Meme Seeding

Meme Seeding

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I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Less than an hour of my time has made more of a difference in the world than all my time put together.

In 2014, I wrote a blog post on the subject of Ikigai. In that blog post, I merged two concepts to create something new. Essentially, I merged a venn diagram on ‘purpose’ with Dan Buettner’s Ikigai concept, in relation to living to be more than 100. The sum total of my effort was that I changed one word on a diagram and shared a ‘new’ meme with the world.

Since then, public response to that meme got out of hand. Several books have been written on it, documentaries commissioned, online courses created, and it has been discussed in publications all over the world. The World Economic Forum have even spoken about it. Not a week goes by that I don’t see the diagram being shared by someone of high profile.

The volume of work around it has risen exponentially since 2014. It keeps on growing, without any extra input or energy from me. I have no control over it. People keep adapting and editing the idea in new directions, so there are different variants out there, being shared, as well. Literally tens (maybe hundreds) of millions of people have seen it, and thousands and thousands of people have let it influence their life in some way.

Since I was the first to ‘seed’ the meme, people contact me all the time for permission to use it in whatever they are doing. I don’t really feel that it is mine to give permission, but it is really interesting to receive the information behind the requests. The stories inspired by this meme are incredible, because just the sight of the diagram has transformed the direction of many people’s lives.

As I sit here with a blank sheet of paper, planning my work for 2018, I feel amused, being faced with this reality. Every other hour of the rest of my life has made a tiny impact, by comparison. On some level, this is quite liberating for me. I could die happy or retire tomorrow, in recognition that this single hour means I have given life more than I have taken. I could stop everything I currently do, realising that really simple shifts in narrative like this are all I need to focus my time on. I could also use it to raise the bar for the rest of my time. Ultimately, it is challenging me to my core, and that can only be a good thing.

With this constant north star in my life, I conclude that there is always an easier way to solve a problem or face a challenge. Why do I need to work hard or struggle to make a difference, when a moment of inspiration, or a single meme, can truly change the world – easily?

How do I do more of this and less of the hard stuff? How do I inspire more people to think this way? Is much of the change needed in the world just about putting the right ideas and concepts out there, to inspire people? Who knows? What I do know is that I will be doing a lot less to make much more of a difference in the future.

What if it was easy?


If you want further information on the history of the meme then this is a great blog post to read.

The NFT for the original Ikigai Venn Diagram Meme can be found to purchase here.

Someone very kindly created a wonderful collection (a vennography!) of some of the many ikigai versions out there.

If you want to learn more about the real meaning of Ikigai and its history then the best resources I have found are on Ikigai Tribe.

If you want permission to use the Ikigai diagram then please read my copyright section linked at the bottom of this page.

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  1. Anita Kilby says

    Brilliant Mark , you make a difference every day to many people whom you don’t see …. its one hell of an accolade .

    So pleased I met you . Thanks for all you do from me and all those who don’t see you and don’t know you .

  2. What was the original inspiration

  3. Judy Hayman says

    Marc – What an inspiration you are to so many of us. As you know I am in the midst of trying to pass on in my small way some of the lessons I have been lucky enough to have learnt from you. It is so moving to share this with others and see them blossom too. Bless you for all you do

  4. What meme are you speaking of?

  5. Hi Marc, Thanks for sharing this and giving us an insight into how this occurs to you! I’m one amongst the millions of people who changed course on reading that article of yours on Ikigai.. the venn diagram is my guiding philosophy for anything and everything i do and I cant even express how much meaning I have been able to add to my life just by using this concept. Have been following your posts since then and am always amazed at the zeal for life you reflect in your writing.. It’s inspiring and infectious..Thank you so much once again 🙂

  6. It was very inspiring Mark. It was the first time I ever saw the word and concept ‘ikigai’ and it has had an impact on my thinking and my life.
    Thank you for the article.

  7. Wow, I didn’t realise you were the origin of the word – how cool!

  8. Intriguing. Can you identify anything, even something minor, that was different about you–how you were thinking, acting, or being–when you did this?

  9. Just wanted to let you know that I love your blog and what you do. I used this graph you made on my blog post here and gave you credit for it. Hope everything is to your liking.

  10. Remarkable. It’s inspiring to think that anyone could create such positive thinking, with an elegant idea.

  11. Very good site you have here but I was curious if you knew
    of any forums that cover the same topics talked about here?
    I’d really love to be a part of online community where I can get feed-back
    from other experienced people that share the same interest.

    If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Many thanks!

  12. Dear Marc, I appreciate the diagram you brought to the world through this post, and I use it constantly. You’ve thoughtfully pieced together a lot of disparate ideas into something that is clearly helping people make sense of their lives.

    That said, I also see several people pointing out that Andres Zuzunaga is the original creator of this graphic in a book by Borja Vilaseca. I notice you have not responded to those particular comments in both of the posts you’ve written on this topic of the diagram. As I want to give due credit to the original author when I use this, will you respond to the claim that this is not yours originally but rather the work of Andres Zuzunaga?

    Thank you.

  13. Hey Marc,

    What a wonderful insight you’ve pointed out to with regards to tine spent vs impact created. This diagram has kept me thinking for weeks now. As a brand strategist and business design professional, I have been trying to work out how in a purpose driven world, brands and businesses can apply this concept to define their ikigai. I wonder if you could share the original concept which you merged with Ikigai to arrive at this Venn diagram.

    Also, would be great if you could shed some light on the ‘what the world needs’ circle in terms of how you define it further with an example. My hypotheses is that this is a need vs want scenario, where need takes into account a collective necessity and covers the most imminent threats to social and environmental integrity as well.

    Look forward to hearing from you.

    Warm regards from India,

  14. Thanks. The story is very inspiring.

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