“Given the smallest excuse, one will not work at all,” John Steinbeck
This was written by John Steinback, Literature Nobel prize, on his diary pertaining to the creative process. Sounds familiar? It certainly does to me.
Today, especially, I felt the painful neglect in my entire being towards getting up, complete the morning routine and getting off to work.
This problem is as old as human civilization. To get past it, there are a few things we need to understand.
Your work, your most valued gift.
Our work makes us human. It is what differentiates us from the other species on the planet. Mihály Csíkszentmihályi wrote in his book flow:
When you have trouble getting out of bed in the morning, remember that your defining characteristic— what defines a human being — is to work with others. Even animals know how to sleep. And it’s the characteristic activity that’s the more natural one — more innate and more satisfying.
When they’re really possessed by what they do, they’d rather stop eating and sleeping than give up practicing their arts.
Is helping others less valuable to you? Not worth your effort?
There are few things more attracting than this state of flow in which we forget ourselves with our art. We are literally “one” with what we are doing. It’s just magnificent.
Your work is unique as well. There is no other person on the planet that has gone through your experiences nor there is anyone who has the exact same inclinations as you do, therefore, whatever interest that you have is unique.
Not for nothing one face, one character, one fact, makes much impression on him, and another none. This sculpture in the memory is not without preestablished harmony.
The eye was placed where one ray should fall, that it might testify of that particular ray. Ralph Waldo Emerson
It is indeed our duty to work on what most interests us for the fact that none other can manage to offer something similar.
Work, a process of discovery
The work I’m talking about here is the work that is done by itself, the one that draws you toward it, the one with which you feel meaning.
I’m not saying that you should know what that is, it can be quite hard to find it, the answers never come easy, this is why, finding this type of work, your type of work, is hard because it is a process of discovery.
But you have to start or you will never fulfill your duty of sharing with the world your most valuable gift.
Marcus Aurelius wrote to himself that work its part of our very nature as human beings:
At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: “I have to go to work — as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for — the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?”
The mighty emperor of Rome struggled through the same problems you and I face today. He continues:
So you were born to feel “nice”? Instead of doing things and experiencing them? Don’t you see the plants, the birds, the ants and spiders and bees going about their individual tasks, putting the world in order, as best they can? And you’re not willing to do your job as a human being? Why aren’t you running to do what your nature demands?
You don’t love yourself enough. Or you’d love your nature too, and what it demands of you.
I still have to make a living.
True, the path to greatness is all but simple, in fact, it’s going to be hard, physically and psychologically.
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win”
I want to tell you the story about Carlos. Carlos lives in Mexico City’s poorest and most dangerous zones, Tepito. He has a family and he is a very hard worker, he works as a constructor, he works very hard physically every day. He gets up at 5 am because he has to commute for 2 hours to get to work, he toils the entire day until 6 pm when he gets back to his home in the annoyingly crowded underground, he gets home by 8pm and he is completely exhausted, completely obliterated.
He hates his job. It robs him from time with his family and friends and it is taking a toll on his health as well but he has no other option and he has to keep working to feed his family. He hasn’t grabbed a book since high school and he feels stuck like there is no way out.
This is the situation of sadly, a lot of people on earth.
The hardest part to accept is that Carlos has a unique gift to offer and it’s not very likely he will share it with the world. The second hardest part is that, although he is in a terrible situation, it still is his duty, his responsibility to find a way into his true work, the work with meaning.
Carlos may think that there is no way out of his situation but there is. He just has to find it.
Give a man a strong enough why and he will bear any how. Friederich Nietzsche
It will certainly be hard and gruesome and painstakingly difficult but he has to start on his way, because if not:
“If a man knows not to which port he sails, no wind is favorable.”
― Seneca the Younger
Just following the tiniest spark of inspiration and feed it, every day, grind and grind until he first discovers what his gift is and then finds a way to fit it into our economy. Once he starts to figure out what this is, the gruesome work will be seen as a platform for his true work and he will do it knowing that he is working towards something.
But he has to start and this is what every Carlos in the world needs to realize. It’s on him, not on anyone else.
Carlos needs to Enjoy the painful process of learning
Now get to work.
I advise you complement this with a meditation from Maria Popova.
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