In the olden days, it was easy to find meaning in life. True, life was ultimately as meaningless as it is nowadays, but before you arrived at that point, if at all, you were close to the natural end of your lifespan already anyway. Before you could find ever-lasting peace six feet under, after pondering whether your life has been worth it in the weeks or months up to your dying day, you had a hopefully rich and fulfilling or at the very least busy life behind you.
Before the onset of societal collapse in the 1960s and 1970s, you were railroaded through life. You had kindergarten, school, and college. Maybe you did military service, maybe you skipped college and got a job straight out of high school. Either way, the next step was to get married. Before you knew it, you had a mortgage for a house and a wife who was pregnant with the first of your four or five children. (Believe it or not, but the two-children norm is very recent.) That mortgage could be comfortably paid off in ten years, by the way. No matter if you advanced much in your career or not, your job was quite safe. Layoffs were rare. Maybe you would change employers mid-career to chase after a seemingly better opportunity. By the time you were in your 50s, you could start thinking about winding down your career. Your first grandchildren also appeared on the scene, keeping you busy. Of course, your grandchildren were likely to live reasonably close-by anyway. In your 60s, you would enter retirement. Great-grandchildren would not appear for a while, so you might have gotten a dog and enjoyed your golden years with it and your devoted wife. This would be the time where you could have, for once, sat back and thought about the meaning of life, or the meaning of your life. If you didn’t like your conclusions, it didn’t matter much because you were financially secure, or secure enough and, in any case, you’d soon kick the bucket, so it’s not as if you had to face decades of agony and mental torment.
You can still try to have that kind of life today. Go ahead and try! Except that the societal rules have been changed. It used to be very common, and probably still is, that people feel useless after retirement because they no longer have anything to do. Their health degrades rapidly. Some even kill themselves. This happened even in better times. Yet, today you can get a dose of that in your prime years already. Plenty of guys who get fuelled by external motivation get depressed, addicted to drugs or alcohol, or suicidal after a divorce or the loss of a job they enjoyed. Now they can’t get a new job that is as good, and with alimony payments crippling their finances, they have little chance of remarrying either. Besides, the appeal of marrying an older woman is just not there. It’s one thing to marry young and grow old together, but quite another to take some other man’s discarded starter wife.
In the past, your average-intelligence Joe was kept busy all his life. A blue pill a day kept pestering inquisitive thoughts away and only in retirement could he realize that he was little more than a means to an end, i.e. a tool, for his wife, society, and his employers. That may have sapped all life energy out of him. Then again, you need a certain minimum IQ to even question your own existence and your role in society, so chances were that he could make it through life without the burden of excessive thinking.
In contrast, today’s men are disillusioned. Society has broken the various unspoken contracts that kept their blue-pilled dads in line. The Ponzi-scheme commonly referred to as the welfare state is on the brink of bankruptcy (who’s going to pay your pension?), divorce has been normalized, and companies downsize at will. In this day and age, loyalty is a liability more than anything else. Consequently, it is of little surprise that many men opt out, often including many highly able men. In terms of the steps I mentioned above, they only go through a few of them. They go to kindergarten, school, and university, and then they get a job. That will be it. In most careers, you may not top out in your 30s, but it is quite likely that you have risen about as high as you are ever going to get. This hit me hard at a recent visit to a client’s site during my day job. I was walking past a bunch of desks in an engineering office, and on the way I saw an announcement for the farewell party of their coworkers sitting at desk #57. No, he would not go on to a different company, he was about to retire. That’s the reality today: you can have a career spanning a few decades where you get a bunch of superficially more impressive job titles to make you feel more important. Yet, you keep the same fucking desk and do the same kind of work. If you’re unlucky, you max out your career within a few years. Yet, others who don’t manage to break into the industry think you are one of the lucky ones. This failure-to-enter is not uncommon in any field because even STEM is far from the sure thing it is portrayed in mainstream media.
You, the enlightened young and professional male, are in your 30s and you realize that the next step on the career ladder may be in reach, but it is uncertain. Yet, you live in great comfort. You have friends, and you have hobbies. You also have too much time to think and reflect on your position in life. In contrast, with a wife breathing down your neck to make more money — she may not care if your commute increases by 30 minutes x 2 in exchange for a measly extra 3% at a different company — this would not happen so easily.
