief, but he didn’t even take the time to enjoy it properly. What a waste of perfectly good cancer.
Later I noticed a shopwindow that held beautiful artsy pictures of women, vintage cars and unspoiled nature. I went inside and felt really attracted to buying one of those beautiful photographs. Right before I went to talk to the lady in the store to get to know her, another man was buying one of the photographs. It costed about 750 euros.
750 euros to make 1 square meter of your house look like a genuine piece of paradise. “If I had that kinda money to spare right now”, I thought, “I’d just buy a plane ticket and go live in the real deal. But hey. Whatever makes you happy I guess 😉 “
I decided it was about time to walk home, but then I ran into a girl I used to know years ago. I never really had a deep connection with her besides the fact that we both liked punk rock music, but for some reason I was very happy to run into her.
She looked good. She seemed like a really happy person. We had a brief conversation to catch up with each other. As she told me about her studies. I asked her “And after that? What’s your plan?” She replied with a smile: “Work I guess… At some point we all have to, right?”
Then the big Christmas store behind us caught my attention, so I walked in there. I looked at all the meaningless stuff. And I don’t mean meaningless as in “it’s stupid”, just meaningless in the literal sense. Meaningless as in “It has no meaning besides the meaning we choose to assign to it.”
I strolled from aisle to aisle for a while, looking at all the consumers. Each and everyone looking to find the right product to consume to make them happy for a while until they throw it in the trash or store it away for the next 11 months.
Still somehow I started to feel more and more connected to all these people I normally couldn't stop judging. “No one on this entire planet really knows what the fuck we’re doing, even when we think we do.” I thought. “We’re all just looking to find what makes us happy. Whether it's shopping for Christmas props or looking for a heart-centered business idea."
I went outside again and ran into a hobo playing guitar while smoking his cigarette.
I started to wonder who he was.
“This guy probably does what he’s doing because he’s sick of that disgusting consumer culture I just saw in the store and doesn’t want to be any part of it. Yet he has to beg for money here because he still ‘needs’ to buy beer and cigarettes, which makes him just as much a part of that same culture without knowing it. Still holding on to his ideals in his head is what he hopes will make him happy.”
Was I right about that guy? Maybe not. I knew nothing about him. I was just making assumptions and judgments because I didn’t want to interrupt his song to get to know him. Plus I was well aware of the fact that I was projecting my own feelings for the day on literally everyone I met.
I looked in his little cash container and noticed nobody had given him any money yet, so I gave him the very last of mine.
Almost home. The woman passing was checking out my body slowly and unapologetically. Our eyes met and she smiled. I wondered if she wondered if I’m the kinda guy that would make her happy.
When I came home I knew something had changed in me.
I just ran into all kinds of different people that on the surface seem completely the opposite of me in both their actions and their perspectives on life. Yet I could really feel how they are exactly like me at the same time.
Even though we take different actions, nobody is any different at the very core of the core. Consider how arrogant it is to believe that you're the only one who's somehow different from all the others (something, admittedly, I used to believe my entire childhood).
We’re all humans who do humany things and think humany thinks. Each and everyone just looking to live a life that will make us happy in the end. Even the ones you judge the most.
All these dishonest people I used to resent?
They’re just lying because they don’t know any better. Because they truly believe that even though they would rather be honest, it is the better choice to lie because it’s the option that leads to the least unhappiness for themselves or the other person.
Does that make it the right thing to do?
Not always, but I stopped judging them now that I understand where they were coming from.
That guy picking a fight on me because in his world he's the good guy and I'm the bad one? I'm not going to give him any aggression in return because I understand he's only doing what he believes will make him happy (even though it probably won't).
The religious terrorist I thought I can never understand? Maybe he’s just fucking scared out of his mind to fall out of grace with a vengeful god that doesn’t exist.
Maybe he’s been doing all kinds of irrational, unloving things just because he truly believes they make him a righteous man and that he’ll be happier in the end when his imaginary god will recognize he’s been a good man and not punish him. Who knows?
Maybe all those people living the kind of life I despise are all just doing it for the same reasons I live mine and we’re not so different after all. That doesn’t mean I have to condone their behavior or see it as good, but now that I understand that the 90% of the “human iceberg” they are that’s under the surface, they are actually just like me.
Somehow since that day happened, I can't go back and none of my interactions will ever be the same.
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