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The recipe for a good life

"Creativity's biggest enemy is desperation."
- Justin Jackson

We do a lot of things everyday, and we have a certain appetite for doing any of these. Some we are really interested in doing, some we do because we are afraid of the consequences of not doing it, and some we do just out of obligation. The attitude that we bring to something affects how we do it. But you already knew this. So I dig a little deeper.  

Whatever we do, it is with one of these five attitudes that we approach them.

There are some things that we can simply not fail to do, or the consequences are dire. If you're running a startup and you only have a month's worth of runway in the bank, you approach fundraising with an attitude of starving, because failure to raise money means you shut down operations in a month. In this situation, you have close to no leeway for negotiation, and you take whatever comes your way. You are like a mouse trapped in a corner. Sure, this might give you the impetus to put in everything you have and turn the situation around, but you can't do it on an ongoing basis. There is no room to even consider a creative solution to the problem. The only focus is on survival.

Here, the consequences of not doing something are not fatal, but are dire none the less (or are perceived as dire). I recently attended a Lit fest at The Humming Tree where I heard Danish Sait, who is famous for his prank calls on Fever 104, speak. He talked about how there were times when he went on air with so much pressure on him to be funny, that he just couldn't do it. His jokes started falling flat and he nearly lost his job. When you're desperate to produce certain results, your stress levels are high and your appetite to let yourself be free and try different things is low. This sends you on a loop of doing what worked before which fails now and brings down your confidence and you end up trying the same thing with lower confidence which fails again and further brings down your confidence and so on. The death spiral. And you can't be creative when you're in a death spiral.

Content is the opposite of desperate. Content is being comfortable in your work. Content is going to the gym and following the same workout routine week after week, with the same weights. Content is running ten kilometres in under an hour week after week after week. While content is a good place to be, it is not a place where creative work comes out of. When you are content, you are risk averse, and tend to follow the success formula until you are no longer content. 

If starving was one extreme, apathy is the other extreme. This is where you do things simply out of obligation, with no real interest in the task or the outcome. Like a government official pushing papers. There is no active effort to do anything. Something comes your way and you figure out where you send it next. This is the path of least resistance.

As you move from Starving to Desperate and before you move on to Content and Apathetic, you hit that sweet spot in between which is Hunger. This is someone trying to improve week on week, day on day, month on month. Or like James Altucher puts it, 1% improvement a day in anything that you do. Hunger keeps you pushing to discover newer and better ways of doing something. It keeps you on your toes. And this is where all the creative work happens.

Creative need not hold the traditional meaning here and can be applicable to everything that you do. On any given day, we ought to be doing things that span all across these five attitudes, preferably spread over like a bell curve with a good number of them in the 'Hungry' space and hardly any as you move toward either extreme. 

To me, that's the ideal state to be in for a good life. 

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