Finding and Achieving Your Unique Purpose

The post is mostly a compilation of excerpts from the podcast episode of Huberman Lab that I listened to back in December 2023 and found really valuable to me. There are also some of my interpretations and thoughts along the way. I decided to share these hand-written notes about the episode because I thought that it might be useful for others too. I hope it will help someone too.

Source: https://overcast.fm/+2-B9nqcDQ


In this episode, my guest is Robert Greene, multiple New York Times bestselling author and expert on human psychology and behavior both at the individual and group levels and in the context of relationships, careers, and society. We discuss how to find, pursue and achieve one’s unique life purpose, and how to best learn from good and hard experiences along that journey. We discuss power dynamics in relationships, the different types of human communication and the interplay between seduction and vulnerability. We discuss how to find the right romantic partner, improve healthy self-awareness, the link between anxiety and creativity, and pick ideal mentors and role models. Robert also discusses his recent stroke and what he has learned from his near-death experience about motivation, urgency and appreciation for life. Listeners of all ages will benefit from Robert’s insights on navigating the process of building a deeply purposeful life and enhancing one’s relationship with the self, others and society.


Being a human being is not easy as opposed to an animal because we are born and nobody gives us like a directional. Our parents might be a little bit, our college, teachers, mentors, etc., but generally we’re on our own. And it’s a very very difficult process. You wake up in the morning and you don’t really know what you can do, you can choose 12 different paths, it can be very confusing and overwhelming. When you find that sense of purpose, when you find what I call yours life task, everything has a direction, everything has a purpose, your energy is concentrated, it’s not just like you’re going down a single narrow pathway, it’s not like life becomes boring. It’s actually the most exciting thing that can ever happen to you, because you never have that lost feeling. You wake up in the morning and go “yeah, that is what I need to accomplish”. I genuinely wish that everybody could find that kind of internal radar. It’s not easy and I understand that.

When you’re born, you’re a phenomena, you’re unique, your DNA has never occurred in the history of the Universe. You are one of a kind. That is your source of power. To waste that is just the worst thing you can do in your life. What the power is, is finding that uniqueness, what makes you you, and how you can mind that, and how you can deepen into it and use that to create a career path.

You make a choice based on the need to make money. Everyone needs a lot of money. Not everyone makes that choice, but some people do that. I understand that need, you need to make a living, but that is a very bad path, because you’re not connected emotionally.

Identify your primal inclinations and accept yourself as you are.

How do you find that when you get older? We have to go back, dig and dig further to find on what to focus and return to our internal compass and stick to it.

The Process of Self-Discovery

Try different things and don’t frame yourself. Get the feeling in as many forms as possible. Find the current, you will feel things go easy and everything is connected.

A lot of intelligence is not verbal. You absorb things. Both what you love and what you hate are important. You have to practice, and that gonna require love to it. Energy and motivation can come from pressure.

There’re things that excite you in a quick way where you have to relieve some tension, and there’s entertainment and pretty immediate gratification. Then there’s a larger picture of something that will give you fulfillment over years to come. So you can feel that when you’re older and you can pay attention to it. A lot of the times we’re paying too much attention to the immediate pleasures of life, what is considered instant gratification. And that’s what we’re graving for. The process is deeper than kind of I like that thing or I don’t like that thing.

The problem in the world today is that you’re not paying attention to yourself. You’re not inside your own head. You don’t hear those voices. You don’t hear what you like and don’t like anymore. Because there’re so many other distractions going on. You’re always tuned to what other people like because you’re social media.

As opposed to disengaging, backing off from that and looking at yourself and going through the process of “It is not me, I don’t like that”. These are definite signals that you should pay attention to, they mean this is not a good direction, this is a waste of time for you.

In general, I tell people self-awareness, being able to hear those voices to understand that your frustration is telling you something. You should understand why you’re frustrated, why you’re not liking your career, why you’re not happy about where you’re going is the key to everything. If you’re can listen to where these emotions come from then they’re useless, they’re not teaching you anything.

When you’re truly connected you have that sense of flow and three hours can pass by, and you’re not even aware of it. So time is totally subjective experience, it can be extremely slow and tedious, and you feel very depressed, or it can pass by, and with it passing by you’re not even noticing it, and it’s a wonderful experience. When I’m deep in my writing I’m not aware of the time passing, I’m so involved, so immersed to deeply deeply pleasurable experience of time, it is sublime.

Power Resources

When we talk about power it is a resource, it can be used or not used. It can be expressed in different ways and can be accessed in different ways. When we talk about power a lot of people embrace themselves, think this is about manipulation and so on and so forth. Actually there is power dynamics, for example between mentor and mentee, teachers and their students, and both have power. In a romantic relationship there is a power exchange, there are yeses and noes, there are maybes, there are some contracts like “I do this because I want to”, it is about being safe and feeling safe, or make an illusion of feeling safe, and all sorts of complicated human dynamics.

How would you define power in terms of functional definition like in interpersonal dimension? Why do you think power is so essential to all relationships? Why can’t it be something else?

