Set Yourself On Fire

It seems like a lot of successful people say that there’s no secret to success, that it all boils down to hard work. Entrepreneurs say it, motivational speakers preach it like gospel, and even artists (whether they’re writers, painters, musicians, or sculptors) sing that tune. They say the only ones that make it are the ones that keep at it, that put in more time and effort than everybody else, that work hard at what they do. That’s their grand secret: that there is no secret, and that the key to achieving something is in putting in the hard work. As far as I’m concerned, it’s all bullshit.

I can’t argue that hard work isn’t a key element of all that stuff and that laziness is, but it’s only the byproduct of something more, something deeper. By itself it’s not really worth talking about. It’s not worth focusing on. Most people with success to speak of point out the rewards of hard work and emphasize it’s importance, but just underneath the surface of that disillusioning shout out to “hard work” is a far simpler truth: you won’t put in the kind of work it takes to be great at anything unless you’re filled to the brim with passion for it, burning with a desire to do what you do.

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
~Confucius

You can work your ass off all you want, but without that you’ll just be wearing yourself down, forcing yourself to do something you just don’t have the passion for, and slowly hollowing yourself out. Day in and day out, you’ll die inside just a little bit more, making your life empty and meaningless. That’s what most people seem to do, and I honestly don’t know how.

I imagine being more or less in the same place sometimes, a decade or two from now, the same job and the same routines, and all those hellish daydreams end with the same thought. I would kill myself. That’s right, I said it. If my life remained the same as it is now, with no progress or hope of carving a way out of the daily grind, I think I’d eat a bullet. I would die of the monotony, the emptiness, the pointless repetition. The boredom. That would probably never happen given that there always seems to be hope, but surely you see what I’m getting at.

“I would rather die of passion than of boredom.”
~Vincent van Gogh

I’m no different from millions of other people out there and I’m not about to pretend I’m better than you because I’m still on the same damn hamster wheel as the rest of you… but if I don’t become something more than that I don’t see what the point is. Dreams and desires are the only way to fuel an escape, an escape from being who I am, and from being just like most of the people who will read this post. And come hell or high water, be it through writing or some other avenue, I am going to break out.

The only reassurance I have is the burning need… but that’s enough, because I know what desire can do. In terms of firsthand experience it’s only been on a relatively small-scale, but I’ve seen it there and I’ve observed it in the lives of others. Desire, passion, is how that “hard work” is possible, it’s the only way you can do so much, develop such a high degree of skill, push through so many failures, and practice enough at something to become great at it. With passion, all that effort becomes effortless. You just have to find something that ignites you.

“Find what you love and let it kill you.”
~Charles Bukowski

That’s the secret to the kind of hard work people place on a pedestal.

Find what sets your soul on fire and let it burn you to the ground.


(Originally Posted Here on May 19th, 2014)

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35 thoughts on “Set Yourself On Fire

    • Couldn’t agree more. Met a guy recently that really drove that home for me. He was majoring in something to do with finances but the funny thing was, we were talking at an open mic night the local bookstore was having and he had apparently had enough of an interest in music to be one of the guys up their playing music in the second half. That, plus he’d said that he didn’t like his chosen area of study. I wonder how people even manage to accomplish as much as they do (the amount of time and effort with education alone baffles me) when they don’t even like it.

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  1. I’m in human resources for my “day job.” I’m happy that I’m actually using my English major (lots of technical writing and not a lot of English majors can say that they can put their education to good use) but it still isn’t the writing I’m passionate about. I’m able to balance it out and manage to squeeze in time for my creative writing which keeps me sane!! Can’t wait for the day when it is all about the writing that “sets me on fire!”

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  2. Love is always a second old, it always resides in the Now.

    So I´d rather say:

    Let Love find you, and It will simply Live you.

    LOVE is not about passion, boredom, repetition, hard work, aspiration or focus.

    Find out what is not, and Love may come to you 😉

    Where there is love there is abundance and success.

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    • Maybe so 🙂 . I think the difference between us is in how I use the terms. To me, love is one of many emotions. One of the most powerful, definitely, but just as temporary as happiness. When I talk about passion, desire, burning… something tht ignites you, I think I’m talking about something pretty close to what you refer to as “love”. Similar essence, it’s just I use a different style of language (and maybe a little bit of a different outlook) to put it into words.

      Kind of like the parable about the blind men and the elephant, where each one is grabbing a different part and seem to be using different perspectives to describe the same animal: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blind_men_and_an_elephant

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    • “Love is NOT an emotion. It is really beyond that.”

      Well, that’s kind of what I mean when I say we’re (more or less) talking about the same thing, just with different terminology, it’s something transcendent, I would even dare to say something divine. I think our divide on this is more due to our subjective perceptions and how we communicate what we see through that than to a difference in the thing we’re talking about experiencing.

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  3. For the longest time I worked at a monotonous job. Then one day I took the plunge and went back to school. I worked hard, and got a job in the social services. It’s not like I’ll ever be rich, but no two days are ever the same and I always feel like I’ve contributed to making someone elses life just a little bit brighter.

    Of course, some of the down sides include long hours and the potential for burnout. No job is perfect but im much happier where I am today.

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    • There’s probably a price for every path, it’s just more of a question of whether you’re getting something out of it to 🙂 . I personally have yet to take that kind of a plunge, leaving behind my current anchors and income, but the more I write the more I wonder if I’ve found something worthwhile to take a big risk on (or at least what feels like a big risk).

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  4. Thanks so much for stopping by my little sliver of cyber space – I thoroughly enjoyed your post here and look forward to following you.

    When you closed with that Bukowski quote, that was pure perfection.

    Wishing you some wicked good inspiration along your journey! 😉

    Allison

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m 39 and realizing now that if I don’t start going after what I want to do instead of what I have to do it will never allow me to be content with my life. Life has been an endless stream of everyday jobs simply to make ends meet and support the family, which in and of itself is noble, but none of the jobs was anything to be passionate about. They were jobs and nothing more. During this time, residing deep within me, there was a passion for writing. It was a desire to be creative I didn’t fully understand or try to cultivate. Today I’m working toward the goal of becoming a full time writer and creative. I’m still slogging away at the job I currently have which luckily isn’t a bad job, just not what I want to spend the rest of my life doing.

    Good post and very true. It is something I am trying to guide my kids toward. Hopefully they listen.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad you liked it 🙂 . I’m still in my early twenties so I like to tell myself I have time, but the truth is probably that sooner is better. I’m kind of in the same situation with my job. It’s not bad, but I also don’t want to be doing it 20 years from now.

      ” During this time, residing deep within me, there was a passion for writing. It was a desire to be creative I didn’t fully understand or try to cultivate. Today I’m working toward the goal of becoming a full time writer and creative.”

      Good luck getting there 🙂 .

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