By Saara Abid and Asfa Altaf:
“The challenge for our generation is creating a world where everyone has a sense of purpose” – Mark Zuckerberg
Harvard University is for the luckiest and the most astute of all humans. Going to Harvard is in itself an accomplishment – a purpose fulfilled. A purpose in self-interest, however, is no longer potent enough to perpetuate a healthy human existence. A shift towards a self-assisted purpose in the direction of human welfare is being observed these days.
Every single one of us strives towards a purpose that we hold dear. Some are able to attain their objectives, while many others end up compromising on their goals. The sad, stark reality is that not all people who are ‘able’ achieve their targets – and not all who achieve their targets are able enough.
Mark Zukerberg, in his commencement speech at Harvard, reflects on this bare reality and comes up with a pragmatic solution.
Zuckerberg makes us believe that only having a purpose in our life is not enough to change the world. We should bring out the will to pursue this purpose in everyone, and give them the freedom to change the world with their own new ideas.
‘Purpose’, according to Zuckerberg, is the feeling that we are a part of something bigger than our mere selves and that we are needed if we are to achieve something bigger and better. As he says – “There is true happiness when we are part of something big, something that accrues benefits not just to us or our immediate concerns but to life and living on the whole.”
As an example, Zuckerberg alludes to an anecdote shared by John F. Kennedy. JFK visits the NASA Space Centre and asks a janitor what he was doing. The janitor replies, “Mr President, I’m helping put a man on the moon.” This was the happiness, the contribution of a janitor – to make another man reach the moon. It was his purpose in life to make someone reach their destination.
Zuckerberg feels that many of us are not able to pursue a purpose as we lack the luxuries to do so. According to him, pursuing our true aspirations requires a comforting back-list of essentials – a stable family, healthy parents, no back-breaking loans and emotional stability – all of which, in contemporary times, are luxuries. As he meets children from juvenile detention centres, opioid addicts, illegal immigrants and many more, Zuckerberg realises the only thing missing in their lives is a purpose. If they had the freedom to pursue their purpose, their fate would have been different. This should be the prerogative of the privileged – the ones who can afford such luxuries, the ones going to Harvard or Oxford, and the ones who have enough resources to help others seek their purpose.
Thus, we need to renew our sense of purpose. Without a purpose, there’s no point in our lives. And this purpose should endear a sense of fulfilling others’ purposes too. The role of ‘equality’, through which everyone gets the freedom to pursue their own purposes, is very important here.
1. Taking meaningful projects together
We can break a single stick easily, but not a bundle of sticks. A large number of people worked together to put a man on moon – be it the operator of the spaceflight or the janitor. ‘Strength’ should be our weapon and ‘purpose’ should be our aim. People should work together to solve problems easily, quickly – and this creates a sense of purpose in everyone. Everyone becomes motivated, and gets equal rights to participate in their purposes. And this makes our work/projects better and well-developed.
2. Redefining the idea of equality
There should be the freedom to pursue our own purpose. Many entrepreneurs have the easy choice of trying out a lot of things with their new ideas which bring progress all over world. As Zuckerberg remarks, “The greatest successes come from having the freedom to fail.”
We use economic metrics (GDP, etc.) to measure progress, which seldom present the true picture of progress. Why not explore concepts like universal basic income, so that everyone gets a chance to try out new ideas.
While teaching children at an after-school programme about entrepreneurship, product development and marketing, Zuckerberg saw that every student had the hope that one day, they would join a college to fulfill their purposes and dreams. They would also bring about change in society, by ensuring equality and freedom among the people.
3. Building communities
The belief in ‘one of us’ means that the whole world can work together to bring change. The only thing people have to do is to take a step forward and be a part of the change by building communities. By this, we can gradually end poverty, and even cure and put an end diseases, or do something worthy. In the process, we can become idols for others who will carry forward the chain of change. Coming together can help us pursue our own purposes. We can give freedom to all, new different ideas will take birth, and seeds of goodness, harmony will have their own place in society.
There will be people in our society who will ‘lock’ us and criticise us. Still, we need to create a better society for the expansion and development of the educational space and encourage more people to join it. Perhaps, we can all spend 1-2 hours a week to educate needy people, help them to reach their goals, potential, and also help them find their purpose.
One of Zuckerberg’s brightest students had no hope of joining a college as he was undocumented. On his birthday, when Zuckerberg asked him about what he wanted as a present, the boy started talking about the struggles he and his classmates faced in their daily life. At last, he said, “You know, I’d really like a book on social justice.” Despite all that was not going well for him, this little boy had the audacity to think of others!
If a high school student, who doesn’t know what the future holds for him, can do his part to help the world move forward, then we owe it to the world to do our part too.
The authors are class 11 humanities students of DPS Athwajan. They are also members of the Knowledge Farm CG initiative.