A simple question:
Who do you desire to become in life?
This is the empowering thing in life:
- You can dictate for yourself who you want to become.
- You can pursue (freely) the actions necessary to become that person.
This is a practical idea:
Whoever you want to become, make sure that it is independent of the opinion or approval of others.
For example, you can pursue to become a poet, and judge your own poems in your own eye.
You can become a photographer, and dictate that photography is your primary art form. You can control the types of pictures you shoot, but you cannot control whether others will like your photos, and you cannot control if you make a lot of money from it.
Take your art very seriously
My buddy Nietzsche wrote in one of his books (referring to Richard Wagner):
Art is the best use of our human lives.
Consider — it is very easy for us to procure enough food to not starve to death. It is very easy for us to pay for rent (assuming you decide not to live somewhere expensive), and water and WiFi is practically free now.
Thus knowing that living is very easy — what do you want to do with all of your excess human metabolism, energy, focus, and time-life?
Seek immortality through your artwork
Nassim Taleb said something that he wrote books in the hope that his information would live on, after he died.
Nietzsche also had a saying, that after we died, we either left behind our books or our children.
After you die (assuming you have children), your DNA will live on through them. And also your life stories will live on through your descendants (like the Pixar film, “Coco”).
But also, your information will live on. Your information is your artwork, your writings, your pictures, your videos, your music, etc. I’m pretty sure after you die, you will have insane amounts of information left behind in your Google and Facebook account.
You must die
Even if I had the ability to live forever, I would say no. To me, life is only sweet because we will die. It’s like video games — when you have unlimited lives, the games lose all fun. The possibility of dying is what makes us work hard in video games not to get hit and lose lives. Legend of Zelda wouldn’t be fun if I had unlimited lives.
Seneca talks about this a lot in his book, “On the Shortness of Life”— there are only so many pleasures we can consume in life. We must die honorably, just like living honorably.
Seneca also teaches us that it doesn’t matter how long we live — it matters how well we live. For example, if you watch a movie, the quality of the acting is more important than how much screen-time an actor gets.
So considering your life is short,
Why not attempt to make great art that will outlive you?
I think we are most motivated when we do things beyond ourselves. When we do things that will empower other human beings, and when we have the possibility of empowering future humans.
I like the idea that perhaps one day when we colonize Mars, some aspiring photographers can read my writings to take better pictures on Mars, or to find more motivation to make pictures.
Set the bar higher
A simple idea in life:
It is better to set the bar very high, and come a little short, than set the bar too low and meet it.
For example, better to set a goal of doing a 500 pound deadlift and hitting 450 in your deadlift, rather than setting a goal of a 300 pound deadlift and reaching it.
Has anyone tried to push you higher than you think?
This is another question,
When you were growing up, did you have adult mentors believe in you — by setting very high expectations for you? Or not?
One of the good things about being raised Asian is that “excellence” is the standard. You’re expected to get straight A’s in school, and if you get a 4.0 GPA you’re not congratulated. It’s what is to be expected. Thus I studied hard, because that was the expectation. And eventually I excelled in school.
Regardless of how you were raised, you have the power NOW to dictate your own goals for yourself, or setting the bar for yourself.
Set it high, and fly high!