Stumbling Towards the Purpose Within

Orange Wild Flower

I’ve long accepted the fact that the job I go to everyday shouldn’t be the primary place to go searching for self-worth and fulfillment in my life. Don’t get me wrong. That’s in no way meant to disparage any circumstance or person in my career, past or present. I’ve enjoyed my gigs fondly enough. It’s just a philosophical truism I’ve taken to believing, which helps me categorize my day-to-day activities into a larger picture.

I don’t expect that I’ll be the most recognized customer experience designer this side of the Atlantic any time soon–but those cards could be in the picture one day. Nor am I particularly motivated by the thought of making enough money for a three-story house with a four-car garage overlooking the valley (technically, I’m halfway there anyway). And don’t get me wrong again; I fully expect to be rewarded for my talent and skills.

It’s just that what’s important to my life legacy and what gives me purpose, especially given the way the cards have been dealt to me so far, doesn’t have a lot to do with the clout I may or may not gain in the professional arena.

Rather, it’s the efforts I give daily to shape meaning into this abstract thing called fatherhood. I was reminded of the simplicity of this the other day as I was trying to brighten my son’s spirits, while he was in the midst of a 2-year-old mood swing from the outer-depths of toddler hell.

Somehow, in some magical way I can’t recall nor describe, I made him do a complete mood turn-around. This must have seemed like some kind of spiritual voodoo to him. I know it certainly did to me. But I remember paying attention to my own careful orchestration of his cognitive experience and how it elicited a desired effect – much like designers across different industries get paid to do.

(Okay, I was probably making fart noises with the side of my mouth, but that’s not really the point here.)

In a few short seconds, I affected his perception, transforming his willful defiance into an involuntary smile. Cool, I thought, if only I could accomplish this long term. And then, I thought, why couldn’t I? Why can’t my role as a parent emulate some of the things I do in my profession?

It occurred to me then that something of the opposite in my secret theory of life might also hold true. Perhaps the thing that’s intended to bring me the most joy may resemble certain aspects of my professional routine. And, yes, maybe even the two can occasionally even inform each other.

Surely, the commitment I’ve made to nurture, protect, and prepare a human being for a world full of uncertainty is not so unlike my job to provide a satisfying experience to the users of [insert product with hence-forth still fuzzy requirements here].

Discovering and creating values, trust, and loyalty–these are all things that I intend to master in my role as a father. And humbling to the academic state of user experience and product design as it may sound, I think these positive attributes may also be transferred into a more practical application.

I think they may also apply to life.

There’s no shortage of days to remind me that my industry, with all of its accompanying challenges and headaches, is that much removed from the work of an intelligent creator or benevolent watchmaker, if you will. But if even a minuscule fraction of the values I strive to build can be absorbed into the work I do to live, and the life I try to shape for my child as a father, I think fulfillment and true purpose may get a run for their money on two fronts.

Because to me, that’s what true purpose is all about. And in the grand scheme of things, that’s how a legacy should be defined.