Why Do We Strive For Things We Don’t Truly Want?


I recorded the following video last month in LA at TreePeople and somehow never posted it!

It’s about striving for meaningless goals.

Specifically, I tell the story about a man I met in the movie industry who is 69 years old, and still waiting for the “big score” so he can do what he really wants in life. He was good at his job (he owned the company), but he didn’t enjoy the work.

That could have been me one day as I was on that same track.

How about you?

Watch the video here:

Now, ask yourself, is it all worth it? Are you Enjoying The Process?


  1. Great Video Karol!!!

    You are one of the most relaxing people on YouTube I think. You do a great job building to your point and explaining your perspective.

    Have you thought about writing a short book (120 pages-ish) discussing your idea of life. I think, since your trip, you could do a great book on true happiness.


    David Damron

    • Thanks Dave! I appreciate that. Yes, I have plans for a book (books, that is). First, I will get the readership of this site up to a more intense level. :)

      And more video/audio is coming. :)

    • I can’t speak for Karol, but I can tell you what it means to me…

      To me, it means that happiness, comfort, contentment, etc., cannot ever have a dollar amount assigned to them.

      Money doesn’t buy happiness. Money is only a means to an end. If you aren’t enjoying what you’re doing, day in and day out, then you’ll one day find yourself in a beautiful home, with a truckload of money in the bank…

      …and a gun barrel in your mouth, trying to decide if tonight is the night you will finally pull that trigger and bring a final, permanent end to your pain.

      Sorry for the rather explicit metaphor, but – while my own experience hasn’t been nearly that extreme – I do know exactly what it’s like to make more money than I ever imagined I could, only to wind up miserable, lonely, and as depressed as I’d ever been in my entire life – a 3+ year situation that I am only just now pulling out of.

      I don’t want to write another novel on Karol’s blog, but suffice it to say, that you have two choices:

      1) Find joy in the process of what you currently do. You don’t necessarily have to have a passion for it, but you do need to find a way to be at peace with it. After all – it’s your profession. You spend 200+ days a year and at least 1/3 of each day doing it. That’s a huge chunk of your life. Seek out a way to enjoy as much as you can in the day-to-day.

      2) Leave it behind and seek out something you ARE passionate about. Karol lists a great example in Dmitri Martin above.

      I’m not sure which one takes more courage. I suppose that answer is different for everyone. But the one thing I’ve learned over the past few years is that you MUST walk one of those two paths if you have any hope of finding peace, contentment, and yes – happiness, in life.

      • Mike,

        Thank you. You don’t have to ever worry about feeling like you’re writing too much or too little. It’s all good. :)

        Your explanation of the situation is pretty spot on. I feel like we may have had parallel experiences in the past 5-10 years.


    • The post image is kind of explained in the home page excerpt: “Striving for something you don’t want is as useful as burning money…”

      That doesn’t really tell the whole story, but Mike did a good job of getting to the core of what that was about.

  2. Powerful post. LA is the city of broken dreams. I used to travel there frequently when I worked for TRW. Wrote and recorded songs as a hobby and would try to shop them in LA when I traveled there on business. Not much success. So I left the defense industry for a few years and had a children’s music company. It was the most fun career I have ever had. I wrote songs and played guitar every day.

    It is great that you have this wisdom about doing what you really want and do it now. I grew up in a family like the guy you talk about. I don’t know why people think they have to do a bunch of other things instead of what they want. Maybe when we don’t know the next step, we look for some distraction that feels like we are still moving even in some kind of parallel universe. But motion should not be confused with progress.

    All films get funding, the guy should be working on story boards, funding, and the whole project he wants to do, as you suggested.

    Love visiting this blog. You are awesome and inspiring.

    • Thank you Erin. “I wrote songs and played guitar every day.” That sounds great!

      “I grew up in a family like the guy you talk about.” – I feel like that may be Standard American Life.

      I’m not sure if all films get funding. But working on a film he loves even while working on films he dislikes (his job) would probably make for a much more fulfilling life.

  3. Great vid, Karol and great story. A lot of us use the ‘some day’ line and never think that we’ll be saying it when we’re 69. I think this post really emphasizes what you post ‘tick tock tick tock’ was saying.

    • Thanks Tom! We all get caught in the “some day” trap. When it happens these days I’m much more aware. Once we’re aware of the “some day” we can more easily change it to “today.” :)

  4. I think its the covering up of an emotional need we have. Most of us don’t develop to true adulthood and still have the need for approval through things that we needed as a child. Striving for money is often the striving for appreciation and respect on some level rather than wanting to experience financial abundance.

  5. I was caught in that scenario for a long time until my life came crashing down and I lost everything. My career, family, and ended up homeless for a short period. Chasing money and ideas that are pointless caused me to lose everything.

    I’ve been rebuilding my life through blogging. I love this medium of voice and hope to make it my career.

    Great post Karol…

  6. Ha! ‘Striving to achieve something you don’t even want’. That’s exactly what I’m trying to stop, this year. I’ve been in radio 12 years, and I actually have a really good shot, even a potential offer at a great radio station to move me away from a gig that I have now in a big market, to move me to an even BIGGER market and make me even more money.
    The Problem?
    I cannot stand one thing about radio anymore.
    My fiance actually left the film industry for some of those same reasons you were discussing and is now pursuing a completely new career in Occupational Therapy.
    Me? I’m currently waiting on post-production of a tv show that I created and am getting ready to pitch (somehow) to cable. I had every reason to stop me, except for the one silly voice inside my head just saying “try it!”
    We’ll see. It’s way more exciting than landing that next job just because you can.

