Finding purpose bottom-up and top-down

I changed the header on this website recently from “Finding fulfillment” to “Setting the conditions for success” and “Creating fulfillment.”


Doesn’t seem like a whole lot of difference between finding and creating. Yet, finding represents a bottom-up approach, presuming that what we want to find already exists. Creating represents a top-down approach, deciding on a destination then committing resources to move toward that destination.

I’m in the middle of reading How We Work (2018) by Leah Weiss, PhD. The author recommends both. Both matter. I can get from Fayetteville to Raleigh by traveling north-by-northeast 75 miles. Or I can get there by picking almost any other direction and circling the globe until one day I encounter Raleigh.

Both approaches matter. To properly use a map, one must first determine where on the map he stands and where he wants to go. Bottom-up. On that step, either substep may come first. Second, one then determines how to get there. Top-down.

The bottom-up approach led me to change the header on the website. It made me more aware of what I already find meaningful, more aware of where I stand now. If leading means taking us somewhere better, then it starts with defining better.

I find creating more in line with my understanding of leadership and meaningfulness. It represents the next step after finding. Action. Deciding to get there and how.

Whether my car keys, the tangibles, are in fact under the coach, my imagination can’t make the keys materialize out of thin air. My imagination can however make purpose, motivation, and the direction in which I choose to move, materialize out of thin air.

When we finally decide (or simply begin moving, which implies decision), why that destination? Why define better that way? We can choose.

I believe we create the choice. We don’t surrender choice to our impulses and let our bodies take control. Maybe some of us. Maybe all of us, some of the time. At least, as human beings versus other animals, we retain greater executive control.

We’re creating more than finding.


When it comes to the intangibles, to beliefs, to values, we end up finding what we’re searching for anyway. As with the way our RAS stops blinding us to something once we decide to look for that something. It was already there, we just didn’t notice before. No need to sit meditating on a mountain top for years.

My view on leadership doesn’t mean taking someone by the hand and dragging him along or coercing him toward somewhere I think he should want to go. (Well, not unless necessary and it’s rarely ever necessary.)

My view on leadership and work, and on libertarianism, means freeing others from both the internal and external restrictions to them being and doing their best. Cutting the red tape. Removing disempowering beliefs. Helping find the right tools for the job. Creating the environment, to help bring attention and focus away from what doesn’t work and onto what does. Setting the conditions for success.