There Are No Promises in Art

“For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself.”

Viktor Frankl


Black Sabbath’s classic song “Iron Man” tells an interesting tale of a superhero (No, not Marvel’s Iron Man) who travels through time to save humankind. Upon returning to the present day, he expects to be lauded for his deeds, but instead, what does he get?

Total indifference.

Nobody recognizes the significance of his actions, and Iron Man “just stares at the world”. Feeling deeply unappreciated, he wreaks vengeance on the people he had tried so hard to save. He ends up causing the very doom that he had sought to prevent.

If only Iron Man placed his worth and happiness in his act of delivering value to other people instead of the expected outcome (i.e. getting a pat on the back), he wouldn’t have been so crestfallen.

Well, that’s a pretty crazy example, but it’s not different from our vocation of creating art.

Because the thing is, there are no promises in art. It doesn’t matter whether you’re writing a book or running a business, there are no guarantees that it will work out.

It’s not uncommon for books to be burned and banned before they are hailed as classics. Or for a business idea that seems a little advanced for its time to be called a ridiculous pipe dream.

But hey, if your goal as an artist is to simply give value to the people you serve — to make their lives more convenient — then that should be your only concern. Even if it needs some fine-tuning or if it simply takes some time for people to see its worth.

My message for you today is : the practice is the reward.

Don’t give up on your art just yet. Keep going, because you never know where it might take you.

You’re making your audience’s lives at least a little better, and that’s something to be truly proud of.

I know I am.

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