It may seem cynical to say that you feel a lack of motivation in your life, or that you feel as if your life lacks meaning because you have too much time to think. Yet, this is precisely the problem. If we were all busy bringing up five kids and killing ourselves climbing the corporate ladder, we would not have much time to question our personal choices. That, and the fact that you are indeed smart enough to question society. It is most certainly the case that your life would feel more meaningful with a wife, kids, and a mortgage to pay-off. Yet, that is a trade you may not want to make. Well, blame your high IQ! In contrast, Jamal, Tyrone, and all his broke friends do not feel despair when they are running a train on a woman who offered herself in exchange for some weed. Who’s the winner here? Even the Ancient Greek philosophers pondered about this problem, and with unsatisfactory answers.
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26 thoughts on “Why Successful Bachelors Struggle with Finding Meaning in Life”
I can attest to this. Having a lot of free time, especially when you are high IQ, is the worst thing that can happen to you.
When I was 29 I was obsessed with early retirement, not having to work sounded like a great idea. So I started investing a lot and so on.
But also to test if I would really like it, I tried for one year to work only 15 hours per week.
To my big surprise, in that one year, I was much more depressed and bored than when I was working 40 Hours. Now I’m back to full time and better.
So, free time is only worth something if you actually have something meaningful to do with it.
Yeah I have to say that I have rethought retirement. I used to plan for an early retirement, but now it seems undesirable. What am I going to do? Being free all day is not fun. Now I plan to retire only when I’m too sick to be doing something.
This realization enabled me to choose my jobs/projects/startup ideas based on how much I enjoy working on them. I can leave some $ on the table in exchange for working on what I want, and in case of software dev, using the technologies I want.
I have a decent amount of savings. And being single and childless I can reduce my expenses easily in an emergency. I really love this freedom.
Do you think high IQ chads have the same dilemma in life?
Is the issue high IQ or not being satisfied that our wants aren’t met in life?
If you’re high IQ and banging a new chick every week and making 7+ figures and traveling the world, will life really feel that meaningless?
No, at one point you will recognize the true meaningless of life. Do you remember you great grandfather’s name? If you do, do you know who is he? You see, your name will be forgotten, real quick, your archivement is just a water particle in the river of life, your dream, your feeling,… will be burried with you in that day. Once you realize that, bangging girls or having a decent number in your account won’t make you undo that realization.
Yes. Excitement will be there, but as fast as it comes, it will leave you soon. So, accept meaningless of life, and you should be fine.
Beside, not high IQ, just a quick learner. Not having 7+ figures, yet, but I don’t think it matter. After all, money is just like women. The more you have, the more you don’t crave for it anymore.
It gets old very fast. There are enough cases of good looking, successful and rich people who killed themselfs. Chasing dopamine heights is the main problem. Things that you think will make you happy will only make you more miserable. High IQ people shouldn’t bother with jobs, that’s a mistake. They should at least try to build a buisness. I never considered to bother with a job, just to think about it makes me miserable. You have way more control over your life as a business owner and that can give you more meaning if done correctly. Also it’s easier to prevent divorce rape if you set up everything correctly.
Well, if getting the broads Chad wants to bang effortlessly (or as hassle-free as possible), then that’s gonna be worth for him, at least for a while. Problem is: humans and sex don’t exist just for fun. Sex is for procreation, engaging in sex for a prolonged time without procreation goes against the evolutionary circuits built into you and in many cases either gets stale or get him somewhat depressed.
As Calhoun’s mouse utopia expreriment so strikingly demomstrated: paradise is HELL on earth. The beings on this planet have not been created for a life without problems, challenges and endeavours.
Ultimately man (and maybe woman as well?) is happiest if he can devote himself to a goal or a purpose greater or higher than himself. Now (an if at all), what that goal or purpose is supposed to be, that each person has to find out for himself…
I have a very high IQ and I have had sex with more women than most men. A high IQ is a curse as you realize that the entire world runs on bullshit. Sex with a lot of different women gets boring as well. I kept it more interesting for myself by adding some variety, in particular aiming for in-venue lays.
I don’t know what it’s like to make 7+ figures, but I have done quite a bit of traveling, both professionally and leisurely. Travelling is often touted to be some kind of status symbol, but I can tell you that it gets tiring really quickly.
I think both traveling and banging chicks have in common that they sound desirable for people who have little experience with either. Both come with side effects.
