Why People Give Up On A Life Of Meaning

Josh Koerpel
Published in
4 min readNov 29, 2020


How fulfilled do you feel on a daily basis? If you’re like most, probably not as much as you’d like.

Trust me, I know this first-hand.

You’re Not Alone…

When I was 26, I was the captain of an 80 ft. sailboat in Key West. We sailed 3 times per day, everyday. And every single day without fail, this conversation happened….

[After a few drinks and feeling truthful, passenger walks towards stern (rear) where I’m at the wheel steering the ship]

[Passenger]: Hey this is amazing! Sun, sea…Florida…man, I don’t get this at home. I would have loved to do this when I was your age.

[Me]: I love it here…but trust me, there’s a lot of work involved, too! So, when you were my age, what were you doing instead?

[Passenger]: Oh, I got a job right out of school. At 26 I was working the 9–5 doing “X”.

[Note: 9 times out of 10, “X” was something they did not sound to excited about]

The ‘Liberty’ on one of our sunset sails in Key West…it’s a magical place!

[Passenger]: I always wanted to live on a boat. But yup, then life just happened. Bought a house, a car…got married. And once you have kids? It’s over, man. You don’t have kids, do you? Well, the boat thing…it just never happened.

[Me]: Hey well there’s still time, right? I know people living on boats in their 70's!

[Passenger]: Nah. It wouldn’t work now. We’ve got too much stuff. We’ve got too many expenses. Life just got real heavy, and real complicated. I’d love a simpler life, but I just couldn’t do it now!

Over the course of that year, I must have talked to 400 people who said this same thing in their own way.

So if you feel like this, you’re not alone.

Look Around. People Have Given Up.

Why does this happen? Why do people feel so empty? Remember the excitement and life you felt when you were younger…the life we all saw ourselves leading…what happened?

There were dreams and goals back then. Sure, some might have been completely naive. But most, not. Yet why do people give up those dreams up seemingly so easily?

Perhaps You’re Human And It’s Not Your Fault?

Here’s an important lesson I’ve learned about life.

Those young dreams you had? They weren’t bogged down by “logistics.” These dreams arose from a excited consciousness when life was about meaning, and nothing else. They were about you and how you felt about things. Not how other people felt, but you. Deep down.

They are reflections of your own true, meaningful pursuits.

And as you grow older you realize, in short, the pursuit of something meaningful is really, really difficult.

It’s full of challenges you expect and even more challenges you didn’t. Many times, because you’re human, you tend to inflate them. Make those challenges way worse than they actually are. People do this all the time, essentially talking themselves out of a good idea.

Why? Cause it’s really easy to do!

To just pass the responsibility to a formless, heartless state of all things outside you…all the while running from a simple, inescapable truth;

Everything around you is a result of things you did to yourself.

How To Tap Back Into Those Meaningful Dreams…

People always say ‘travel’ is important. Here’s why I think they’re right.

Having a perspective outside your normal everyday environment is necessary.

It provides a perspective that prevents you from turning inevitable bad things into absolutely worse things simply by being ignorant. Simply by “not knowing” there’s an alternative.

When you gain this perspective, it’s only then do you see your problems as they really are and get a sense you can overcome them. You’ll have something real to compare against. Some hard evidence of people’s living conditions or situations that smack you in the face and scream “Hey! Dumbass! Look how good you have it! Look how bad it could possibly be! You’re not doing too bad!”

This is precisely what I love about tall ships,..the challenges you face teach you to deal with things that are unpleasant. Things you can’t change. With shifting weather patterns and mechanical failure and all the unexpected problems the sea throws at you.

The rough and unforgiving sea can be a great teacher!

Sailing teaches you resiliency. How capable you are, or can be. This type of training is imperative to dealing with the challenges of doing something meaningful in your life. Because it’s hard. People are judgmental, tough, and unpredictable at times, just like the weather.

So Try This Today

Take 20 minutes and think about one of those dreams from your past.

Then figure out how you can work towards it this week.

I challenge you to take on the responsibility that comes with doing something meaningful…and in that sense fill your life with purpose.

What’s the alternative?

You can simply avoid the hard things in life, drifting around filling impulse desires and not pursuing any worthwhile cause.

You’re going to feel forever empty, however.

To do something meaningful means you do something that matters…that you solve a problem or contribute in a way that sets you apart from the norm. But that breaking away takes resiliency. Not everyone can do it.

But you can.

To life, amigos.