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Art vs hard work

My best friend and (soon to be!) best man, Steve Sangapore, is a prolific artist. His ability to churn out work with focus and intensity is jaw dropping, but his motivation has always fascinated me: he has a duty to create art and share it with the world.

We grew up together playing music. We have spent hours and hours creating art and talking about it. I have likely spent more time talking about art with Steve than I, myself, have tried making it. 

As someone who self-identifies as having no natural artistic ability, all domains of artistic creation have been a slog:

  • I forced myself to learn to tap my foot to the beat to learn rhythm

  • I took years of music theory and ear training to play in key

  • Writing continues to be a war

For me, I can’t think about artistic creation without thinking about brutal hard work; the hours it takes to nail a song or to get a page of writing out. 

However, when I think of “hard work,” I immediately think about my professional life: making products, sales, meetings, work travel. I am quick to apply my “hard work” energy towards that rather than art. It’s an instinct that has bothered me.

My professional work seems largely for other people. I identify closely with my professional mission: put great products in the hands of good people to make the world a better place. It’s about serving others and, in turn, making us–the world–better off.

But is this at odds with Steve’s mission? I am no longer sure.

Steve and I have lived through a lot. At each of these moments–losing a friend, dealing with trauma, family shenanigans–we consumed art to grieve, find meaning and recover. Artifacts that others made that helped us find meaning and peace.

When I drop “create art” (and my own baggage with it) from Steve’s mission and insert “do work,” the missions are the same. We have a duty to create and impact others.

There are important differences, however:

  • The things we do for money don’t need to be the things we do for the world or find passion in

  • Creating things for their own sake and not sharing them with the world has value

  • Creating things for yourself only, but still sharing them has a long and prolific place in art (Maynard James Keenan’s approach, for example)

  • Playing music is more fun than building slide decks

Ultimately, the mission of creating and impacting others is a good one, regardless of medium or audience. Art continues to inspire my appreciation for hard work.


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