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The Hardest Thing in the World
I am loving this interview with Jerry Seinfeld on the Tim Ferris Podcast.
One of the reasons why I have always admired Seinfeld is because of the systematic nature in which he approaches his comedy.
There’s no “magic to creativity.” For Seinfeld, it’s a process. Telling jokes and mastering the art of standup comedy is about building habitual writing practices and then doing it day in and day out.
One of the memorable moments of the interview was when Seinfeld talks about writing and acknowledges the difficulty behind it.
This isn’t an exact quote, but it went something like this…
“When you start writing, you have to acknowledge that is the hardest thing in the world to do. Exercising is way easier than writing. That’s why you sit down and acknowledge your mediocrity, and when it’s time to write, you do nothing else. Even if you do nothing, you at least do nothing while you focus on writing. And after you’re done, you give yourself a cookie and a glass of milk because you need to reward yourself for doing this horrible impossible task.”
That was a gratifying sentence for me to listen to.
Seinfeld writes jokes. I write blog posts about my life and ideas. Some people write poems and other people write essays on crypto currency.
No matter what you write about, the act of doing so every day is an exercise of courage and self mastery. Is there anything more difficult than confronting yourself every day and establishing control over the parts of you that want to hide?
It’s important to understand that the baseline of human behavior is to hide. Our nature is to blend in with the tribe and to go unnoticed. Our brains are evolutionarily wired to avoid attention and spotlight, because our survival depends on being accepted as part of the tribe.
The worst thing that can happen to us is we get kicked out of the tribe and are forced to survive on our own. The worst thing that can happen is that we are exiled.
So when you are writing, (or doing any kind of creative work) you are fighting against the strongest impulses you have. You are confronting a million years of evolution and purposefully exposing yourself to nature.
It’s terrifying. It’s the hardest thing in the world.
This is why most artists” can write a post, create a video, make a few tweets but inevitably quit. The longer we expose ourselves, the longer we have to face the reality of our isolation. Publishing your writing isn’t something that you get used to. It’s a daily struggle and a daily battle against your amygdala. The fight is just as hard today as it was yesterday.
The true difficulty is the longevity. The longevity is what creates the legends like Seinfeld. That’s why as humans, we are so enamored and stunned when someone can consistently publish creative work in a way that captures our imagination.
Deep down in our hearts, we know that in order for this person to consistently create this work, they were able to do something that we couldn’t. They were able to conquer that evil little monster inside of them that is always telling them to blend in. They were able to confront themselves and deal with the reality of their isolation.
We all look at beautiful paintings and listen to beautiful poems or watch Seinfeld perform comedy and we feel small. We feel like we are in touch with the divine. Because only a higher power can create something so captivating.
How could a person possibly do this?
It’s the hardest thing there ever was.