Why Hard Work Beats Inspiration: A Life Lesson From Filmmaker Casey Neistat
By Luke Jones. Connect with him on Twitter.
Whenever I hear the words ‘filmmaking’ or ‘YouTube’, the name Casey Neistat always comes straight to mind.
You may know Casey from his viral Nike Commercial in which he spent the budget for the film travelling around the world with his buddy, or perhaps from his more recent Insane German Waterpark movie. His YouTube videos have massed more than 133 million views, and he has assembled an army of avid Snapchat followers.
Casey is a hero of mine, and someone who has really inspired me over the past few years.
Perhaps a little ironically, this post is all about inspiration, and how for the most part it doesn’t really count for much…
“Inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us just show up and work”
Casey was on the Rich Roll Podcast recently (which I highly recommend checking out) when he shared the above quote from legendary artist Chuck Close.
The quote really struck a chord with me.
This notion of inspiration vs action is something that I’d already been thinking a lot about over that past few months and been wanting to share. Now seems like a fitting time to vent a little.
The way I see it, inspiration definitely has it’s place, but it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
I’ve been inspired by many people who have helped me see and believe that I can achieve great things, including both Casey and Rich. I’m sure my life would be on a very different trajectory had I not stumbled across their stories.
Without a little inspiration I probably wouldn’t have created this website, or started my own YouTube Channel.
No doubt inspiration can sometimes provide the important spark to fuel your fire. But it’s the hard work of fetching firewood that keeps the fire burning.
We all have our own calling – something we’re passionate about, something that makes us tick. For some people it’s writing, others love to produce great music, run around a track, bake cakes or fix computers. Everyone is different, and if it wasn’t that way, life would be pretty boring.
I feel like more and more people these days are waking up to the idea of following their dreams and creating the lives that they want to live, and that’s great. I’m all for it.
The only issue I have is with the over emphasis on inspiration in allowing you to get to where you want to be.
If you scroll through your Facebook or Instagram feed, you’ll be hard pressed not to find at least a few inspirational quotes laid over the top of a pretty sunset or waterfall (I’ve probably been a culprit of this too btw). We’re constantly inundated with talk about inspiration and motivation. No doubt, these pictures are well-intentioned and they look real nice, but in the long run they don’t really mean all that much.
As Casey often points out, inspiration is easy. You can read an article, watch a short YouTube video or even see one of those nice Instagram images and feel relatively inspired. But there’s a big gap between feeling inspired and having a finished product, and that gap is invariably filled with graft. Inspiration doesn’t get the work done.
Hard work gets the work done.
Whether we’re talking about your business, fitness goals, relationships, whatever – the same rule applies. No one ever achieved anything worthwhile without putting in a lot of time and effort. No one ever became inspired and then suddenly morphed into an overnight success. It doesn’t work like that. There really are no shortcuts to success. In many ways the success is in the work itself.
I read The War of Art a few months ago, a great book that’s all about beating procrastination and breaking through creative blocks. Some of you have probably read it too. If not, I highly recommend that you do.
In the book, Pressfield talks about the ‘resistance’ that often stops many us from reaching our potential. This resistance can take various forms, including one that a lot of us fall culprit to, which is waiting around for inspiration to hit before we start anything.
Sometimes that inspiration pops up, and it’s great when it does. But often it doesn’t.
Back to the fire analogy:
Waiting for inspiration is kinda like waiting for lightening to strike in order to light your campfire, whereas you could have achieved your goal by working hard and plugging away with a wooden bow drill.
Often when inspiration is nowhere to be found, instead of getting our heads down anyway and marching on with what we need to do, we opt to put things off. We do menial tasks to fill the time, to make us feel like we’re being productive, whereas we’re actually just being busy. I catch myself doing it from time to time, and try to remind myself of the reasons why I’m doing what I’m doing, and that there’s no substitute for hard work.
It’s through hard work and struggle that you learn things about yourself, and you unlock your potential. Often when I’m not feeling inspired, my writing is complete garbage for the first hour or so. Honestly, sometimes I can’t string a sentence together or come up with one sensible idea. It’s painful.
But if I keep pushing through, if I keep grinding, most of the time things start to fall into place, and the words start to make some sort of sense. This might take hours or even days of work, and often I’ll redraft entire articles from scratch.
If I chose to wait around for inspiration as opposed to working through the resistance, I would never get anywhere. There certainly wouldn’t be many articles on this site right now.
It’s not easy, and there’s times where I want to curl up in a ball or have a day off, and sometimes I do. But I know that won’t really get me anywhere in the long run.
Creating an Environment for Hard Work
It may be a bit self-righteous of me, but I do think it can sometimes be especially difficult if you’re someone who’s trying to make it as a creative entrepreneur. If you don’t have a boss telling you what you have to get done, or set hours that you have to work, it’s easier to bunk off or find less important tasks to do.
One thing I find has been particularly useful is having a strict morning schedule, during which time I do the most important work. After meditating and moving, I spend the rest of the morning either writing or planning content, focussing on one main task. They’re the things that really matter in my work, as opposed to checking social media or answering emails. I can get that stuff done later in the day when I’m starting to flag.
Having that set routine makes it harder for me to find a reason to back out. The same goes for exercise and movement. I have a stretching and core workout that I do every weekday, no excuses. Sometimes I really don’t feel like doing it, I’m not the least bit inspired. But without fail, if I get through it I feel much better, and I’ve added a tally mark towards improving my skills.
Over to you
Apologies if this article was a bit mixed up and if I went off on a few too many tangents.
I think the main take away is that whilst inspiration definitely has it’s place, I don’t feel like it’s as important as it’s often made out to be in the media and in popular culture.
Good old fashion hard work trumps all. It’s better than any amount of inspiration, motivation, and even natural talent.
If you take anything from this article, if it did indeed inspire you in any way, then please, please, please take the next step. Don’t just add this to the list of things that you didn’t act upon.
Put your ideas into action, start creating the life you want to live, and keep moving forward.
Don’t wait around for your mood to change. Bring about that change yourself, now.
What are some of the things that inspire you to grow? How do you put that inspiration into action?
Let us know in the comments section below.