Nathanael Garrett Novosel, December 25 2019

Why Write about the Meaning of Life?

"My name is Nate Novosel, and I understand the meaning of life." Bold words, I know. Let me tell you my story, and you'll come to understand my motivation and my goal with this book.

When I was a child growing up in Pittsburgh, PA, my father disappeared in the middle of the night. We didn't hear from him for six months. When we did, we found out that he was now living in Los Angeles and wanted to see us. My parents agreed to a trip over the summer the next year for exactly three weeks and two days. When I got on that plane, it was the first time I'd ever been apart from my mother. I cried and cried. But nothing would prepare me for the pain of the return trip home.

When I got into my bed my first night back in Pittsburgh, I began to feel a sinking emptiness come over me. I asked my mother if I could sleep in her bed so I wasn't alone, but it didn't help. When the trip was over (and it was just me alone with my thoughts but without my father again), I felt a pain that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. The emptiness, the worthlessness, the pain, the helplessness, the hopelessness... In between mental repetitions of, "I wish I didn't exist..." that was the first time I recall asking, "What does it all mean? Why are we here if we're just going to suffer like this?"

Now, many people have pondered that in the worst moment of their lives...but there's a wrinkle to this story. My brain thinks more like a computer than a human. Later in life, I'd find out that I show enough symptoms to qualify as a highly functioning person with Autism Spectrum Disorder...but I didn't know that at the time. At the time, a very dispassionate voice in my head is coldly analyzing my emotional response and saying, "Interesting. Why do you feel this way? Your father is in California, and you're in Pennsylvania. That's how it is. Why is this affecting you in this way?" followed by, "That's a fascinating question about the meaning of life. Why are we here? I wonder if you could figure that out?" Remember, I'm about six years old...but that's how it all started.

For over 20 years, I'd studied everything I could get my hands on in terms of content on philosophy, psychology, and human behavior. My curiosity was heightened by my then-undiagnosed ASD, as I couldn't seem to make friends or have normal interest in large social interactions. I learned so much that when I went to college and minored in psychology (I majored in business to make more money), I passed my tests with ease because I knew most of it already. I'd also studied the history and emerging trends in philosophy, from classical arguments to religious texts to The Secret, trying to figure out how there were so many different interpretations of our reality and existence.

Out of college, I secured a career in research and advisory for senior executives at the world's largest and most successful organizations. There, I learned how to dissect what makes a best practice work and how the most successful organizations solve the biggest challenges by looking at the challenge and the solution differently than everyone else. It is by far the best training I've ever received on how to think, and it was perfectly in line with my passion for understanding how things work and trying to optimize them. I applied the teachings to my life and became very successful by my measurements: I owned a home and a car, and I had a wife and a good job. After attaining everything I was told to want, I ran for the first time into asking myself what I really wanted and being surprised by my answer.

"You know...I've studied for years how the world works, and I began noticing a lot of patterns and a lot fallacies in what recommendations people provide for how to live a meaningful, successful life. Amazingly, I've found that there are several core components backed by science that if you knew how to leverage and avoided the fallacies, you could find your meaning in life. I think I finally know enough to be able to explain this to someone in a way that could help them find meaning in their lives. I could write the best book ever written on finding meaning." Explaining this, my longtime colleague and mentor responded, "Do it." Strangely, I had never explained an idea before and had someone be so unequivocally supportive, and shortly after that moment, an entire book structure flooded into my brain.

In just a few days, I had an entire outline on paper with seven core components to finding meaning. Now, I had written a book outline before, but this was different. My last book idea was too much of a list of criticisms of other people's philosophies and explaining why how the world works doesn't necessarily align with them. Meanwhile, I had just coined the phrase, "Be the better option," in my advisory conversations with executives talking about how you can't stop people from doing something they want to do but can only offer them a better solution. I told myself then, "You'll only be preaching to the choir. You won't change anyone's minds by telling them that they're wrong. You can only provide the best way of looking at things and have people interested in that answer find you." This updated mindset was in perfect alignment with this new outline.

The outline took just under seven days. The rest of the book would take just under seven years. I rewrote the entire book about four times or so, trying to improve the narrative and eliminate anything that deviated from the message I wanted to tell about how life works. Amazingly, the initial outline was mainly intact; it was the essay portion explaining each concept that needed constant revisions.

After the first draft (about a year in), I ran the draft by my wife and asked if anything was missing from the content. She said, "Where's choice? People always have a choice, and I think that's important." I tried to explain how choice was incorporated into each chapter, but my argument wasn't satisfying. She was right. So I added an eighth chapter, and the book felt complete. It was just a matter of getting it right.

The journey of editing was long and arduous. I questioned whether I could truly do the topic justice. After all, it's the ultimate topic. I also pondered the question, "I wonder whether the writers of religious texts would have written them differently if they had known how many passages were going to be potentially misinterpreted, leading to millennia of bloodshed?" I fortunately prevailed with the help of friends and family members who were amazed by the number of contrarian insights and logical arguments I had amassed in a single book. So here I am now, looking at a 1/1/2020 launch date. From here on, it's all about you.

This is where my journey hopefully intersects with yours. If you are lost, depressed, or just curious, this book is for you. I put my heart, soul, 30 years of research, and seven years of writing into this book so you can have a single, comprehensive guide to understanding how life works and meaning is found. You'll be amazed at both how simple the answers are yet how complex the explanations are. Most importantly, you do not have to follow my rules for living or any traditions or rituals that may or may not make sense for your life situation. It just offers the core components for how you can find meaning and then gives you an approach to putting them all together to find your purpose in life.

Ultimately, I fulfilled half of my life purpose—to understand the meaning of life—and am now on the path of my second half: helping you find your meaning. I am following my mantra, "Be the better option." This, in my opinion, is the best option for anyone looking for answers. I tell you how to think about life...not how to live it. It is my offer to you, and I hope you take it and find purpose in your life.

Written by

Nathanael Garrett Novosel


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