The Meaning of Life

33 years ago today (April 22 1983) ‘The Meaning of Life’ first hit cinema screens. The epic movie explores the fundamentals of why we exist. In the final scene the much awaited answer is delivered …

“Try and be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in, and try and live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations.” Watch here

11 years later, I boarded a plane to Melbourne to launch my own career searching and researching humans and the meaning of life. And, 11 years ago today (+ 5 months) Square Holes opened for business.

It has been a fascinating 22 years unpacking and repacking what makes people tick (half with Square Holes, the market research and consumer insight agency I’m ever so proud).

Recently I’ve shared a few posts on my views about the meaning of life based on lots of researching, talking to, observing, analysing and interpreting average and not so average people – their passions, aspirations, needs and wants et cetera. And, dealing with lots of business and government managers – big and not so big.

Here’s some highlights from a few of my popular posts over the past six months or so pondering the meaning of life (and business).

  1. The single biggest impediment to strategic growth is inaction. Second to this is moving with the wrong strategies. However, inaction is the biggest blockage. (From: Design thinking and overcoming strategic inaction 8 min read)
  2. A success story of any man or woman is less about that one man or woman and more about the stories they have been part of as a parent, friend, auntie, uncle, sibling, child, workmate, leader, follower et cetera. (From: A successful man 4 min read)
  3. In the search for the next $1Billion business idea human nature is to think BIG, as $1Billion is a big number. Yet, the most likely idea is actually small, and seemingly too simple, solving an inherent problem or just making the complex easier. (From: Finding unicorns, and how to build a ‘$1BILLION’ business … in two easy steps 10 min read)
  4. Rather than embracing the opportunities of a pessimistic market, businesses tend to act when media, business and government are consistently optimistic… when all are riding the wave, competing in the same markets and when costs and conditions are likely inflated and preparing to decline. (From: This too shall pass 3 min read)
  5. Human nature is to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s beliefs or hypotheses, while giving disproportionately less consideration to alternative possibilities. (From: The beginner’s mind 1 min read)

People are complex, yet the consistent theme over decades of research is what they really care about is their family, friends and seeking enjoyable experiences. Business and government typically significantly inflate their own importance in the world of real humans. The truth is real people actually generally don’t care much about brands, apps, ads et cetera. Life is too busy. And, there is generally a lack of robust understanding of what customers actually need and want. So, too often strategies replicate old models and follow category norms. Innovators are much discussed, yet alas extremely rare.

The meaning of life (and business) is an enigma.

I will leave the final words of this philosophical email to one of our many wise focus group participants. Recently when discussing deep and curious topics such as the meaning of a successful life …

“We live our life moving forward, yet understand ourselves looking back.”

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