Nicolae Tanase: Dan, what is the meaning of life?
Dan Pallotta: Life is empty and meaningless. We give it all of its meaning. Sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes it’s not.
Someone looks at me in a certain way. They didn’t mean anything by it. But I have a whole meaning manufacturing machine in my head – that is informed by all of the things that did and didn’t happen to me in life – and it assigns a meaning, about which it is quite certain, to the look on that person’s face. That meaning has zero basis in reality or connection to the truth. “He hates me,” for example. In fact, he may have had something stuck in his tooth and something else on his mind – maybe he was thinking that I hate him! Alternatively, I could say to myself, “I hear what you’re saying, meaning manufacturing machine, but I actually think he’s a lovely human being.”
The meaning of life is whatever we decide the meaning of life is going to be. But it starts out empty. We add all of the meaning. As Werner Erhard has said, “Life is empty and meaningless and it’s empty and meaningless that it’s empty and meaningless.”
~Dan Pallotta is a builder of movements. He invented the multi-day charitable event industry, including the Breast Cancer 3-Day walks and the multi-day AIDS Rides, which raised in excess of half a billion dollars in nine years and were the subject of a Harvard Business School case study. He is the author of “Uncharitable: How Restraints on Nonprofits Undermine Their Potential,” the best-selling title in the history of Tufts University Press. He is the founder and President of the Charity Defense Council, a national leadership movement dedicated to transforming the way the donating public thinks about charity and change. His iconic TED 2013 Talk has been viewed more than 3.8 million times. It is one of the 100 most-viewed TED Talks of all time.
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