Meaningful Life

April 20, 2023

This page contains a transcript of the current question I’m asking. Listen here.

How do you balance the necessities of life with pursuing your life’s purpose, your creative impulse, or your art?

Or to put it another way:

How do you balance making a living with living a meaningful life?

The idea is for you to send me a voicenote which responds to this question. I will then edit together a podcast which includes your experience and the experience of others. If you know someone who would like to participate, feel free to send them this link.

For instructions on how to record and submit the note, click here.


If you have not heard my voicenote, please listen to it here for my question.

Start of Podcast

I’m Bryan Kam, and you are speaking to Clerestory. I’m hoping that you will submit your reflections on what I see to be a fundamental tension between doing what we feel we must, in terms of living a meaningful life, and what we have to do just to stay alive.

This is something that I’ve been thinking about a lot in the last few years.

As background: About five years ago, I had saved enough money to leave permanent employment. I had been working full-time in finance, which did not leave me a lot of time to pursue my creative goals.

Since then, for the past five years, I have been setting my own schedule, coming up with my own goals, and pursuing them.

On the one hand, I’m living the dream.

On the other hand, it’s required a lot of effort, and at times it’s been very tough, because I’m a very social person. I need to be around people. Even before the pandemic I was engineering all these social routines. I run a book club. I run a discussion group in Central London. And I’ve hosted many Interintellect salons both online and offline.

But during this time if I wanted to see anyone, I had to engineer it myself. This could be quite exhausting and at times it was very lonely.

I had no real external motivations of the normal variety: I made no money. I had little prestige or status. There was no interest in the parts of my work I was most excited about. I did have collaborators for brief periods of the project that I was working.

The project that I was working on started out as a novel and has since morphed into a work of philosophy, which I’m calling Neither/Nor, and which you can find out about on the podcast.

I’ve decided in the past few months to take a break which ironically means getting a job. I’m out of savings, but more importantly, I need a stable routine. I need to see people face-to-face. So I’m returning to full-time employment and I have quite mixed feelings about that.

So right now I’m asking you to record. I’d like at least five minutes but it can be as long as you want reflecting on this question.

As I shift gears and attempt to juggle my own life’s work with making some kind of income, I’m wondering how you have navigated this tension.

I’d love it if you could share:

  • your name,
  • where you’re from,
  • where you’re living now,
  • and what you do: both in terms of your life’s purpose as you see it and what you do day to day.

I’m very curious if these things are in tension for you or if they’re not. So for example, if you’re doing creative work and making a living from it, I would love to hear about that. If you are working full-time, but doing something creative on the side, I’d love to hear about that. Or maybe you’ve devoted your life to what you see as your life’s purpose and now you are struggling financially or otherwise to meet the demands of life, I’d also love to hear about that.

This does not need to be any grand artistic project. It could be raising a family, or starting a company, or doing volunteer work, or spreading a message. It could be anything you consider to be your purpose. And of course you could also still be figuring that out. So maybe you just need a bit of space away from work or school or whatever your day-to-day is in order to figure out what you want to do with your life.

Any of those are fine. I’m interested in getting completely open reflection from you. If you don’t like any of the framings that I’ve given, just say whatever comes to you. And if you wish to remain anonymous, you also don’t need to say anything about where you are or anything like that.

I’m very happy for you to say as much or as little as you like, but I would invite you to open up a bit and reflect for at least a few minutes and if you go over it’s fine.

I also invite you to share this invitation which you can find at This page will allow anyone with this link to hear this message and upload audio should they wish to do so. If there’s anyone in your life where you’re curious how they answer this question, or would like to hear about the tension that they’ve experienced, how they’ve made a success of it or how they’ve potentially had problems with it.

You can go too far in either direction: Too rigid, which I’ve done working in finance, or too open, which I feel I’ve also done in the past few years. I think it’s been massively beneficial to the project that I’m working on, but I’m also very very tired and lonely and sad.

So I’m very excited to hear your reflections on this topic. And so if you’d like to contribute please go to

So again, here’s the question:

How do you balance the necessities of life with pursuing your life’s purpose, your creative impulse, or your art?

Or to put it another way:

How do you balance making a living with living a meaningful life?

And I look forward to hearing from you.

Bryan Kam

I'm Bryan Kam. I'm thinking about complexity and selfhood. Please sign up to my newsletter, follow me on Mastodon, or see more here.