The Cost of Adding Extrinsic Value to Your Passion

It really should be simple, how a person engages in an activity that s/he loves.

But my journey has been so twisted, for seemingly insignificant reasons, that I kind of feel embarrassed and comical.

Along the way I took in messages like “it’s not OK to do things I enjoy” “if I am going to play music I better come across as extraordinarily good” “there are so many greats out there, I can’t possibly offer anything worthy” that formed this huge wall of Resistance.

Nobody starts out being already good. You develop your mastery out of passion. You love it so much that you do it a lot and as the consequence you get good. Simple.

The problem comes when you load up your passion with external objectives. Are you looking for validation, permission, approval? The place to work that out is therapy. Are you wanting to achieve financial gain or mass appeal? There are better pursuits for that than the arts.

I am not judging anyone for pursuing anything for any reasons. It’s just that I am trying to get to the point where I do something just because I find the act itself worthwhile. Intrinsic vs. extrinsic. The problem with extrinsic motivation is that it can suck joy out of the thing you love. I remember being so frustrated with guitar because I saw this overwhelming gulf between what I wanted to be and what I was. That frustration covered up the truth that I really, really love this thing.

I enjoy playing the guitar, and making original music. And I want to share it with people who have taste for it.

It needs to be that simple. There doesn’t need to be any schemes to “make” something else happen. I may not have spent enough time doing it to be as good as I’d like to be. I can be OK with that, since that in no way takes away my supposed-permission to do it. It is a luxury and privilege, yes. Many people have unfortunate and legitimate reasons why they can’t. But I am not being callous if I don’t join them in that state to show some sort of solidarity — if anything it’s the opposite. My pursuing my passion can possibly inspire others. (Again that’s a side effect, not a goal.)

So here I am, playing a little guitar solo I wrote. I found it worthwhile.