Podcast Pick: The One You Feed: Emily Esfahani Smith

Lately I seem to be having similar conversations with all sorts of folks.  Some are 76 years old and others are 26.  Some have kids and others don’t.  Some are single others aren’t.  Some I know and others I’ve just met. Invariably they are spoke about the desire to do something that matters.  But during the many conversations, I felt like there was more we needed to explore but was unable to articulate it.

However, after listening to Emily Esfahani Smith speak about meaningfulness on The One You Feed, I discovered a way of speaking about the search for purpose.

Start with this question.  What makes you happy?

For me it’s a great meal.  Like the amazing kimchi soup my wife makes or the Filet Mignon Tournedos Rossini at the Wildflower Grill.  The great meal triggers a feeling like life can’t get any better. Happiness has an internal focus.

Now ask yourself, what gives your life meaning?

For me it is caring for the dog (Poppy) my wife and I triumphantly scooped up from the Edmonton Humane Society and few months ago. The act of caring for the dog reinforces my connection to something beyond myself.  It forces me to recognize purpose or value in my life that exists beyond my internal needs like family, God, nature, work, or a dog that need a home.  Meaningfulness is derived external to the self.

Additionally, Smith makes clear that meaning is not achievable through an intellectual exercise.  We can’t think our way to meaning.  Rescuing a dog from the Edmonton Humane Society holds meaning. Thinking about rescuing the dog is a plan to create meaning at some point in the future.


Finally, take a look at the career choices you see people in your network making and ask yourself, what is the driving force behind their decision?  

Near the end of the conversation Smith reveals that she believes people are making career choices based on more than money.  She articulates it as a societal shift from Material Want to Meaning Want.  The transition from the quest for money/things to the quest for knowledge/purpose.


What drives your choices?

You Couldn’t Think Your Way Out of A Wet Paper Bag!

Over the past couple of years, and as I get a little older, I find myself involved in meaningful, inspiring conversations with friends and colleagues about how we should organize our communities, organizations, institutions and systems.  Conversations about systemic change to make things better for everyone.  Like an education system that teaches real students rather than the mythical average child.  Or, on a grander scale, a global economic system accessible to everyone (The Size of the Pie).

But how do we proceed?  I know it starts with refusing to accept “That’s just the way it is” as our default. 

Then what?  I believe the answer lies in how we think. 

We need to think differently. Not better. Nor faster. Nor smarter. Most of the time we think without really thinking about it.  But have you ever stopped to think about how you justify to yourself that having a second dough-nut is a good idea? Have you ever stopped to unpack how that process happens in your head?  I never have because I’m already too busy thinking about how good the second dough-nut tastes.  

Then I began reading Dave Gray’s book entitled Liminial Thinking. He deftly unpacks the complexity of how our thoughts are created and ultimately lead to our actions.  My plan is to take you through my experience of the book as I read it, think about it and apply it to my practice.  However, Gray makes these concepts so accessible that I would recommend you give yourself the treat of experiencing it for yourself. 

Ultimately, my goal is to think differently so I can do things better.