Having Enough

“Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.” -Epictetus

I don’t know what they want from me 
It’s like the more money we come across
The more problems we see
– The Notorious B.I.G., song “Mo Money Mo Problems”

“Desire is a contract you make with yourself to be unhappy until you get what you want.” -Naval Ravikant

There are two paths to being wealthy.

One. Have way more money than you could ever want.

Two. Have very few wants. (See philosophies/movements like Minimalism or Essentialism)

Either path, you’re wealthy in that your wants and needs are covered. Just know the first path will probably cause you more stress. The more you want, the more you have to work. The second path–if you can be disciplined to know and stick to exactly what you want and why–will give you more time to make art. As Arthur Brooks writes in his book, From Strength To Strength, “Your satisfaction is what you have, divided by what you want.” Popular culture urges us to keep increasing the numerator. Instead, what if we focus on reducing the denominator by desiring less?

Ryan Holiday shares this great story on a recent blog post….

The writers Kurt Vonnegut and Joseph Heller were at a glamorous party outside New York City. Standing in the palatial second home of the billionaire host, Vonnegut began to needle his friend. “Joe,” he said, “how does it feel that our host only yesterday may have made more money than your novel has earned in its entire history?”

“I’ve got something he can never have,” Heller replied. “The knowledge that I’ve got enough.”

Self-Starter

Under the “Desired Characteristics” heading, you’re almost guaranteed to find one phrase in any job posting across any industry anywhere in the United States. Probably the world.

“Candidate must be a self-starter.”

It’s also a “Desired Characteristic” if you wanna lead an artistic life.

Be a self-starter. Go make your art.

Sacrifice

“If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery–isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you’ll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you’re going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It’s the only good fight there is.” -Charles Bukowski novel Factotum

“The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.” -David Foster Wallace, talk This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life

“Love without sacrifice is like theft” – Nassim Nicholas Taleb, book The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms

Sacrifice (definition): an act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy.

When you love something or someone, you sacrifice. Time, money, comfort, etc…Not just once in a while, but always, everyday. It’s just what you do. Who you are now.

The really cool part?…

The more you consistently sacrifice, the more your love increases. (Just ask any parent.)

Who or what are you ready to sacrifice for?

Find The Others

“Admit it. You aren’t like them. You’re not even close. You may occasionally dress yourself up as one of them, watch the same mindless television shows as they do, maybe even eat the same fast food sometimes. But it seems that the more you try to fit in, the more you feel like an outsider, watching the “normal people” as they go about their automatic existences. For every time you say club passwords like “Have a nice day” and “Weather’s awful today, eh?”, you yearn inside to say forbidden things like “Tell me something that makes you cry” or “What do you think deja vu is for?”. Face it, you even want to talk to that girl in the elevator. But what if that girl in the elevator (and the balding man who walks past your cubicle at work) are thinking the same thing? Who knows what you might learn from taking a chance on conversation with a stranger? Everyone carries a piece of the puzzle. Nobody comes into your life by mere coincidence. Trust your instincts. Do the unexpected. Find the others…” -Timothy Leary

I ask my friends if they understand
They just laugh at me and watch another band
They don’t worry, they don’t worry

Yeah, I’m looking for answers in so many places
I open my mind
I don’t get it
-Cowboy Junkies, song “I Don’t Get It”

It makes perfect sense to you. You’ve thought it through. You’ve done the research. Your reasoning is sound. Your vision is clear. You’re super passionate. And you’re coming from a generous place as you you truly want to help folks. But at the end of the day, no matter how hard you try, some, often most people, just won’t get it. Especially at first.

Don’t let that stop you.

Find the others. The ones that do get it. They’re out there. And when you do, they’ll make you and your project even better than you could ever dream possible.

P.S. – We lost two legends in the last week. RIP Mr. Russell and Mr. Scully.

“The Best Thing I Ever Saw”

This past Tuesday night, our Vs. group had a thrilling discussion centered around the question: “What was the best production you ever saw?”

It was fun to hear everyone’s responses, all the varied types of shows, the reasons why something made the cut and the lasting impact it had on them. The energy was inspiring and infectious.

Noticing that almost all the shows mentioned were from a while back, I asked the group if they thought it was still possible for a brand new production, something that they had not yet seen, to ever top the list.

My playwright friend Michael had the perfect response: “Of course! That’s my hope every time I go see a play. That this one will be the best production I ever saw.”

Go make your art. And when you do, strive to make it the best thing that someone will ever see.

Convergence

“Everyone of us is shadowed by an illusory person: a false self…We are not very good at recognizing illusions, least of all the ones we cherish about ourselves. Contemplation is not and cannot be a function of this external self. There is an irreducible opposition between the deep transcendent self that awakens only in contemplation, and the superficial, external self which we commonly identify with the first person singular. Our reality, our true self, is hidden in what appears to us to be nothingness…We can rise above this unreality and recover our hidden reality. ― Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

“I do not like the idea of happiness — it is too momentary. I would say that I was always busy and interested in something — interest has more meaning to me than the idea of happiness.” -Georgia O’Keefe

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
-Robert Frost, poem “The Road Not Taken”

As this excellent article points out, research and age old wisdom reveal two paths to a “good life.” They’re both centered around the idea of losing your attachment to self.

One. Pursue mastery in something, anything. Throw yourself fully in to it for nothing more than the thing itself. Flow.

Two. Devote yourself to helping others.

Here’s the cool thing about art for art’s sake, making art from the heart…when you do it right, both paths converge.

Choose Yourself

“If you have a story to tell or a service to offer (it doesn’t matter what), love yourself enough to choose yourself. Take control of your work, your life, your art. The tools are out there. Now you just need to use the tools inside yourself.” -James Altucher, Choose Yourself

Many are called.

Few are chosen.

Even fewer choose themselves.

Choose yourself.

It’s the way, the only way. Because even if you’re one of the lucky few who were initially chosen, somewhere down the line that runs out, and you’ll need to choose yourself. Might as well start now.

Go make your art.

Pro-Am

“What happens when we turn pro is, we finally listen to that still, small voice inside our heads. At last we find the courage to identify the secret dream or love or bliss that we have known all along was our passion, our calling, our destiny…We’re like sharks who have tasted blood, or renunciants who have glimpsed the face of God. For us, there is no finish line. No bell ends the bout. Life is the pursuit. Life is the hunt. When our hearts burst, then we’ll go out, and no sooner.” – Steven Pressfield, Turning Pro

“If there was no fame involved and very minimal money – which is the case for most actors – I’d still be doing it. If I wasn’t good enough to be a professional, I’d be an amateur actor.” -Mark Rylance

Cultivate the discipline of a professional. You do the work no matter what. Day in. Day out. It is your calling, your vocation, your duty.

Cultivate the love of the amateur. You do the work because it’s fun and brings you great joy and lights up your soul. You remain open to new ideas and discoveries no matter what age.

Hold both these mindsets at the same time and you’ll be one badass motherfucker of an artist.