Finding Purpose

William Liao
2 min readJan 18, 2023

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In a recent episode of the Huberman Lab podcast, Dr. Andrew Huberman, a neuroscientist and instructor at Stanford, asked Jocko Willink, an author, podcaster, and retired United States Navy Officer who is widely admired for his exceptional level of self-discipline, “what motivates you?”

Jocko began his response by speaking fondly of his buddy Seth — sharing the many ways in which he was remarkable: outside of his role as Delta Platoon Commander in Task Unit Bruiser, Seth was an amazing writer, a guitarist, fluent in French and an avid reader of French poetry.

He was an artist.

With two years left before retirement, Jocko and Seth looked to the future and started to make plans to work together.

Sadly, those plans came to an end in 2017 when Seth died from a parachuting accident: a tragic and completely unforeseeable end.

While everyone stood silently at Seth’s wake, Jocko told his mutual friends in attendance: “we will not fail him.”

Not only would Jocko not fail Seth, but other fellow Navy Seals who also left too soon: “Marc, Mikey, Chris…and countless other guys — they’re not here. They don’t have the opportunity to do the things we do. They don’t have the opportunity to get up in the morning… I won’t fail those guys.”

The question: “what is my purpose?” is something that many contend with and, in some cases, tragically never quite find an answer to.

Though Jocko’s response is just one of many types of purposes someone can find meaning in, I do think it contains one vital characteristic that makes for a compelling purpose: it is in service of others.

Meaning: for Jocko, each day isn’t just about him — a key driver of his discipline to make the most of each day is the desire to honor the lives of those close to him who lost the privilege of being able to get up in the morning far too soon.

When you find a compelling purpose, you will know it because you will be reinforced by an unshakeable conviction to focus on what is important and to make the most of your time.

There will be times when you would normally call it quits but, when reminded of your purpose, suddenly manage to locate a second store of energy that enables you to keep pushing.

If you’ve found your purpose already, then you know this.

If you haven’t, then a good place to search is outside of yourself.

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William Liao

Taiwanese American, daily blogger of ideas about impactful work in service of others, photographer (ephemera.photography)