Adam Leipzig only needs five minutes to help you find your life purpose

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Adam Leipzig @TEDxMalibu (photo: LyVell Gipson)

Adam Leipzig’s 2012 TEDxMalibu talk lasted around 10 minutes but more than three years later, it still resonates with viewers.

“It has been so overwhelming and so flattering to see the way so many people have watched the talk and responded to it,” he said. “I get easily 20 emails a week from people who have seen it; either giving me feedback about it or asking me questions.”

Leipzig said he feels a responsibility to answer everyone who writes to him about his talk titled “How to Know Your Life Purpose in 5 Minutes.”

“I get half from people who say ‘Wow, I found that TEDx talk at exactly the right moment and it has transformed what I’m doing, who I am, how I’m doing it – thank you,” he says. “And the other half are people generally who are younger, in their 20s or college age, who are puzzled about how to respond to some of those questions about themselves; often they don’t really know what they want to do yet or they’re not really sure they enjoy doing it that much and they’re trying to search out those things.”

Leipzig’s talk was conceived during his 25th college reunion at Yale. While there, he was surprised to discover that 80% of his classmates felt unhappy. It was a striking percentage because it seemed so many of the people who described themselves that way were destined (at least while in college) to feel otherwise. Those who were happy with their lives, like Leipzig, didn’t have career-track college degrees. While in school, they had taken classes strictly for the joy of taking them and had subsequently progressed through life accordingly, pursuing careers that were above all, satisfying rather than a way to earn a big paycheck.

“Our markers were not bank accounts,” he says. “Now let’s be clear, I love bank accounts, but that was not our motivation in life; we had other motivations and financial things come along the way but that’s not why we entered into the world.”

Leipzig said he was nervous before giving his talk and practiced it a lot in his living room before walking onto the TEDxMalibu stage. He feels the step-by-step guidelines he proposes in his talk made it much more accessible to viewers.

“I think it’s really helpful to give people guideposts for how to do something because ‘be happy’- that’s a really great piece of advice – but how do you really do that?” he says. “We have a lot of unhappy people in this world… what I tell people often about this process is its simple but it’s not easy.”

The five questions Leipzig recommends that you ask yourself to find your purpose are:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you do?
  • Who do you do it for?
  • For the people who you do it for: What do those people want or need?
  • And what did those people get out of it? how did they change as a result?

“All of those five things you need to know, only two are about yourself, three are about other people,” he says. “That formulation forces you to be outward facing …the most successful people in any field always focus most on the people they serve than how they are serve themselves; happier people make it a point to make other people and if you make other people happier, life teaches us, we will be taken care of, too.”

Since the talk, Leipzig has been teaching at the University of California at Berkeley where he challenges his students to ask themselves the same questions but with a business model in mind. He has written a couple of books and launched a digital cultural weekly magazine, Cultural Weekly, that is an open platform for people to “talk about the cultural fabric of our lives.”

“For me, [the talk] also transformed how I do what I do and a lot of what I do now is information sharing.”

Does he have another TEDx talk in him? “I would have to figure out one that would be that good!” he laughed.

Check out his talk below:

2 Comments

  1. Amy Li

    This seems a guideline for people to live a happy life and fine the life meaning or values.

  2. I watched and enjoyed Adam’s talk earlier this year.

    I find the 5 step process he mentions is very good from a marketing perspective. For example, when meeting a person who asks, “What do you do?”, saying something like “I help people to prosper and grow financially and gain financial independence for their retirement”, promotes a much stronger interest than just saying, “I am a finance broker”.

    And obviously there are many people who believe that they have found their “life purpose” and who gain enjoyment from pounding away at it like a jackhammer day in and day out – it is their whole life.

    There are others, as Adam says above, “And the other half are people generally who are younger, in their 20s or college age, who are puzzled about how to respond to some of those questions about themselves; often they don’t really know what they want to do yet or they’re not really sure they enjoy doing it that much and they’re trying to search out those things.”

    I don’t believe that it is just young people who are in that mode. Many go through life that way. Does that make them any less happy? No always. Some people actually do gain purpose and happiness in living the “smorgasbord of life”.

    But I think that if we take what Adam (and many others) is saying too literally, we also run the risk of being unfulfilled and unhappy.

    When people live for just one purpose like that, their lives will become seriously out of balance. Things like health and relationships quickly suffer. I am also sure that if they have no other passions or purpose, they are just plain “boring”.

    So I would propose a third option, and that starts with knowing the broad picture of your life. That will probably start with your career (Working Life) and being passionate about it and being happy and making others happy in it, but also recognise that you may have a Social Life, a Family Life, A Physical Life for your health and wellness, etc., plus a Spiritual Life, etc. There are nine life areas that I can think of that covers all we are and do as human beings.

    Look to find your purpose and passion in those areas as well. Do the things, day by day, that make you and those around you happy.

    Keep these passions alive so that life will continue in all its wonder when the time for retirement hits and you are not left with just a big empty hole in your life.

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