Picking right up where we left off in the preceding companion piece in which you drank coffee and chose the ultimate end for your life, we proceed to the second of wisdom’s applications. Wisdom chooses the best end, then uses the best means to achieve it. So, the wise use the best means.
I didn’t learn about the application of means and ends to my life until after I’d already confused them royally. At 17, I entered college as a freshman. I chose the college I attended because I loved the basketball team. Seriously. What was not to love? Michael Jordan had just helped the team win a national championship. Is there any better criterion for choosing a university?
So, at 17 I arrived on campus with a cooler, a stereo with huge speakers, a bong, and some albums. My pre-med roommate said he’d never seen a freshman so outfitted. I probably took his meaning the wrong way… it made me proud.
I had not just arrived on campus, by God, I had arrived in LIFE! And I was at the summit! King of my Universe! And let me tell you, as king, I had a helluva lot of fun. All my gear was put to incessant use.
2 Years Later
It took two years to realize I had selected the wrong end.
As much as I loved cheering MJ’s exploits as a man among boys at Carmichael Auditorium (this was pre-Dean E. Smith Center, mind you), the lifestyle was unsustainable. The classes were dull. My other roommate spent two hours a night on a single accounting problem. I knew that wasn’t for me. I had no conception of why I was there once basketball season ended. The football team was mediocre even then.
The wise use the best means, and I was as far from wise as I was from equalling Jordan’s skills as a basketball player. I didn’t know what means even were.
A Long, Strange Trip
So I left college with questions about life college couldn’t answer. I went on the road to follow around the Grateful Dead instead. Hey now, don’t laugh! There are worse means to use exploring the meaning of life and consciousness than Dead shows.
Anyway, after a long, strange trip, I now know what ends and means are all about. I know that college is a means to an end, not the end. And I know a job is a means to an end, not the end. Likewise, money, most learning, etc.
Once you’ve chosen wisely and selected your life mission, your ultimate end, you’ll need to determine what it will take to achieve it. What path will bring you there? What metaphorical mode of transportation?
Remember, it is not enough to casually try out the best means. You must use them diligently. Along with diligence is patience, teachability, and flexibility. The best ends take time. It takes a lot of time to figure out what value is. Then more time to know what is valuable enough to make it your life’s pursuit. Still more to adopt the best means and stick with the program.
But if it is truly valuable enough, a wise choice, and therefore worthy of the effort, don’t make the effort by all means—make it by the best means. That’s what the wise do.