My son has been learning how to use ProTools in order to feed his obsession with developing music. He called me one day out of frustration, after having spent several hours trying to create a groove, but with nothing to show for his effort. Amid the emotion in his voice came the message I read between the lines, “I just want to give up.” To which I reminded him:
“Creative work is still work.”
You’ve probably seen the site What My Friends Think I Do. It’s a funny look at six different points of view of an occupation, going from the stereotypical ideal back down to ruthless reality. We all experience this disconnection between the image of our work on the one hand, and on the other, what we actually do on a day to day basis. It seems cool to want to be a musician, artist, teacher, farmer, author, or chef, but there are going to be tasks that are required with any job or profession that are mundane and don’t come easily. This is the value of the book, e-Myth, of which I recommend over and again to anyone interested in being an entrepreneur. The author balances the romance of entrepreneurship with the realities of what it takes to successfully run a business. Without this understanding, your dream may not be sustained.
The image of a creative oriented profession might be that of working in an office that has no dress code, no time clock, everyone wears flip-flops and the mini-fridge is stocked with an unlimited supply of Red Bull. It’s a place where there are no desks, but instead the workspace is filled with big wheel tricycles, bean bag chairs and folks playing board games at 10:30am. I’m using hyperbole, but somewhere in our brain these kinds of practices can get strung together in series, forging an unconscious idea about what we wish for and what actually is.
(One of my favorite authors, Michael Ruhlman, has some great things to say about the realities of writing.)
At the same time I’m not one for crushing the romance of creative work either. Even when my feet throb at the end of the day, and I sit in the dark wondering if I made the right decision to be a chef, I reach deep and pull out the rewards of my work. It’s the pleasure of setting my own course, of creating the kind of food I like to eat and want to share. Its seeing people laugh, celebrate, relax and reflect at my table, and leave with a smile on their face and tipping the kitchen staff with a thumbs up on the way out the door. Granted, its work, but it’s the work I choose. And I am blessed that I have that choice.
Its important to know where the source of that kind of internal motivation resides, because you will have to mine for it many times over in your career as an entrepreneur. Like a favorite fishing hole, or foraging site for morels, it’s a place to which you must know how to return.