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The Purpose of Life?  Little Things Mean A Lot

By Shlomo Maital    

Little Things    

In a recent blog, “Disney Theory of Life” (April 14),  I referred to David Brooks’ New York Times column about the purpose of life.   I offered my own theory,  based on the Disney World mantra, “Make People Happy”.

     In today’s New York Times, Brooks returns to this theme and quotes emails he received from readers.    “I expected most contributors would follow the commencement-speech clichés of our high-achieving culture:  dream big; set ambitious goals; try to change the world.  In fact,” notes Brooks, “a surprising number of people found their purpose by going the other way, by pursuing the small, happy life.”

     Examples?    Kim (apparently a therapist):  “Now my purpose is simply to be the person who can pick up the phone and give you 30 minutes in your time of crisis”.   Terence:   “big decisions have less impact on a life as a whole than the myriad of small seemingly insignificant ones.”   Hans:  “At age 85, …I am thankful to be alive. If there is one thing that keeps me focused, it’s the garden. Lots of plants died during the harsh winter, but, amazingly, the clematises and the roses are back, and lettuce, spinach and tomatoes are thriving in the new greenhouse.”

      So, bottom line?    Follow the wise advice of a woman I read about (probably in the excellent AARP retired persons’ magazine):   “Ask yourself each morning, when you wake:  what will I do for others today? And what will I do for myself?”     And, as you fall asleep at night, ask yourself, “what did I do for others today?  And what did I do for myself?” 

      A kind word?  A helping hand?  A smile?    Little things, tiny things.  They add up to something really big.   They give real meaning to our lives, one day at a time.

       Here are the words to the lovely song, Little Things Mean a Lot,  

Blow me a kiss from across the room

Say I look nice when I’m not

Touch my hair as you pass my chair

Little things mean a lot


Give me your arm as we cross the street

Call me at six on the dot

A line a day when you’re far away

Little things mean a lot


Don’t have to buy me diamonds and pearls

Champagne, sables or such

I never cared much for diamonds and pearls

’cause honestly, honey, they just cost money


Give me your hand when I’ve lost the way

Give me a shoulder to cry on

Whether the day is bright or gray

Give me your heart to rely on


Send me the warmth of a secret smile

To show me you haven’t forgot

For always and ever, now and forever

Little things mean a lot


Give me your hand when I’ve lost the way

Give me your shoulder to cry on

Whether the day is bright or gray

Give my your heart to rely on


Send me the warmth of a secret smile

To show me you haven’t forgot

That always and ever, now and forever

Little things mean a lot


And, here is the link to Kitty Kallen’s lovely rendition of it.

The Purpose of Life:  Ask Walt Disney?

By Shlomo   Maital

 plasticene restaurant


  Last month, I taught a one-week course on entrepreneurship and creativity to 43 dynamic Chinese students, mainly undergraduates studying at Shantou University, Shantou (Guangdong).   The course was in English; the students worked on business plans in teams, and made elevator-speech presentations (in English), prepared 2-minute videos, and wrote business plans (in English).   (The photo shows a Play-Do, or plasticene, model of one of the team’s ideas, for a novel restaurant – they stayed up all night to create it!).  

   I just received an email from one of my students.  I pasted it below, without correcting the syntax…   (Shantou University has a phenomenal English Learning Center, that provides each student with a tailored personal program for learning to read write and speak English)….

      I want to ask you a personal question, this question had confuse me for a very long time, the question is that “what do we live for?”, what’s the point of live? create value? make money? love? i not sure. now i just in my 20s age, i always feel there’s no a direction in my life, i’m not sure what is going on in my rest of life. but you have a lot of experience about life, you have make a lot of achievements in your life, so want to ask your answer about the question, i hope you can give me some suggestion.

 Dear readers:  How would YOU answer my wonderful student?

  My own answer was rather woeful – but, here it is.   Congratulations for just asking the question. Most of us ask it, at the end of our lives, when it is nearly too late to actually change anything.  I think the purpose of life is best defined by Walt Disney.  He set the mantra for Disneyland (later, Disney World):  “Make people happy”.   Create value.  Use your brains, your courage, your intellect, and above all, your CREATIVITY – to create value, by widening people’s range of choices, and thus, making them happy, or at least happier.  When you make other people happy (those around you, family, children, spouses, relatives, friends, total strangers),  you will make yourself happy as well.  If you only try to make yourself happy, in the end, you will be very alone.           


Blog entries written by Prof. Shlomo Maital

Shlomo Maital