There has never been a period in my life that I didn’t consider myself actively creating. As an artist, there is always project or skill I am seeking to acquire to create a larger body of work. I have noticed that I don’t work on it everyday though. There are periods, week, or months that I am consumed by an specific thing and I will get to a certain point where it is either complete or I have exhausted my interest in it.
I think that the correlation between work ethic and success is still not really all that clear for all the efforts. When most artists or creators of any sort commit at an uncommon level they are often called crazy. Their works are often brilliant or at least unique. As soon as complete we marvel at them like they are somehow magic or special when and reduce them to lucky, fortunate, or genius. This separation in our minds is one of the root causes in the breakdown of our creative culture.
We liken commitment and devotion to craziness, and we evangelize ordinary individuals with extraordinary work ethic. In athletics it is the same. In business it is the same. We are constantly telling our friends and colleague they are working to hard. That they need to take a break, we ask what is all for. The truth is that it takes an uncanny amount of energy to push through that cultural barrier, and this often leaves those people alienated if only in philosophy.
We’ve all heard those motivational quotes like “If it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger.” and they have become so trite that we dismiss them. Yet, time and again when we see excellence we reduce it to “gifted”. I wonder if the gift isn’t so much the ability of the individual we are admiring but their ability to push beyond pain, relinquish comfort, in exchange for the opportunity to become excellent.
If we look at success from this perspective, it can be seen as a choice. A simple decision between comfort and growth.We tend to mistake the basic human need for security and rest, with a need for comfort. Just as we wish to protect our selves from over working, we must seek to protect our selves from over resting.
It is a balance, meaning that it is not a stationary position, but an ever fluctuating adjustment between too much and too little. The idea of rest is inherently stagnation, but sleep is an activity needed to sustain work just like eating, or studying.
Let’s not confuse ourselves with the idea that comfort and security are one. It would seem that security is a foundational knowledge that basic needs are met, this allows for the that time and energy to be allocated elsewhere. Comfort is when the resources required to meet basic needs are met and the available time and energy is not re-allocated, but is in stead used to bask in the discretionary resources.
My own personal challenge is to work for 1,000 days straight. I have seen it done, and it is a very taxing endeavor. I believe it will push me beyond my current level of ability in all areas. The associated strain on my life is a worthy investment in for the development that lies waiting for me on the other side of the process. This is my challenge, it is not brilliant, or genius, but merely an exercise in discipline. This is not so say that I will not rest, but I maintain my creative quotas for this one- thousand days. I offer you the change to take on a similar challenge.
Start with 30 days, then 90, then 180, then 365 develop the skill persistence and understand the choice.
Make it willingly with the understanding that you are in full control of your career and potential.