There’s a well-known gunnery sergeant who, when his young Marines complain about their pay, explains they get two salaries:
A financial salary and a psychological salary.
The Marine’s financial salary is indeed meagre. But what about the psychological salary – the feeling of pride and honour, the sense of belonging to a brotherhood with a brave and noble history, and knowing that, no matter what happens, you remain a member of that fraternity as long as you live? How much, the Gunny asks, is that worth?
You and I, as artists and entrepreneurs, receive two salaries as well.
The first might be called conventional rewards – money, applause, attention, that kind is fine, if we can get it. The problem for most of us is that we can’t. We bust our butts training and practising and studying and rehearsing and nobody shows up, nobody notices, nobody even knows we exist. No wonder people quit. The struggle requires too much agony for too little payoff.
That’s the conventional reward.
Then there’s the psychological reward.
Remember, Krishna told Arjuna that he had the right to his labour, but not to the fruits of his labour. What he meant was conventional fruits. Does the monk meditate only to achieve enlightenment? What if that never happens?
What does the dancer take from the ballet class? Is it fun for the actor to perform? Why does the singer sing or the filmmaker shoot?
When we do the work for itself alone (I know how easy that is to say and how hard it is to do), we’re like that Marine who sleeps in a foxhole in the freezing rain but who know a secret that only he and his brothers and sisters share.
When we do the work for itself alone, our pursuit of a career (or a living or fame or wealth or notoriety) turns into something else, something loftier and nobler, which me may never even have thought about or aspired to at the beginning.
It turns into a practice.