Life is not a journey to retirement

Richard Branson with his hands in his pockets and an orange and black sunset behind him
Image by John Armstrong Photography
Virgin Galactic
Richard Branson's signature
Published on 31 August 2016

'Life is a journey' is one of the most world's most commonplace analogies. So much so, it's almost lost its meaning. According to British philosopher, Alan Watts, it's terribly misworded and has become misused. As he says in the beautiful video below, life cannot be a journey as "It doesn't have some destination that it ought to arrive at." 

He explains that traditional systems of education have skewed the meaning of life (towards arriving at a destination) by placing too much importance on progressing through school and college to a career. And makes his point by saying that far too many people live to retire and therefore cheat themselves of an exciting existence.

Instead of seeing life as a journey, Alan believed we should experience it like a musical thing. Songs can playful, unpredictable, and have moments of brilliance all throughout the composition. "Same with dancing, you don't aim at a particular spot in the room because that's where you should arrive. The whole point of dancing is the dance." 

Black and white photo of Richard Branson dancing in snazzy shirt
Image from Charlie Dailey

Alan Watts had an inspired perspective. Like him, I don't believe that retirement should be the goal... instead I think happiness should be. One of my favourite quotes comes from John Lennon, who said: "When I was five years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down 'happy'. They told me I didn't understand the assignment, and I told them they didn't understand life."

One epic great thing isn't coming - everyday can be great, so long as we live in the present, stop to enjoy the moment, and find the beauty in each and every day.  

I know I'm fortunate to live an extraordinary life, but there's never been a point in my career in which I've felt I've "made it". I've never thought as work as work and play as play; to me, it's all living and learning. The way I see it, life is all about striving and growing. I never want to have made it; I want to continue making it!

Where life was a musical thing for Alan Watts, for me it's always been an adventure. Every day is different. Every day has its own high point. Every day presents a new opportunity. Which is why I decided to take part in this year's Virgin Strive Challenge