A Lifelong Search for Meaning: Lessons on Virtue, Grit, and Faith

Dr. Paul T. P. Wong’s autobiography is published in weekly instalments. Stay updated here.

Introduction

I can no longer postpone this any longer—my 80th birthday is just around the corner. I owe it to my family and friends, indeed, to all my fellow human beings, to share the life lessons I have learnt the hard way, all the way down in the trenches of battlefields and deep in the dark jungles, blazing a new trail.

Yes, I did not get to where I am today from where I was 60 years ago—an unemployed and depressed high school graduate in Hong Kong—the easy way. I have failed more times than I can remember. I have survived all kinds of suffering, from war and civil war to poverty, from life-threatening illness to discrimination, from depression to anxiety.

What are the secrets of my survival and success in a harsh and turbulent world? What accounts for the remarkable transformation from a very sensitive and melancholic boy to an influential public figure on the world stage?

My answer may be surprisingly simple—the pursuit of meaning!

There is no other motivation more powerful. I have toiled all my life, day in and day out, sunshine or rain, paid or unpaid, even in my old age. I have struggled for years on end without any reward or recognition. What has sustained me is the deep conviction that I can do something that will bring happiness and meaning to the suffering masses.

The greatest discovery I have made is the power of meaning in transforming negative emotions such as frustration, anger, depression, and despair.

This is a story of how I made this important discovery both in psychology laboratories and in the crucibles of suffering. May this story inspire and empower all those who feel that the world has conspired against them and that life has passed them by.