What Do You Desire? — Alan Watts

What Do You Desire?

I was still in high school the first time I ever listened to the clip titled “What Do You Desire?” which is from a speech by Alan Watts. I was a very different person in high school compared to who I am today. As you’d expect, my thoughts on this clip has changed quite a bit since the first time I saw it.

High School Perspective

I was a senior in high school when I first came across this clip. I remember being both excited and nervous to turn 18 and enter adulthood, graduate high school, go to college, and start making decisions for myself. I wanted to live life my own way. What I didn’t fully comprehend at the time was that I would need to start thinking for myself too.

Like so many other millennials I know, I grew up being encouraged to be a free thinker, but was constantly bombarded with the values of my parents, friends, teachers, etc. When I was young, I reasoned that people that are older than me must know more about life than I do, so I should believe in what they tell me. This lead to an 18 year old boy that had all of these values of other people, and none that are his own.

So what does this have to do with Alan Watts? Well, the first time I listened to this clip I thought it was a bunch of bullshit. “How could he encourage people to neglect the importance of making a living?” “You can’t make money doing what you really want to do.” “Surely, his ideas and inspiration are a bad influence on society overall.” These are all thoughts that circled my mind.

I had these thoughts because that’s the way I was raised. I grew up being told to find a career that you like enough and makes good enough money. So I grew up believing that I will be happier if I have more money because I won’t have to suffer in the ways that poor people do. I was told that I will need to have money to stash into my 401k, Roth IRA, emergency savings account, student loans, college funds for my future kids, you name it. Naturally, I thought Watts didn’t understand the world we live in.

Present Day Perspective

Fast forward to a few months ago where I stumbled upon this clip again. This time, my whole perspective was flipped.

Now I wholeheartedly agree with the point Alan Watts is making. What’s the point of making money if you’re unhappy doing it? If there’s something that you’re passionate enough about, the money will come because you will become an expert at what you are doing. Everybody that wishes they could live the life that you’re living would be drawn to what you’re doing.

Yes, we all have bills to pay, but if you’re somebody that is working just to pay the bills, spend your free time working on making your dreams come true. Whether it’s painting, writing, playing an instrument, designing websites, starting a business, whatever it is work towards being the best you can be.

And don’t be afraid to take risks. You’ll never start your own business if you don’t quit your day job. You’ll never achieve what you want to achieve if you don’t throw everything on the line. Break out of that comfort zone. You will get so much further if you spend 8 hours a day following what your heart desires instead of working at a job you don’t enjoy.

I wrote in more detail about how to find what you naturally love to do in my first blog post How to Find Your True Calling in Life. I hope that my previous post and this clip by Alan Watts fuel you with inspiration.

Break the Vicious Cycle

The reason my view on this clip has changed so much is because I started thinking for myself as an adult. As I got older and gained more life experience, I came up with my own values and rules to live by. I bring this up because Watts mentions in the clip how parents raise their children to live the same lives that they live, and it becomes a vicious cycle from one generation to the next. We have an opportunity to break this cycle by spreading awareness and teaching our future children something different. We need to break the mold if we want our kids to live a life worth living. A life that is full of human emotion, passion, and fulfillment.

I’d like to close by quoting my favorite part of his speech. Now that you’ve seen the video with all of the visual stimuli, I’d like you to take a second and read the quote below. Personally, I get more out of it when it’s just me and the words on a page compared to watching a video and processing what somebody else is telling you.

We’d like to be painters, we’d like to be poets. We’d like to be writers, but as everybody knows we can’t earn any money that way. What do you want to do? When we finally got down to something which the individual says he really wants to do, I will say to him you do that.. and uhm, forget the money. If you say that getting the money is the most important thing, you will spend your life completely wasting your time
You’ll be doing things you don’t like doing in order to go on living, that is to go on doing things you don’t like doing, which is stupid!
 It is absolutely stupid! Better to have a short life that is full of what you like doing than a long life spent in a miserable way. And after all, if you do really like what you’re doing, it doesn’t matter what it is — somebody is interested in everything, anything you can be interested in, you will find others will
But it’s absolutely stupid to spend your time doing things you don’t like, and to teach our children to follow in the same track. See what we are doing, is we’re bringing up children and educating to live the same sort of lives we are living. In order that they may justify themselves and find satisfaction in life by bringing up their children to bring up their children to do the same thing, so it’s all retch, and no vomit it never gets there. Therefore, it’s so important to consider this question: What do I desire?
Alan Watts

Ah, couldn’t have said it better myself. It really is refreshing when you find somebody else that thinks like you do. Thank you for your wisdom Alan Watts! Shine on you crazy diamond.


Originally published at openmindedmillennial.com on July 6, 2016.

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