“Sex with a lot of different women gets boring as well. I kept it more interesting for myself by adding some variety…”
In some of your past articles you have mention that sluts often get a thrill by fucking random guys endlessly. You also mention that men often underestimate how much validation slutty women get from engaging in spontaneous sex, as sex validates their existences and validates them from being used as sex objects. Thus, instant gratification is high on their list of priorities.
My questions is…
Is there a point in a woman’s life that they get tired of having sex with multiple random men? Like you stated, “sex with a lot of different women gets boring”. Do women ever reach a point in their life where they get exhausted of fucking random men, or do they continue this destructive behaviour until something bad happens in their lives?
This is a very good question. It’s combination of the effect of her peer group or, in extension, her culture, as well as environmental feedback. Sometimes, young women settle down because a lot of her friends have started to settle down. Also, oftentimes women break up with their boyfriend or divorce her husband because her friends have done so. Then there is the fact that older women eventually realize that they can no longer compete with the hot, young ones. This realization hits some women like a brick, which makes them attempt a U-turn when it’s often too late, think born-again virgins or “trad thots”.
People with high IQs eventually realize the pointlessness of life, Chad or not.
As the Bible says, “what has been done has already been done; there is nothing new under the sun.”
Now that I think about it, King Solomon does have some pretty timely words for us centuries later.
I think there’s a more likely explanation of the problems you describe in Industrial Society and its Future. You can find it here: http://editions-hache.com/essais/pdf/kaczynski2.pdf
Some relevant quotes from it.
38. But not every leisured aristocrat becomes bored and demoralized. For example, the emperor Hirohito, instead of sinking into decadent hedonism, devoted himself to marine biology, a field in which he became distinguished. When people do not have to exert themselves to satisfy their physical needs they often set up artificial goals for themselves. In many cases they then pursue these goals with the same energy and emotional involvement that they otherwise would have put into the search for physical necessities. …
39. We use the term “surrogate activity” to designate an activity that is directed toward an artificial goal that people set up for themselves merely in order to have some goal to work toward, or let us say, merely for the sake of the “fulfillment” that they get from pursuing the goal. Here is a rule of thumb for the identification of surrogate activities. Given a person who devotes much time and energy to the pursuit of goal X, ask yourself this: If he had to devote most of his time and energy to satisfying his biological needs, and if that effort required him to use his physical and mental faculties in a varied and interesting way, would he feel seriously deprived because he did not attain goal X? If the answer is no, then the person’s pursuit of goal X is a surrogate activity. Hirohito’s studies in marine biology clearly constituted a surrogate activity, since it is pretty certain that if Hirohito had had to spend his time working at interesting non-scientific tasks in order to obtain the necessities of life, he would not have felt deprived because he didn’t know all about the anatomy and life-cycles of marine animals. On the other hand the pursuit of sex and love (for example) is not a surrogate activity, because most people, even if their existence were otherwise satisfactory, would feel deprived if they passed their lives without ever having a relationship with a member of the opposite sex. (But pursuit of an excessive amount of sex, more than one really needs, can be a surrogate activity.)
41. For many if not most people, surrogate activities are less satisfying than the pursuit of real goals (that is, goals that people would want to attain even if their need for the power process were already fulfilled). One indication of this is the fact that, in many or most cases, people who are deeply involved in surrogate activities are never satisfied, never at rest. Thus the money-maker constantly strives for more and more wealth. The scientist no sooner solves one problem than he moves on to the next. The long-distance runner drives himself to run always farther and faster. …
Thanks for sharing Tullus
@Tullus – Is this link the unabomber manifesto?
It is. The Unabomber Manifesto was a key piece of my intellectual enlightenment, but not just because of its content. Instead, it was one of the first times where I had the chance to make up my own mind instead of just getting second-hand opinions. I had a teacher who had referred to the Unabomber as some “lunatic” who also left a “nonsensical creed”. Thanks to the Internet — it was the early days of its societal penetration — I managed to look it up and read it myself, and read up on Ted Kaczynski himself. I quickly realized that his manifesto is incredibly well written and one of the best analyses of the ails of modern society. In addition, you can bet that Kaczynski had an IQ several standard deviations above anybody who smeared him, including our mainstream media mouthpieces and intellectual grunts like public school teachers. Obviously, I don’t condone terrorist attacks, but that’s a different issue.
