Key Takeaway: Any measure of success can never justify evils done to achieve it. All of our thoughts, words, and deeds can and do affect anyone and anything around us. This is why higher purpose should be properly rooted in awareness and service – the entire lesson of this institute.
Whenever I wanted something really much before, I would say, “I’ll do anything to _____.” My then-best friend chided me, saying that there are some things that you shouldn’t do (like unethical things), and corrected me saying that I should say, “I’ll do something to _____.”
While it sounds funny, it makes a lot of sense – especially through the lens of trying to live a truly good life.
All of us have desires and dreams. Some of those desires are easier to get. The others – especially the more substantial ones – are much more difficult and complex, and take a lot of effort and whatnot. To the point that some out there will really do anything to get it.
They’ll do anything
A company that does “cost-cutting” to save expenses – and jack up profits – but, in the process, keeps its employees’ salaries static (or on perpetually rotating contract-based employment) or flouts safety procedures.
A singly-driven struggling young entrepreneur who works late into the night every night for months, jeopardizing their health for the sake of a successful initiative.
An organization obsessed with a clean reputation that covers up for any and all scandalous behavior within its walls, denying its victims justice.
A dictatorial regime that will oppress basic rights of its citizens or, worse, actively persecute those who question, in the name of order. Or, worse, the dictator’s own wealth.
These are examples of people and groups that will “do anything” to achieve what they want, even if it means harming others or themselves in the process.
This is misguided purpose in action.
The end doesn’t justify the means
Evil, even at the most basic level (anything that is not necessarily “evil”, but the opposite of what is “good”), can never, ever be justified, and it can never, ever be nullified or neutralized by success or achievement.
Evil is evil. There’s no other side to it.
You might say, “Well, it’s for a purpose.” Well, it’s not okay to kill others just so you can live comfortably. They, too, are individuals with their own dreams and dignity, their own higher purposes.
Albus Dumbledore was right when he regretted what he did in his youth, as described in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. “For the greater good” – killing some for the long-term benefit of all – is ultimately for the worse bad.
Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas describes an idyllic society that owes its existence to the utter misery of a young boy hidden away underneath the city. Same thing – the child’s suffering cannot be justified by the society’s prosperity.
The end doesn’t justify the mean. We should give as much thought to the mean as to the end.
Because our every thought, our every word, our every deed can and will affect something or someone, positively or negatively.
That’s why we believe awareness and service are really important, that purpose should be rooted in it.
To be truly successful is to include others in your success story, not excluding or worse trampling on anyone or anything (hint: it starts with the letter “e”). Even more, the challenge is not to work for your success, but for that of others.
To be rooted in awareness and service is to know that your actions can and do affect others, and to act in accordance with that knowledge. That we are born not to be selfish little lords with others catering to our every whim, but to selflessly use our talents and abilities to help others.
This is truly good, truly purposeful living: To live with a clear goal and direction given your Life Kit, your unique set of desires, abilities, weaknesses, and circumstances – but in a responsible and selfless manner.
My business, the Roots Collective, has as its official tagline and hashtag #GetRooted. It goes both ways: what are you rooted in, and what are you rooting for?
We choose to be rooted in awareness, in mindfulness, in responsibility, in respect, in service, in love.
What about you?
Aloy Chua is the Co-Founder and CEO of TDY. His column, Today, discusses everyday living in relation to TDY’s philosophy of Higher Purpose Through Love. He’s also the co-founder of the Roots Collective, a community hub for entrepreneurs, and a freelance systems consultant and writer/editor, and loves reading about fashion, technology, travel, entrepreneurship, and healthy living. His first love is Pokémon. Find out more about living The Daily You on our About Page.