The other day I chanced upon a video by Robbie Williams, who was one of the world’s biggest music stars about ten years ago. Out of curiosity, I looked him up on Wikipedia. The first observation was that he has aged really badly. I guess decades of partying do that to you. What I found more interesting, though, was the following:
He revealed in 2011 he had been battling lethargy caused by a type of hormone imbalance called andropause for a number of years and thought at first it was a return of his depression.
Robbie Williams has had a highly successful life. I’d say his success has been defying the odds, considering that he got his big break as a member of a boy band, Take That. He is also the most successful of his former colleagues. Unlike a lot of artists who rose to fame and eventually disappear, he didn’t seem to expect that the party will never end. In that Wikipedia article, for instance, we also learn that he as a net worth of about ninety million pounds, that’s around 126 million bucks at today’s rate. By any measure, he is fabulously wealthy.
The obvious observation is that there are not so many hills left to climb for him. He has been at the top of his professions. He doesn’t need any more money. Consequently, it’s quite plausible that he feels a lack of motivation. His life’s work is complete. There is nothing else to do. He has filled the largest arenas in the world, sold a gazillion of records, banged the hottest supermodels.
Of course, what I just wrote was partly facetious, but there is a lot of truth to it. People are “hungry” when they want to achieve some measure of success, whatever the area may be, but once you reach your goals, you’re done, for the time being. You could now keep working at it, or look for something new. This relates to an observation I’ve made with a few friends and acquaintances. I know about a handful of people who have or have had the vague goal of “writing a book”. Having a book out under their name is what their want. Once they achieve that, they normally aren’t so keen on writing another book, even if it sold more copies than they anticipated. That is easy to understand, because going from zero to one book is a much greater achievement than going from n > 0 books to n + 1 books. Worse, it may seem like work at that point.
I also have a friend who has been working on his great novel for about ten years now. I think he is afraid of releasing it because for about eight years he wants to release it “in summer”. It can of course be daunting to release something with your name on it, even if it is a pseudonym. His case is even more extreme because he’s now procrastinating by working on a two-volume novel that is — yes, you guessed it right — also almost done. He wants to release that one before his first novel. I think his problem is that he built an ego around being an author and fantasizing about its potential success instead of finishing his work and looking for a new hill to climb. That guy is caught in limbo.
What all of this leads to is that most people are, at one point, done, and if they are not done yet, they have a good idea of when that will be the case. They’ve achieved professional success, raised a family, written their book, mastered an artistic skill, or built a company. Quite a few realize, on the way, that they liked the idea a lot more than its realization. One way or the other, they will be done striving. At one point, you stop being hungry. I think the only way to stay productive for a long stretch of time is if you are internally motivated, if not obsessed. However, this is a personality trait, which I don’t think it is possible to acquire if you don’t have it. If you’re externally motivated, you’ll live out your life, climbing a few hills as you go along, and, as Schopenhauer would put it, try to minimize pain and boredom.
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