There’s a story of a very successful businessman who is on vacation in Mexico and encounters a single fishing boat docked at the pier with a large catch of fish.
When the businessman asked the fisher how long it had taken to catch so many fish, he told him that it had only taken a little while.
The businessman was surprised and asked why the fisherman didn’t then stay out and fish longer, since he apparently was having such success that day. To which the fisherman replied: “this is enough for my needs. I’ll now go back home and spend the day with my family, playing with the children, cooking dinner, dancing, drinking, and laughing.”
Again surprised, the businessman began to talk to the fisher about how he could fish for longer every day and make enough money to buy a bigger boat.
If he bought a bigger boat he could catch even more fish and make even more money, which meant he could hire other fisherman to help him on his boat. With the money he’d make with all of the help he could buy a whole fleet of boats and make enough money to start a large business.
At this point the fisher asked the businessman what he would do then. The businessman replied: “That’s the best part! You could sell the business and make enough money to never have to fish again. Then you could spend your days with your family, playing with your children, dancing, drinking, enjoying good food…”
The fisherman just laughed and said “But I’m already doing that now!”
There are a few important morals to this story, but the one that is often overlooked is the impact of the fisherman’s work itself.
Yes, he could have continued fishing and built up an empire of fishing ships, but that wasn’t what the fisherman set out to do everyday. Even if he did work that hard and achieve that success, for him the work itself was his personal reward.
For creative work it has to be the same way: the work is a big part of the reward. The process of creative work is what makes it worthwhile, not always the results.
Even if you were to sell a painting for thousands of dollars, or if you were to sell a million copies of your novel, or to reach some other height in your creative work: what then?
Success isn’t the end, the work has to continue.
So, whether you’re heading in a direction that you’ll hope will bring you wide success or not, remember that the work you do is something you need to find fulfillment from itself.
Whether you reach a perceived finish line or not, there’s always going to be work to be done. Make sure it’s work you enjoy doing.