Avoid Vain (Empty) Pursuits in Life

Dear friend,

It is difficult to say what is worth pursuing in life. It is easier to say what is worth avoiding in life!


Don’t pursue things which are vain. Don’t be fooled– it won’t take away the pain.

The word ‘vain’ comes from the Latin: ‘vanus‘, which literally means “empty”.

In modern society, when we say ‘vain’, we mean to say “self-centered” and thus “evil”.

However, I prefer to think of ‘vain’ as empty.

Why are vain (empty) pursuits in life a waste of time?

I think in order to live the best life, we must pursue what is truly meaningful, massy, and with weight and purpose-substance.

I’ve discovered from my personal experiences in life, here is a list of vain (empty) pursuits in life. Pursuits that you think will make you happy, but once you achieve them and experience them, actually doesn’t fulfill you. Instead, you feel slightly indifferent afterwards– and you still feel “empty” (vain) inside:

  1. Owning stuff: There is a lot of stuff I wanted to own when I was younger– a digital Leica camera, car, money, etc. But once you get it– it doesn’t fulfill or fill you up. You obtain that thing– then over time, you feel indifferent to it (hedonic adaptation).
  2. Traveling the world and seeing fancy and exotic places: I always thought I would achieve true happiness once I was able to travel the world, and see all these interesting and exotic places. However after traveled a lot of the world, I don’t feel ‘fulfilled’. In-fact, traveling a lot makes you feel a little more restless, less satisfied with the spot you currently are. We get suckered into thinking that a happier life is in a different place. As my buddy Seneca says, “What you need isn’t a change of place; but a change of soul!”. Morale of the story: we need to change our souls via introspection, thinking, writing, creating– not just by traveling.
  3. Fame: I’m famous in photography circles. Yet, trust me– fame isn’t as great as people make it seem. Ultimately there are some benefits of fame, but for the most part– it isn’t super-substantial, and doesn’t make you feel “happy” or “fulfilled”.

What is truly fulfilling?

A list of things which actually do make my soul feel fulfilled (filled with purpose):

  1. Helping empower others
  2. Making stuff (writing, photos, videos, poems, art, etc)
  3. Deep and engaging conversation with loved ones
  4. Coming up with new ideas, and consuming great ideas
  5. Pursuing things which interest you for the sake of it

What oceans yet remain for us to sail!

There is still a lot of uncharted territory and sea. Don’t get jaded.

Avoid empty and vain pleasures, and seek substance, and fulfillment through doing, creating, and introspecting.

Now put wings on your feet; and turn up the heat!!!

Stay lit,


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