Success vs. happiness

You suffer. You know you are capable of something great, and yet it feels like nobody sees that. Maybe it’s depression, or pain of another sort. It feels like there’s a hole inside of you. You think you can fill this hole by pursuing your art and achieving success. 

This goal gives you hope, motivation, and energy. And let’s say, you struggle, you work hard, and against the odds, you actually manage it; you succeed! And… 

You thought you’d be happy when you succeeded. After the high of winning wears off, you realize the hole is still there. In fact, it might have gotten bigger. Everything has changed, and yet it feels like nothing has changed, except now the hope is gone.

In this introduction, I’m paraphrasing an important part of Rick Rubin’s conversation with André 3000. Rick even said that when his music lawyer called him to let him know he had his first number one album, he asked how Rick felt, and Rick responded, “I said I’ve never felt worse in my whole life.”

There are all sorts of stories driving this unrelenting, mindless, pursuit of success. There is a narrative that great art comes from great suffering. David Lynch believes the opposite; that suffering, depression, and stress are obstacles to creating great art.

The story of holding a full-time job while you do your art comes with a stigma, but in reality, many successful artists keep day jobs. The income and benefits from a full-time job alleviate the financial pressure that come with doing your art full-time. It can also enable you to make a life beyond your art. In other words, it alleviates some of the suffering that you probably would have expected your success to fill.

There is also the desire to have enough time to make good work, to make it unhurried, free from all pressure. The reality is, if you want to take it seriously and show up to the marketplace, the pressure isn’t going to go away. You just get stronger in dealing with it, learning how to make more of it.

Sometimes, you need to try things yourself in order to see if it works. But in cases like this, it also makes sense to listen to the advice of people who have already been there. It’s safe to assume that while success will feel great and open up new opportunities, it also might not fulfill you the way you would have hoped. Now you are free to make a choice; not to stop pursuing success, but to also add other things to your life that will make you happy.

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