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Between Two Philosophies: Birth/Comfort/Death vs. Birth/Impact/Death

By Peng T. Ong


At first, as a founder, then, as a VC, I interact with many people, which requires my understanding of what drives them.


What I realized is that in our quest to go beyond our survival, we end up with one of two philosophies of life. I am not writing about these two paths because I am promoting a “right” philosophy for all. I am writing about this because, ultimately, I believe clarity is what leads to a satisfying and well-lived life.


Birth/Comfort/Death. Living is tough. As human beings, many of us don't make it through the full life cycle after birth. Comfort starts with the privilege of not having to worry about survival. As we age, our priorities revolve around having and increasing pleasant moments in a luxurious and low stress life. Most of us who've ever existed don't even get to a modicum of comfort for most of our existence. So, comfort might be a given if you're born with a silver spoon, but it eludes the bulk of humanity. Even with a simple B/C/D goal, only a few (but an increasing number) are able to achieve the C before the end of the game, D. But the goal of the B/C/D philosophy is to try to achieve some level of Comfort for as large of a chunk of your life as possible.


Birth/Impact/Death. Living is tough. And you can define the purpose of living as a journey to help the folks around you have a less tough time experiencing it... to have an impact on those around you... Or to increase the comfort of those around you ... not just for yourself. That's what Stoics believe in. That the purpose of life is not about yourself, but how you can make a dent in the universe for others... or, as the Romans would say: “to try to achieve virtue”.


By now, you would have classified yourself (correctly or not) into one of these two categories: B/C/D or B/I/D. You might be tempted to analyze yourself as to why it is one or the other. But you will soon realize that, ultimately, it is a good thing that you have decided on one, and that you can be clearer when you create your strategies to achieve your purpose.


I am not trying to make judgement as to which choice is the "right" one. But I am trying to get you, dear reader, to consider your choice. Between the two events that all of us will experience, Birth and Death, is a life that you can choose -- a struggle for Comfort or a struggle for Impact. The beauty of entrepreneurship, especially these days, is that a struggle for Impact might ultimately lead to a life of Comfort.


Choose wisely. Choose from your heart.


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