Question from a reader -
I had a discussion yesterday with one of my friends about what we wanted to do with ourselves and we both have dabbled in numerous thing but nothing has stuck. He said if what we were doing was truly something worth doing, we'd be devoted to it. We simply haven't found what we want to devote ourselves to. Do you believe devotion follows interest or devotion is generated with work? I don't feel tied to anything, one moment I'll be playing a finger style piece on the guitar then whip out the electric and start playing funk. Maybe I'll start reading Ram Das, try learning HTML then go exercise. However, at the end of the day, I still feel errant and listless. Perhaps because I feel like I feel that ultimately, my actions are futile or are directionless.
"He said if what we were doing was truly something worth doing, we'd be devoted to it" - well, I'm not so sure that's the case. I know plenty of people who have causes they really believe in, but still have a hard time focusing on and dedicating themselves to it.
"Do you believe devotion follows interest or devotion is generated with work?" I think being interested in something helps a lot, but isn't enough. I know lots of people who deeply believe in something and passionately enjoy working on it, but yet still can't get the work out of themselves.
Actually, in some circumstances, it's harder to work on something you really believe in, because you get your identity wrapped up in it. Like the writer who can write plenty technical operations manuals because he aims to get it to just "good enough," but can't make progress on a novel because he's aiming for perfect and none of the words seem right.
I used to dislike to work. I saw how most people lived their lives, slogging through work that they hated, and I was determined not to fall into that trap. I made the mistake of generalizing, lumping all work together in the same bucket.
Since then, things have changed. In terms of monumental personal life changes, becoming a hard worker is the most recent one I've undergone. About a year ago, for reasons I touched on in this post, I decided that it was imperative for me to become a hard worker. I didn't do it because I had suddenly fallen in love with work, but rather because I had began to feel as though I was behind. And believe me, it wasn't love at first sight.
To fall in love with hard work, you must understand why it's necessary. When I was young I was told that sugar was bad, but I never understood exactly why it was bad, so I kept eating it. Only when I learned how it chemically affected my body did I finally give it up. The same is true of work-- if you don't know why you have to work hard and love it, you'll probably never actually do it.
Work is your gift to the world. That sounds corny, but it's true. And believe me, you owe the world a gift or two. Think of all of the various things that millions of people around the world have done for you to enjoy the life you have. They made up languages, invented stuff, procreated at the exact right times to create your ancestry, and managed to not kill each other in the process. We're lucky to be here, and the high standard of living we all enjoy now is only because of those who came before us. Some, like Einstein, had huge impact, but even people you don't notice, like the janitors, are making your life better.