I’ve had a somewhat similar experience with Kaczynski’s write-up. Apparently while he was a student he got abused as a guinea-pig for some mind control experiments by one of the U.S. governement’s intelligence agencieswhich supposedly left him scarred in some way mentally … After reading and thinking about his thoights I also found that, maybe because of his high intelligence or maybe even in spite of it, he made the mistake of denying the existence of human mental freedom of choice. He committed the philosophical sin of letting himself get so utterly affected with the grand and small pitfalls of the world surrrouding him, that (in addition to the long-term side effects of the mind control treatment he got subjected to) it eventually drove him mad. I always thought of him as a highly tragical figure.
Aaron, if you have read it, can you show me why you disagree with (what I think) Ted said there, which is that: people are dissatisfied because their society does not give them ways to complete meaningful tasks from beginning to end; instead, they work something that is just a tiny part of a system, and it doesn’t meet meaningful needs mostly (like food, or love, or sufficient amounts of sex); so they look to artificial goals to obtain what they call fulfillment, which doesn’t really work because it’s a fake concept, and ideally you should be made happy by doing the things to get you your needs, not get all those and then need to be filled full in some unspecified way?
And, if you don’t disagree with that, then why do you need this explanation which says things are worse compared to the 50s, when Ted’s explanation explains why things are bad today? And Ted’s explanation applies to the 50s too. So they can’t have been that great, right?
I don’t mean to be accusatory. I’m interested to know what somebody else who’s read ISAIF thinks.
It’s been about two decades since I read the Unabomber Manifesto in full. The elaborations below thus only relate to the part you quoted.
His diagnosis is correct. However, a big change between then and now is that people have become addicted to their smartphones and have fewer and fewer meaningful personal relations. Also, the manufacturing sector has almost disappeared in the West, so meaningful work for men of average intelligence is harder to find. A surrogate activity, as I understand it, consists of striving towards a goal that is meaningful for a particular person. However, what we have instead been witnessing is that many people do not engage in surrogate activities but instead in wanton hedonism. Kaczynski, I think, overestimated the capabilities of his fellow man with regards to setting goals and delaying gratification.
Thanks for the explanation. If you’re interested in more thoughts about the effects of new technology like smartphones on societies and people, Cal Newport has a book I liked called Digital Minimalism, wherein he advocates living with much less intrusion of technology in your life. He also has several good interviews on the topic on YouTube.
One of the interesting things he points out is that the Amish, who are a religious community in the US known for not using modern technology, are not actually wholly anti-technology. Rather, they have some person or a few people who ask to try out any technology they are interested in, and then after seeing the effects of this on the person and the community, a group of elders decides whether to allow or disallow the technology for the whole community. In this way, their anti-tech policy is a good way to manage the well-being of the people in a community.
The Amish don’t allow their members to drive cars. This is because when they tried cars, people would often drive away on weekends to spend time far away, hurting the sense of community that you might have if everyone had fun with the community on weekends.
On a related note, studies have shown that develop nations like U.S .have higher rates of depression compare to Third World Countries.
I looked into this myself some time ago, but from a different angle, and found studies showing that African-Americans, when controlled for socioeconomic status, are happier and less prone to depression than Whites. With such studies, we have to carefully separate culture from socioeconomic status. It may well be that people in some developing countries would remain happy even if their economic environment improved.
Aaron, could you link to some studies on this? The conventional wisdom seems to be that higher IQ is linked to less depression, but blacks have a lower IQ than whites and Asians, and blacks don’t seem to get as depressed as easily as whites. My experience with depression is being lost in thoughts about the future, which is obviously something white people are more prone to given our higher time preference. However, higher IQ is something I associate with LOWER levels of depression given its link to better future outcomes in life. How do you reconcile this?
How is that supposed to be general wisdom? Have you ever been to a party full of STEM-types and other academics versus one in which people were of more average intelligence? A high IQ is an enormous obstacle towards “having fun”.
If you associate higher IQ with lower levels of depression, then I’d say you have to come up with a good explanation because, quite frankly, it does not make a lot of sense.
I am no Aaron but seriously “the conventional wisdom seems to be that higher IQ is linked to less depression”? I think it’s the other way round. And my experienced from observing says so.
“Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know” by Ernest Hemingway.
I fully agree with this position. I can’t even fathom how one could make the claim that more intelligent people are happier. The less oriented towards the future you are, the happier you will be. Jamal and Tyrone who are yolo-ing through life are most definitely a lot happier than some stressed out high-flying executive who has been looking forward to retirement for over a decade.
@Aaron there is a typo in the first paragraph;
“fulfilling or at the very least buys life behind you”
I assume that should be “busy”.