Obscurity, with its benefits, is when there is nothing at stake
When I first came to Vanderbilt, I noticed this phenomenon: some rich kids were the most intensely hard-working people I’ve ever seen. In Uzbekistan, the norm for the wealthier strata was to be lazy and lavish, rather than ambitious and tough. The environment of successful parents, familial achievements, and a high-performance culture creates an expectation that can act as a powerful motivator.
Some top performers are driven by this feeling. Adele has to make her next song soulful. Liam Hemsworth has to be ripped for his next role. Donna Tartt has to take another decade to write a novel. Bjarke Ingels has to create the next mind-boggling building. The expectation for the magnitude and quality of their future work is set by their own past achievement. Public expectation, with its dangers, can act as a catalyst that sets significant stakes.
Obscurity, with its benefits, is when there is nothing at stake except for personal aspirations. No one is watching what I’m doing. No one cares about what I’m doing. No one is waiting. The universe treats both my crashes and strides with equal indifference. So I ask myself: