Want Performonks in your inbox? Make me smarter

Rashi Goel

Our purpose is wired into our DNA

Reading Time: 5 minutes

A tortoise and a scorpion lived in a forest, with a casual nod-if-you-see-me relationship.

One day a fast and furious flood threatened to swallow them whole. 

The only way to escape was to swim against the tide to a higher altitude.

The scorpion requested the tortoise to carry it across and, in return, promised not to sting. The tortoise, its heart bigger than its shell, agreed. 

The water was chaos. But the tortoise swam hard, legs churning like race car tyres. The scorpion, light as he was, felt like a weight tied to his back. The tortoise, stubborn as his word, kept going.

After what felt like a lifetime, the shore came into view. And then, out of nowhere, a sharp and cruel sting cut through the tortoise’s trust. 

“Why?” the tortoise gasped, “Why did you sting me? Now we’re both going to drown.”

The water filling its mouth, the scorpion simply said, “Because it’s my nature.”

When we decide our life’s purpose, are we compelled to go with what nature intended? Do we have no choice but to surrender?

I think yes. I think our ‘purpose’ is wired into our DNA.

Resist resistance

Animals did not evolve to have different brains with different functions, so they instantly act on their instincts. 

But we, as you know, evolved to have three separate brains.

The oldest part of our brain is the reptilian brain, which controls all instincts and automatic responses. 

Above that is the limbic brain, which controls emotions and feelings.

The newest part is the neocortex, which controls language and cognition.

Because of this chasm between the neocortex and limbic brain, we translate emotions into words and try to interpret them intellectually. We are not always accurate – we don’t always know what we feel and why we feel the way we feel. 

Added to this, our education system and social norms overemphasize rationality. In the race to ace exams and build reputations, we forget that our emotional brain is older than our intellect, and we dismiss emotions as weakness. 

So, we start resisting our true nature.

Now, nature whispers and gently nudges us onto pathways that lead to our purpose. But we stop listening. 

Even if we listen, we apply our intellect in the form of an elaborate pros and cons list and talk ourselves out of what nature intended.

But if we can resist resistance, a magical life awaits.

What feels like play to you but work to others?

One sign that we are walking the path of our purpose, is that tasks seem easy. 

Activities that are linked to our purpose give us energy and feel like play. 

Listen to how Jeff Bezos applied this principle to his life.

Something similar happened to me, too, when I had to choose between Finance and Marketing.

Listen for the whole body yes

In The Butterfly Effect, I have written about when I listened to nature and landed my first job.

Just a year before that too, I listened and picked marketing instead of finance.

The year was 1997, and as a high achiever, I had decided to major in finance because, you see, finance is like being the doctor of the MBA world. 

We were allowed to explore all subjects for a week before we threw our hat in the ring. After the finance class, I did not have a great feeling, but I ignored the discomfort and kept telling myself that I wanted to study finance.

Yet somehow, I found myself procrastinating, and I still held back from submitting my class picks.

Final decision day. I still remember that afternoon as if were yesterday. We had finished classes. My routine was to go to my room after lunch and start reading for the day. 

Oddly enough, I found myself walking to the library and I started reading the newspaper. I never read in the library, as I found it too cold and quiet. But there I was, reading The Economic Times. 

Did I say read? It was a struggle. I found the articles on GDP, banking, and the stock market boring, and I just could not get through them! It was an energy-drain experience.

I gave up and ruffled through the paper. It happened to be Wednesday, the Brand Equity Supplement Day. I polished it off like free pizza—quickly, joyfully, and with full focus. It was not just energy gain to all four bars, it was a ‘whole body yes!’

It was clear to me that taking up finance would be a mistake. Nature had sent me on an errand and in the process, made me experience what I enjoyed and what a mistake feels like.

The story of how Harumi Murakami became a writer is the perfect example of how our purpose is wired into our DNA. 

100% clarity is a myth

Haruki Murakami used to run a Jazz bar in Japan.

He became a writer after having an epiphany during a baseball game in 1978. He decided to write a novel and completed his first book, “Hear the Wind Sing,” which won a contest and set him off on his illustrious career.

He says, “I had no concrete image of what I wanted to write about—just the conviction that I could come up with something that I’d find convincing.”

The moment of epiphany

Another sign of the path to purpose is that we feel surprise when things start working out.

He did not have a ‘business plan’, a pros and cons list or a plan B. In fact, in a 100% irrational move, he shut down his bar to focus only on writing. 

Worth reading the full story here.

Murakami shows us that:

  1. 100% clarity is a myth
  2. all we need to do is to put in the work 
  3. razor focus on purpose and shut down all distractions 
  4. and not worry about the results

Once you start walking down the path that nature shows you, it doesn’t get easier. Even Tendulkar had to put in his practice reps. 

But the work itself becomes the win. 

See you next week with the storytelling series.