He looked at me. And I looked at him. Something in his body language called for a competition. I took the silent challenge and pushed briskly away from the pool wall. It might of just been all in my head, but I swam as fast as I could and he seemed to as well. With water splashing in every direction I could still make out the swimmer in the lane to the right. I was beating him. I reached the wall slightly earlier than he did, but when our heads both popped out of the water, something said to me that the race wasn’t over yet, we had to swim the lap back. Another fast push from the wall followed and arms appeared and disappeared above the water. We were leveled at one point, but slowly I pushed ahead again, only to reach the wall seconds earlier before he did. I won. Barely, but it was still a victory.
He probably let me win, or most likely, he called for no competition, but it got me thinking. Thinking about how miserable it would be to come to the pool only to race. To get better than the guy in the next lane. To impress. To get ahead, and to compete. Recently I read about artists who view and define themselves hierarchically, by their place in the pecking order. What happens is that they start practicing their skill (be it swimming, cello, writing, baking, designing, photography or whatever else) to get ahead of others, to rub shoulders with those further ahead of them, to compare themselves to the guy who is doing similar thing, and ultimately to get to the top of the order. And the results are fatal. Relationships are ruined, jealously and bitterness start overtaking, happiness and success are only defined by the place in the hierarchy, and every move evaluated by its effect on others. What could be worse? Is never getting out of this way of thinking. The chapter then stressed that the artist should only do his work for one and only reason: love. To swim laps out of pleasure . . . not because the guy in the next lane is watching. To design a website out of love for design, color, graphics . . . not to be called the greatest web designer. To take a photo out of passion for light, colors, composition . . . not to prove to a colleague that he/she is closer to the top of the food chain.
If you find yourself caught up in this thinking. Stop. Reevaluate why you do what you do, and start doing it out of love. There might be days when a silent challenge might come your way and it will help you grow in your skills, see where you are, and push you to try harder, but day in and out, you got to do what you do for because you love it and enjoy it. Happy Monday.