For those with a “typical 9-5” (a.k.a. “a steady job”): When you wake up Monday morning, do you look forward to the week ahead and the plans you have? When Friday arrives, do you thank your lucky stars and look forward to the weekend? Are you sticking with a dead end job just because it gives you a sense of security?
For those who work 80 hours to avoid working 40 (aka “entrepreneurs”): Each day, are you doing what most gives you life or are you doing whatever needs to get done to keep your business going? Are you pandering to what other people say you should do or are you doing what you know is what you are best at? Are you pleasing your customers just to make a quick buck or are you pleasing them because you bring value that no one else does?
For those who are artists: Read those questions for entrepreneurs. When you come to the word “business” substitute “art practice” and substitute “customers” with “audience.”
Finding true joy in life is easier said than done. It Is definitely still a worthwhile pursuit. Even if you do not make it all the way there, I bet you will end up at a better place than if you did not pursue it at all.
I have come across a pretty powerful way of thinking about true joy in life that I believe is life-changing for the every day person, the entrepreneur and the artist alike. I am SO VERY excited to share with you today.
George Bernard Shaw wrote:
“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”
Most people stop the quotation here. But Bernard Shaw (as he liked to be known) goes on…
“And also the only real tragedy in life is the being used by personally minded men for purposes which you recognize to be base. All the rest is at worst mere misfortune or mortality: this alone is misery, slavery, hell on earth; and the revolt against it is the only force that offers a man’s work to the poor artist, whom our personally minded rich people would so willingly employ as pandar, buffoon, beauty monger, sentimentalizer and the like.”
(From pages xxxi-xxxii in Man and Superman: A Comedy and a Philosophy, full-text available at https://archive.org/stream/manandsupermana06shawgoog#page/n35/mode/2up)
I love this. Bernard Shaw is writing in 1903 and this excerpt is from an introduction to a play. He Is talking about working for what we would call “The Man.” He calls working for The Man “misery, slavery, hell on earth.” The “only force” against this “real tragedy” is “the poor artist,” whom The Man would prefer to silence by hiring the artist to perform and entertain The Man.
Just before this quotation he called William Shakespeare the kind of artist who simply entertained The Man. In a sense, Bernard Shaw is trying to prove he is an artist who is unwilling to write a play The Man would enjoy. Instead, he is writing a play that brings him true joy in life. George is trying to be a force of Nature when he writes. In fact, since his death, Bernard Show has regularly been rated as second only to Shakespeare among English-language dramatists. That’s HUGE!
What About You and Me?
Most people want to find true joy in life. Perhaps even a large number of humans pursue true joy through trying to figure out and achieve some sort of meaning or purpose to their existence. These people (including myself), believe we have been sent to earth with a specific reason and our job (pun intended) is to fulfill it.
For me, searching for joy, meaning, and purpose are a big part of what lead me to start the journey that eventually led to Overflow Coffee Bar, L3C. I was and am willing to be thoroughly worn out by this pursuit. Actually, most of the time I am pretty worn out and already feel like I could be thrown on the scrap heap. If you know me, you know how hard I work. If you don’t know me, you should know that I am a border line workaholic. I so much enjoy what I am doing that I do not know when to stop, which has landed me in complete and utter exhaustion more time than I would like to admit. One instance of this a few years back almost completely derailed not only my business but, more importantly, my closest relationships.
I learned from those times that, even when I’m utterly worn out, I do not want to be “a feverish selfish little clod of ailment and grievances.” This world does not owe me anything. I am not entitled to have a successful business. I do not need to waste time and energy wallowing in self pity, complaining about the problems I face each and every day. There is too much work to do. To put it in memorable cliches: “The obstacles are the work.” “Life is resistance.” This life lesson has enabled me to continue to work really hard and to continue to have great relationships with those I hold most dear.
So, I work hard daily to be “a force of Nature.” I do not think I am one yet (only maybe for a few people) and definitely not on par with Bernard Shaw. But I also do not need to compare myself to him. I just need to keep trying to do more of what I am meant to be doing, more of my purpose. Plus, I need to get better and better at it if I expect to be “a force of Nature.” As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music…”
Most entrepreneurs I know got into starting their own business and most artists I know got into creating original work because they are on a similar journey toward joy, meaning, and purpose. That is why we wear ourselves out. We do not want to experience the “misery, slavery, hell on earth” that comes from working for The Man so we experience the harshness of carving a road for ourselves.
For entrepreneurs and artists: Do not give into the temptation to cave in and pander to The Man in order to make a quick buck! Stay true to yourself and your journey to finding lasting joy. I am right there with you, along with so many others. It is hard. We feel like we are ready for the trash heap already. Keep pushing through. Do your best work every day. Be a force of Nature.
For those with that “typical 9-5”: If you feel that you are stuck in a job, and are not able to perform because it is just not your cup of tea, it is time to quit. And the time is now! Life it too short to NOT be “used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one.” Someone else is meant for that job you have. Give them a chance to get it. Go find where you can be “a force of Nature.” As someone over 5 years into this, it is SO worth it.
What do you think?
Comment and share how you are going about this search for true joy.
Need help finding your purpose? Want to make sure you got it right? Here is a worksheet with some fresh inspiration that could help you get insight or make sure you are on the right track.