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How to Build Something Meaningful at Any Age

Building something meaningful doesn’t depend on age, location, or any other superficial excuse. It depends on clarity, value and purpose.


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Jonas Ressem

4 months ago | 4 min read
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3 psychology-based steps you can take to impact the market

I felt manic. I had just launched a clothing brand that focused on ‘healthy body, healthy mind’, as the slogan so neatly expressed it.

I was in my early twenties, impatient to make my mark on the world. And I thought, in my frenzy, that this would be a meaningful stride. A few months later, however, I couldn’t do it anymore. It didn’t feel meaningful to me.

Now, three years later, I take a different approach. I’m still into the idea of building something meaningful, but I’m patient. I know I have time.

The Market Doesn’t Care About Your Age. It Cares About the Product.

On the other end from where I was, there’s people who are reluctant to build something meaningful.

A common impression I get is they feel they’ve grown too old. They’ve been drifting, for whatever reason, and questions their ability to build something so late on.

But no matter where you find yourself, realize that neither place is better. Age is irrelevant. What matters is creating something that the market wants; something it sees as meaningful. And that doesn’t depend on age, location, or any other superficial excuse. It just depends on your knowledge how:

Lessons on Building From Life Itself

Look, I’m not a marketer. I am, however, close to finishing a master’s degree in organizational psychology. And during my education, I’ve noted something on how to build meaningful things.

Drawing upon modern meaning-theory, a meaningful life needs to be clear, valuable, and have a purpose. And the same can be said for the life of a product:

  1. It must serve a clear function.
  2. It has to feel valuable to its users.
  3. It must provide a purpose.

Let’s explore these conditions further:

#1 Serving a function

In your mind, meaning is made when you create knowledge within a larger network. In society, meaning is made when you create a product within a larger network. Common to both is that the creation has to fit into the network; it needs to serve a clear function.

For example, when Johannes Gutenberg invented his printing press in the 1400s, it served a clear function to the market: it mechanized the book printing process, thus improving both the quality of books and the time it took to make them.

If, on the other hand, Gutenberg had invented a press that diminished the quality or took longer time than the established methods, the market wouldn’t be so accepting of it.

In terms of getting rich, the investor and philosopher Naval Ravikant noted something about the market fit. He said:

“You will get rich by giving society what it wants but does not yet know how to get. At scale.”

Following this logic, building something that already serves a function won’t provide much meaning. However, clarity of function isn’t the only thing that matters. A product can compete in value (thus changing the meaning of the product as well).

#2 Providing value

For a life to feel meaningful, it has to be valued, or worth living in other words. The same is true for a product. In order to build something meaningful, it has to be worth it. And this is true on two dimensions.

  • First, potential users must find it valuable. For example, if you can’t provide meaning through pure function, you can still compete on value; such as the price, design or service (which consequently changes the meaning of the product in the end).
  • Secondly, you must value it yourself. As for my case, building a clothing brand I perceived to be meaningful to the market, didn’t provide that same sensation to me. Had I incorporated more things I valued, such as exploration, intellectual stimulation or creativity, perhaps I would have continued. To build something meaningful, you have to value the building process. And that helps fulfill the third condition.

#3 Providing purpose

Because life is lived over such a long time, having a sense of purpose is of utmost importance. To have a purpose is to have a central aim in life, something with nobility and breadth of impact that allows you to endure. And so it is for a product.

Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist that survived the Nazi concentration camps, was one of the first to formulate the idea of purpose. He said:

“A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the “why” for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any “how”.”

In order to build something meaningful, it must endure, or be sustained over a longer period of time. To illustrate, a product that gets off the market as quickly as it got on it, isn’t very meaningful compared to a product that’s sustained.

If, for example, penicillin had been taken of the market just after displaying its amazing effects, its meaningfulness would have dropped markedly. Luckily, its continuation makes it one of the most meaningful things ever built.

The Takeaway

Building something meaningful doesn’t depend on age, location, or any other superficial excuse. It depends on clarity, value and purpose.

The products that are clear in usage, provides value to its users, and allows for sustained use over time, are bound to become meaningful.

The question is, what are you building?

Want to live a more meaningful life? Get my free PDF here.

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Jonas Ressem

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From Norway. Building onliving.life. Exploring life through psychology, philosophy and entrepreneurship. Come explore with me: http://eepurl.com/dAtfdv


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