As you start reading this article, there will be a slight voice at the back of your head stopping you from reading it completely and that is the crux of this piece, that part of our brains we are all born with. We will discuss it thoroughly as you progress along with this article.
The other day I was having a conversation with a close friend of mine and he had this brilliant idea about what the ultimate happiness for a human being is. He argued that the ultimate happiness is to give a precious gift without the expectation of getting something in return. This viewpoint seems synonymous to my definition of an artist.
These days, we call everyone an artist, just because they paint or dance or sing. That simply is a person who enjoys art once in a while, he merely even creates art. Art is something priceless but painting isn’t worth very much. Art is something money can’t buy.
There is no “true artist” so to speak. There are only three kinds of people in this world, in terms of art. There is just an “artist”, a non-artist and someone who enjoys art once in a while.
An artist is a true professional and he does not experience a creative block. He knows that sometimes he will create art and sometimes he will create garbage but his job is not to worry about what he might create, be it art or garbage. His job is to show up every day whether he likes it or not. His job is to create and that he must do diligently.
Art isn’t limited to the pursuit of music, painting, writing and dancing. Art is when your gift changes the life of the person who receives it. It is a gift because it is the enemy of fear, and the artist fights his fear to create this gift to liberate others. It is art when you come home on a vacation and enjoy the scrumptious food that mom made for you. It is art when you arrive at your favourite coffee shop and sip in the warm latte you have been craving all day long. It is the book you keep close to your pillow even when you’ve read it a dozen times because it makes you happy. It is the transformation you feel after you watch a powerful TED talk.
There’s an artist that thrives within every one of us, the part of us that does not want to play by the rule book, the ones who redefine the reality and question almost everything. “Daemon” as the ancient Greeks would call it. Art rewards us with happiness and fulfilment and it is found when we least expect it.
Perhaps we were doing things for others before we even began dealing with money. I suspect that it is true when we hear people say, “advertising is the art of selling happiness” and that must be exactly what they were trying to do when they invented the barter system in the first place. A currency must have been invented – a currency for happiness. We see world-class billionaires turning into philanthropists after they have acquired a significant amount of wealth, which supposedly could be an attempt to rekindle that happiness of giving without expectation.
Making art is the ultimate happiness because it allows one to challenge the norms of the society which tells them to sit in one spot, listen to others, and not to make any waves. It challenges the idea of playing it safe, following the regular road and making sure we don’t make any ruckus. It forces the average human being to leave a stamp on the world, it allows us to contribute.
But art comes at a price, the price of fear and if you are feeling it right now, great. It’s an indicator of the innovation you are making. Are you crippled by fear? Well, I can’t wait to see the groundbreaking idea you are working on, come to fruition.
The worst thing we can do to ourselves is to give in to that fear. It has a million different voices, all of which, seems highly rational. Here’s the truth- it’s all created, all conjured up. It’s the ego trying to stop us from doing what we really should be doing. It’s the voices we have grown up listening to, that is, to play it safe and be invisible. Whenever we are trying to listen to what gives meaning to our lives, our ego is at the loudest, conjuring up reasons not to take that chance. It is not to say that we have to shut our inner voices to do our best work, but we have to know that they are there for a reason and that is to indicate the level of contribution that we are giving out into the world. We must listen to our fears and acknowledge them for telling us what is important to us provided we wage war against it at all times.
“We fear discovering that we are more than we think we are. More than our parents/children/teachers think we are. We fear that we actually possess the talent that our still, small voice tells us. That we actually have the guts, the perseverance, the capacity. We fear that we truly can steer our ship, plant our flag, reach our Promised Land. We fear this because, if it’s true, then we become estranged from all we know. We pass through a membrane. We become monsters and monstrous.”
― Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
Nobody can tell us what our duty, what our purpose in life truly is because it is us who gives meaning to our lives. We only have one thing we must do, that is, to do what we love doing. There’s a difference between love and work, both of which, are independent. If you have to work something, we are not doing it out of love. If we love something, we don’t have to work. If we love something, it is worth the sacrifices we make. If we have to make sacrifices to prove our love, it is work. If we love something, we don’t need to be praised. If we have to be applauded, appreciated and praised, we are not doing it out of love. If we keep thinking about doing it, it is not out of love. If we do not think about anything else while we are doing it, it is love. We need to do it and forget it, and then, do it again. Publish it and move on to the next one. Do or do not, there is no try. If we have to try, then let’s not do it
Steven Pressfield refers to the fear as ‘resistance’ and it can have various manifestations in and of itself. It is that voice we were talking about at the start of this article. Seth Godin terms this anxiety, which stops us from tapping into our true potential as the “lizard brain”, the Amygdala of the human brain responsible for fear, food, sex and anger. It was your lizard brain conjuring up reasons not to give that presentation, it was your lizard brain yelling at you to stop when you were approaching your crush, it was your lizard brain stopping you to hit that publish button when you finish writing a blog post.
The amygdala wants to keep you safe and alarms you when you are stepping out of your comfort zone. And out of the comfort zone is where the real magic happens. The lizard brain triggers when you are quitting an addiction, when you are changing your life for the better and when you are taking the chance.
The amygdala is the oldest remnant of our ancestors and develops the earliest in the fetal stage and resides at the top of your spine. Its job is to worry, to get horny, anxious and irritated.
The only way we can fight with the lizard brain is to give out the greatest gift that we can muster up without the fear of rejection or ridicule. When we hit that “publish” button, and never look back and come back tomorrow with another wonderful gift, our inner genius will take in charge.
To make an impact, to do something meaningful, to make art, we do not need anything. We don’t need that expensive camera or that 80,000 rupees laptop, we don’t need approval from our parents or our friends, we don’t need to find that stroke of genius.
Everything that stops us from doing the work we must do, is resistance, and guess who is responsible? Us. We stop ourselves from doing what we must and yet we believe, the world owes us something. News flash, the world doesn’t owe us shit, it will be there irrespective of our existence. Now, please give your art permission to be shit.
The question, now then is – What can you contribute to the world?
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness.
That most frightens us.
We ask ourselves
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
You playing small
Does not serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking
So that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine,
As children do.
We were born to make manifest.
The glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us; It’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine,
We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we’re liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.
I hope you go do the one thing that fears you the most.