How Do You Maintain Your Drive to Create?
February 3rd, 2018

How do you keep that drive of yours alive amidst the monotony of daily life? You might enter adulthood all revved-up with the energy and determination of an olympic athlete, dead-set on changing the world for the better, but what keeps you from giving up on your dreams when years go by and the world looks the same, unchanged despite your efforts?

My big share for today is really simple: learn to embrace monotony. Balance your focus between your desire to leave your mark on the world and enjoying the monotony of day-to-day life.

Despite our efforts to be unique and the best at what we do, most of us will realize at some point how very similar we all are. I’m in a hotel breakfast area right now. The older couple behind me are visiting their daughter at her apartment; the couple two tables over are visiting their son at his house. Both are talking about politics (with opposing views) and shaking their heads at the news on the flat screen mounted over the waffle maker. Talk about monotony.

Most people are disheartened when they discover this sameness, but I think it’s wonderful. It relieves me of the pressure of trying to be unique and allows me to enjoy the monotony of life, like burning a piece of toast or telling a person their shoe is untied. How great that we all get to have these weird little interactions?

People in ancient Egypt had this monotony, and later in ancient Greece; thousands of years earlier, hunter/gatherers in what is modern-day Vienna had this monotony: wake up, avoid predators, locate food, stay warm, stay cool, find a mate, make love, go to bed; hope to wake up the next day. We’ve been at this for a while.

It sets the existential fear of never amounting to anything at rest when you realize you’ve already amounted to all that humanity has ever been: human. For some of us, that reflection only lasts long enough to enjoy with a thoughtful “hmm” before the drive to be or do something special returns. Embracing monotony is difficult when struck with the invigorating notion that maybe you can change other people’s lives for the better.

I mean, think about it… at some point, someone developed a way to fix a stone knife to a shaft of wood and the spear was born. Someone else put a smaller stone knife on a smaller shaft of wood and an arrow was born. Those individuals influenced the human experience indefinitely; our lives are different to this day because of them. Why wouldn’t you devote every second of your life to making that kind of impact?

Here’s why: If your only measure of success is whether or not you’ve left your mark on the world, then the majority of your days on this planet will have been—by your own definition—total failures. Instead, find a balance. Act on your desires to affect the world while still appreciating and having compassion for the days that you don’t.

That’s how I keep my drive to create alive and healthy. I hope to fashion a bow and arrow, but I’m also trying to balance that with appreciating the monotony of daily life in case I never do. Either way, you want to be happy at the end, so don’t put all your eggs in one basket or you might start to lose faith in yourself.

If you resign yourself to the monotony, then you’ll always wonder “what if I had applied myself?” If you reverse that and only focus on your desire to change the world without stopping to smell the flowers, you’re likely to become disheartened and will lose touch with the very humanity you’re hoping to affect.

We have a travel-day today, getting from our hotel in Indianapolis to somewhere in Michigan (I think?) for a show tomorrow. While I’m definitely going to spend much of the drive contemplating how I might impact the world in a permanent way, I’m also going to try to appreciate the small things…the cars passing by, the weird people you find in gas stations, the way every road looks the same but every sunset is unique…that way there’s no chance my time will have been wasted. When I go to bed tonight, I’ll be able to close my eyes happy, fulfilled and undeterred, and, like our ancestors in Vienna 20,000 years ago, hope to wake up the next day for another shot at changing the world.