I recently wrote about how realizing the big picture irrelevance of any one speech or pitch, frees me from getting anxious about it.
An interesting thing happened when I took the same frame to the macro level of my life. I initially found it extremely demotivating…what’s the point of working so hard if it doesn’t really matter anyway?
I found this driven home pretty hard when I was on vacation with my wife in Paris, walking the Louvre. I am not one that can walk through an art museum perusing and appreciating paintings without any context of the artist or the piece. I’m always that guy that buys those audio guides with the crappy headphones.
During one such tour, I came upon a 17th century painting of some Dutch financiers, who according to the tour guide in my ear, were some of the most important patrons in the development of private business for the Netherlands and then ultimately the rest of the world. These guys were the Medici’s of private business.
They were so important that this gigantic 8 foot tall painting with lots of gold leaf was commissioned to memorialize their influence and impact…and I had never heard of a single one of them. Not even a…oh, I kind of remember hearing a story about them–nothing.
When art does its job it is supposed to make you feel something. Well, that painting left me feeling a little despondent…empty. There are thousands, probably millions of people that dramatically change the trajectory of the world’s future every day, but only a small handful are known to history just a few generations later.
For several months, this thought of irrelevancy silently lurked in mind, like a shadow only visible in my periphery, until I finally had a breakthrough on why when applied to my speech it was freeing but to my life was discouraging.
With things propelled forward by extrinsic motivations, my fulfillment comes from “the destination”, which makes recognition, awareness, and thus relevance a bigger factor.
On the other hand, when doing things I am intrinsically motivated by, I receive fulfillment from “the journey”, removing the pressure from the long term implications or really what anyone else thinks.
Ultimately, whether or not irrelevance was freeing or depressing is driven completely by the outcome I am trying to achieve, and why I am doing the work.
What would you try doing differently if you knew in the long run it wouldn’t matter if you succeeded or not?