To Create is To Live
“This is also the reason why artists often speak of their work in religious terms.
To be lifted out of yourself—to be taken up and used for what feels like a higher purpose—is to feel, if only for a moment, that you are participating in the creative power of the universe.
You are held in the hand of something greater than yourself.”
Kent Nerburn, Dancing With The Gods
The ultimate aspiration is to be an artist. If unable, entrepreneurship is the only acceptable alternative. We were born to create.
As you may have suspected, I began reading the book that CEO Jack Dorsey bought for everyone at Twitter—Dancing With The Gods. If you read my last post, I mentioned that I would be reading it after finishing Zero to One.
I finished Zero to One much quicker than expected, and wasted no time in cracking open Mr. Nerburn’s book.
To be fair, the ideas I am trying to express in this post were not inspired by Nerburn—all he has done is confirm what I have been slowly realizing the past few years.
In the spirit of the ever-accelerating evolution of my blog, I’m going to keep this post short.
Perhaps I’m overgeneralizing, but human beings are happiest when we are creating. This does not have to mean creating a brand new company, idea, or beautiful artwork.
Consider the most joyous moment in most people’s lives: the birth of a new child. Quite literally creating another being to share the world with.
Even the average person shows a constant desire to be involved in creation. Picture the typical young male, and his attitude towards sports. He loves to watch football with his buddies, but he loves playing Madden against them even more. And above all, there is no greater joy than actually being involved in the action, and playing a game of football.
With the democratization of content creation, we are seeing more and more people make the plunge into chasing their own dreams of artistic achievement. Look at the amount of budding YouTube comedians, SoundCloud rappers, Tumblr poets, Etsy artists, podcast hosts so on and so forth.
I’m not saying that the art that these people are creating is remarkable or worthy of acclaim—I am simply pointing out that when given the opportunity and financial incentive/freedom, most people pursue humanity’s innate desire to create.
After all, everything about modern life screams at you to do the opposite. Our creative temperament is quelled from a young age, as we’re corralled into the heavily standardized education system. From then, you end up pursuing a career that lands you in the worst predicament of modern times—working to live, and being shackled to your paycheck.
It’s no wonder that people are miserable when the vast majority believe their jobs are bullshit. Most jobs in the modern corporate world (and blue collar as well) do not reward you for anything other than following instructions and shuffling papers/work around. There is little space to pursue your own ventures, creative or otherwise, and there is little room for failure. This creates an environment equal to an adult playground, where everything is sterilized, safe and planned out, but your brain is yearning to escape and scratch a knee or two.
That is why the next best option other than becoming an artist is becoming an entrepreneur. This does not mean creating a billion dollar startup, or even a full fledged small business, but even generating an online income that enables you to sustain a modest lifestyle without being beholden to a desk and a boss. The general malaise and burnout that plagues society can be best explained by our suppression of the three elements most critical to human happiness: physical movement, genuine connections, and creating/building. I can expand on the first two in another post, but this post is all about the third.
Being an entrepreneur is easier than being an artist, but only because making a living as an artist is nearly impossible. Therein lies the dilemma. Certainly many people have the thought at work everyday that they ought to pack up their things and never come back, but who has the courage to take that risk? Even courage is not enough, as without a bit of luck, you are still likely to fail.
But if you can make a living off of creative pursuits, there is perhaps no grander career path you could have. Yes, I hold artists in that high of an esteem, and you should to. As WSP says, artistic talent is the call option of all possible talents. You have no limit to the rewards you can reap, and what better life can you imagine than making millions and being adored for simply expressing your own thoughts and emotions.
As an entrepreneur, your talents are not as personally translatable—you are not being compensated for who you are or how you feel, but how you manage others and bring new ideas to light that provide value to society.
Don’t let go of the creative spirit that lies inside of you. We were born to build.