    • Hey V, thanks for sharing!

      I’m wondering if the entertainment industry in general has more unhappy people doing what they don’t want than other industries. If nothing else, you guys are more vocal. Meaning, I’ve heard more stories about unhappiness in entertainment than anything else.

      From the outside looking in, TV/Radio sounds pretty exciting. But if you’re not into it nobody is forcing you. :)


  7. Funny you should say “from the outside looking in”. That’s what I said when I first met my fiance, and he said the same thing to me. We each thought the other’s careers seemed so exciting and it was quite funny when we both confessed we each hated our own jobs! I think it’s when we fell in love. :)
    That’s why we think it’d be REALLY interesting if the tv thing were to pan out. It’s essentially starting out as a creative head, which is what all of us really want to do, anyway.
    Radio/TV/Film has lost a lot of the creativity due to money concerns, and I think if you get to be somewhat in control of that, there may be some sanity left at the end of the day.
    Or not.
    THIS is what I want to find out!

  8. Great post! I actually just wrote one tonight (that will post tomorrow) about how we tend to buy into the “perceived benefit” of things versus the actual functions of them. For example, we don’t buy a pair of $150 jeans because they cover our butts and keep us warm – we buy them because we think they will make us look rich and skinny. But ultimately, we’re no better off after we buy the jeans than we were before…and we basically lost $150. Keep up the good content!

    • Thanks Lauren. Yeah, the “perceived benefit” is what marketers learn (and are taught) to go after.

      On another note, just clicked through to your site and I’m looking forward to more. I ran a couple drop ship Yahoo Stores back in the days. :)

  9. Really great post and video! I switched majors three times during college, each time refining what I really wanted to do and what I was passionate about, while other people I knew stuck doggedly to majors they had chosen their first semester. They stuck with their major because they had already sunk time and effort into classes for it, despite the fact that it was no longer something they were passionate about. I have less class-time in the major I ended up in than most folks do, but I also now have a more varied background, and what I lack in “official” education, I have made up for with self-instruction. Sticking to something after you know you’re no longer interested in it is just a waste of life.

    • hehe, that hits home because I stuck with a major I didn’t want! I wasn’t strong enough in my convictions back then. There is no way I’d waste my time on something I didn’t want these days.

      • Thankfully I was raised by two parents who both lived lifestyles similar to what is popular among the “lifestyle design” crowd today. Neither let anyone else tell them what they could or couldn’t do, and both pursued their passions (my mother is photographer and my dad is a graphic designer). Both of them did go through periods in which they tried to please their parents or society and then realized that it didn’t make them happy. I’m so glad they imparted that knowledge onto me when I was young, because it ended up being an integral part of my worldview.

        I also went to a college (Hampshire College – take a look) that encouraged independence and the evolution of a personalized field of study. I think that if I had been at a more traditional college, I would have probably not been able to switch my studies around so easily.

  10. Karol,

    I recently discovered your work and I am thrilled that I did.

    I, too, am an accomplished striver, successfully achieving “important” goals that were suddenly not so important once the goal was met. Quite often the picture of the steak on the menu looked a lot better than it tasted. What’s cool about life is that if you really pay attention to it, life will let you know what it is you need to be doing.

    Too often the noise of Madison Ave drowns out that voice of life with glitzy ads selling me on a “better life” than the one I have right now. We all jump on that bandwagon because that’s what everyone else we know and admire is doing. Fortunately for me, the empty lessons learned from achieving what I thought I wanted has taught me that I never really needed that stuff anyway.

    I’m happy that I was able to jump off that bandwagon and began walking back to my real self, the self that has always been the only thing I really ever needed. I have rediscovered my self, and have learned to appreciate all that I am and all that I have already in my life. No things will ever make me happy.

    My new goal is to fully realize my innate potential. We are all here to fully develop our unique combination of talents, gifts, and abilities and then share all that we are with the world. As I’ve evolved to this level of higher responsibility, I feel it is my obligation to be all that I can be and offer it to the world. That’s the reason I started blogging…not for money, nor for fame. Perhaps my experiences can enlighten others that it’s not about the stuff on the outside that matters.

    Thank you for sharing your talents, gifts, and abilities with the world. I think it is quite awesome!

    Looking forward to future posts…and diving into the archives!


    • Hi Peter,

      Thank you! I appreciate your comments.

      “Fortunately for me, the empty lessons learned from achieving what I thought I wanted has taught me that I never really needed that stuff anyway.” Exactly. I learned the same lesson. I wonder if it’s possible to learn that lesson without actually going through it?

      Have fun fully realizing your innate potential! :)


  11. In my opinion, the reason people strive for things they don’t want in life is because we are taught from a young age not to take risks.

    Following your passion usually involves risks. Risks which can lead to not a decent-job, little benefits, low pension rates.. and etc. – Well, we’re taught to think of it that way.

    To tell you the truth, I recently started thinking that I should follow my passion. I have TRULY accepted that actually. I shouldn’t just say that I’m “thinking” it.

    Personally, I have found that it’s the people you surround yourself with. I really like the concept of spending time with the “right-people”.
    i.e. my parents wanted me to become a doctor, people in my program wanted to do the same thing (competition)…. I did too… but really… nope! If I could do what I really want in life, then hell no.

    I graduated with a medical sciences degree last year. I’ve written the admission tests to grad school, I have applied and have done interviews… but you know what if I get accepted, I won’t take it. Jeez, thinking about that. If I end up trapping myself in something I don’t like…. I’m going to be a dreamer the rest of my life, like the fella you mentioned in the video.

    Thanks for the wise words.

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