Be kind be useful

The purpose of life is not happiness, it’s usefulness.

I think nobody can define the meaning of life in a general sense. Everyone lives their own life and defines their own meaning.

In September 1965 Leo Rosten published an essay titled “The Myths by Which We Live” in “The Rotarian” magazine, and he included an instance of the saying[1]:

Finally there is the myth which gives me the greatest pain: the myth that the purpose of life is happiness, and that you ought to have fun, and that your children ought to have fun. Where was it written that life is so cheap? Where was it written that life is, or should be, or can ever be free of conflict and effort and deprivation and sacrifice?…

…the purpose of life is not to be happy at all. It is to be useful, to be honorable. It is to be compassionate. It is to matter, to have it make some difference that you lived.

Source: (google books) “The Myths by Which We Live”, The Rotarian(Evanston, Illinois) volume 107, number 3 (September 1965) 32–33 etc, page 55.

A version of this quotation is sometimes attributed, falsely[2], to Ralph Waldo Emerson:

The purpose of life is not to be happy.
It is to be useful,
to be honorable,
to be compassionate,
to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Got similar advice while listening to an interview Barack Obama did with Bear Grylls, when asked what advice Obama gives his daughters, he rhymed off this mantra: they should be useful, and be kind.

Be kind, be useful.

It’s a piece of advice that’s simple, easy to remember and internalize, and one that helps you consider other people as you act and make decisions. And it’s a nice reminder to consider what you’re able to contribute to any situation.

As far as sayings go, it’s a pretty good one to live by.

Be kind, be useful.

Read more:

[1] https://books.google.co.in/books?id=tDMEAAAAMBAJ&lpg=PP1&lr&rview=1&pg=PA33#v=onepage&q&f=false

[2] http://quoteinvestigator.com/2014/11/29/purpose/

Become a Reader

Ragged Dick Frontispiece Coates 1895.JPGDick meets the son of a wealthy man and shows him around the city for a day. Later, the boy’s father tells Dick that “in this country poverty is no bar to achievement” and relates his own rise from apprentice printer to successful businessman. He notes that there was one thing he took away from the printing office “which I value more than money.” When Dick asks what this was, the man replies:

“A taste for reading and study. During my leisure hours I improved myself by study, and acquired a large part of the knowledge which I now possess. Indeed, it was one of my books that first put me on the track of the invention, which I afterwards made. So you see, my lad, that my studious habits paid me in money, as well as in another way.”
Source: Ragged Dick: Or, Street Life in New York with the Boot Blacks by Horatio Alger Jr.

The main take away from this book is that we should strive for success not just to get a fortune, but to gain tenacity, discipline, frugality, and optimism—qualities that cannot be bought.