The way that I define power is I try to take it away from that negative context that many people define, and I bring it to something very primitive and very primal: the way that human being is wired, the feeling that we have no control over our environment, now the sense that you have no control over your career, over your children, over your parents is deeply deeply immiserating, and it compels us to act in certain ways either attempts to find positive ways of power or doing what you call coward ways of getting power, you know, passive aggressive, what traditionally passive aggressive means. So it is deeply wired in us that we want a degree of control over the immediate environment and immediate events. We can never have complete control, and the idea of complete control is nonsense. It will actually be very ugly because you want a degree of letting go, certain circumstances come in, etc., etc. So, the sense of you want to feel like with other people and relationships, that you can influence them, that you can move them in certain directions either to get them to love you and treat you better or either just stop annoying and irritating behaviours, or either wake up, do fine and do productive activities, etc. You want to have the ability to influence people, to move them in certain direction either in your interest or their interest. We are embarrassed by our desire and our need to control, every human being has it. You can’t just force people in the direction. People are tricky, they are wearing masks, they pretend to do one thing, they say they do the thing and actually do another, they have their egos and they can react in ways you don’t expect.

Power is kind of invisible realm that envelops society. People are battling each other and struggling in it but no one is like talking about it, no one saying “this is exactly what I’m trying to do”.

When you enter the social world and the career world you’re not expecting these battles, no one taught you, no one trained you, parents don’t train you, nobody trains you, and you make mistakes, and you realise how critical people are, if you’re a sharky character, there’re certain percentage of them, you realise “wow, I can deceive people, I can manipulate them and get what I want, I can pretend to love them and they will fall for me, I can do all that other stuff”, but for most of us, the 95% of us who aren’t sharks it is very disturbing to enter this world and suddenly see all that invisible power games, no one gives you any advice or helps you. Take it out of the realm of it just trying to dominate the world, and manipulate, and exploit, and abuse, it is inside of you, you have this need, and your suppression of it will only make it come out in passive ways, and you’ll be able to control certain things.

Learning the subtle little dynamics of power is extremely essential because we are social animal. It doesn’t mean that you’re gonna get dirty, that you’re gonna suddenly go out there and manipulate the hell out of people. Most of the power is about defence, how to defend yourself from the sharks out there, how to defend yourself from making classic mistakes, like outshining the master, like talking too much, like arguing with people instead of demonstrating your ideas, on and on and on. It’s not an ugly thing, it’s actually makes your a better social individual.

Power is definitely connected in some way to that inner sense of what you’re meant to do, and you feel it with ease and connection that comes from it.

To achieve the pleasures that are awaiting you you should let go of your defences, of all of your natural resistance factors, and opening yourself up to other people is the key to not just a romantic relationship, but to career success, to mental energy, to creativity, to being open in general.

Emotional and intellectual connection

The sense of finding people whose qualities you admire. We don’t learn from people just by following their ideas, we pick up their energy, their spirit. It is not verbal, it is kind of a non-verbal communication going on, you’re internalising some of the positive qualities that you saw in them, and finding this series of mentors, how I call it “surrogant parents”. You can’t choose your father and mother, but you can choose these ideals for you, these mentors, you can kind of rewrite your family history, but it has to be someone that you connect to emotionally and intellectually, and it has positive qualities you wish for yourself.

A mentor relationship takes work, it takes courage, because you have to actually go up to somebody and physically ask for their help, and a lot of people say “I’m afraid of asking the support of powerful person, to be their mentee”, so it involves a sense of social courage where you have to literally engage with another human being who you admire, who you think is powerful, so it’s building your social skills, etc., but it’s a skill you develop, you can’t just follow someone, you can’t just watch their lectures, you have to engage with them, and you have to get over some of your fears and your anxieties in the process.

Engaging in various “tools” that they recommend is tremendously helpful, like curing about a book is great, reading a book is even better, thinking about a book they read is even better than that, and then writing down your own ideas that’s the big win, translating in a number of different endeavours.

You want to be able to think for yourself. So you’re not just absorbing ideas from other people and kind of mimicking them, kind of learning the exteriors of their ideas, you want to digest them and have them slowly becoming your own ideas by interacting with them, by creating and putting them through your own lens.

Ideas can be either alive or they can dead. An alive idea is something that enters your brain from an external source, a philosopher, an article of somebody you admire or somebody you hate, and then you absorb it, you think about it, and you decide “I’m gonna turn it around into this, and I’m gonna make it alive, gonna make it something that’s part of me”. Another part of an alive idea is you have an idea that comes from a book or a project or something about the world, and you go “maybe that’s actually not true, maybe the opposite is true”, and you go through a process, you cycle through it on and on, and you reflect on it, and you refine this idea, and maybe it turns into its opposite. Through the process of reflecting, and correcting, and revising it you turn it into something living, something alive within you. What prevents people from going through that process is basically anxiety, because I think how you handle anxiety is the most important kind of quality and it will determine whether you will be successful or whether you will find your career path or whether you won’t be able to. Anxiety is the signal to you that you don’t understand something, that there is a problem out there that you can’t resolve. What happens to most people if you’re insecure is you clum onto something instantly easy to get rid of your feeling of anxiety: “I don’t understand this problem, oh, it must be A, A must be the answer because this person said that”. So you don’t develop the ability to think, you don’t have the ability to go to the next level. If you take that anxiety and you start questioning, you’re able to surmount your anxiety, you go pass it and further and further, you don’t rush for the first available answer that’s out there. You’re able to go through the process of refining things.

In your career if you’re anxious for success and you’re anxious for money you gonna make the wrong choices, but if you’re able to deal with it anxiety and say “maybe I have to think more deeply about where I’m going, I have to come up with other alternatives”, then you can make a much better choice.

The ability to deal with anxiety and to not get into the most instant gratification that you can get is to me a marker of somebody who be creative and will invent something as opposed to people who just recycle all that dead ideas.


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