FOUR HUNDRED AND FIFTY FOUR

Takashi Murakami via the Creative Independent.

“It’s always easier to think about it as an analogy with the game of baseball. Think about a baseball player hitting a home-run after standing at the batting mound for just a few seconds. To achieve something in those few seconds they train every day. They train and meditate and try to shut out the noise of other players and the audience. Athletes are training their spirit and body and completely organizing themselves so that during those few seconds when they are at bat, the body automatically moves and in that moment, they can achieve something great. I think it’s also the same for an artist. I have to create that condition. So it’s not just about painting with a brush for hours and hours, it’s about creating that athlete’s few second condition where an artist can generate something new.”

FOUR HUNDRED AND THIRTY EIGHT

Originally written on Twitter, now saved here:

I think it’s kind of out of fashion to talk about discipline—creative, ethical, athletic, intellectual. It’s the kind of thing you can write off as an internalized productivity myth—a bad capitalist habit. But the people I admire most have an awful lot of it. It runs so deep.

There’s something about intentionally cultivating your ability to do the hard thing. These people will tell you that their goodness is only by practice—that it is difficult, not intrinsic. They make commitments to their better selves, and hold their lesser selves accountable.

The people I know like this are a bit quirky. They wake up early, stay up late. They have obsessive spreadsheets to track their runs. They paint every day. They are meticulous in their work. They have habits. They accomplish incredible things, they resist incredible pressure.

They do the difficult-right thing, routinely. They climb literal and figurative mountains. They drag their ass to the lab, the studio, the dojo not because they always want to be there, but because showing up serves their higher purpose.

And because they want to be the kind of person that shows up.

Coaches, like dads, have favourite sayings. “Discipline is all you have when motivation runs out.” “You can’t fake practice.” “Sit in your discomfort.” These are probably as close as I’ll ever get to personal mantra.

And maybe this is why I often feel at odds with the corporate take-it-easy dogma of “self care,” which can feel individualistic, indulgent, almost narcissistic. Like it’s selling you something.

(Of course it can be so much deeper and important—but this tendency is undeniable).

Because there’s also something very radical about looking inside, finding what wild thing it is that you are intrinsically motivated to do, and then doing it. Challenge isn’t inconsistent with self care. It’s the dimension of self care that is self-actualizing, that is self-work.

I’m not quite sure where I’m going with this except to say that I admire these things in other people, and wish there was a richer conversation in public life about what makes them—without getting written off as a misguided Protestant work ethic or latent self-loathing.