Lately i have been asking myself this question constantly. I know that i work, and i know that i’m good at it, but i’m not sure WHY I do.
I am sure there is a call in all of us to aspire to greatness, but what happens when that obsession is to prove to ourselves we are worth something?
A while ago i watched The Social Network. If you haven’t seen it i highly recommend it. I’m about to do some light spoiling for you, so if you haven’t seen it, just know that i’m not really ruining anything, as the movie is not exactly a “big reveal” kind of movie.
The Social Network is essentially about Mark Zuckerberg. It’s probably a little bit about Facebook, but what i saw in it was a brilliant documentation of the mind of a creator.
Opening the movie is a scene of Mark out with his lady friend, Erica. During their conversation Mark is obsessed with picking the right “club” to join on campus, and disregards her attempt of connection with him in order to focus on what will make him “cool.” Erica (seemingly have had been through this many times before) decides to break up with Mark.
This is important because it give Mark’s “why.” Before Facebook and Justin Timberlake, Mark is obsessed. Not with work, the internet, or even with programming, but with acceptance (at least the idea of it).
A little over a year ago, I went through a tough breakup. I’ve tried really hard to act like it never happened or to gloss over all of the bummer times, but the truth is that it was hard, and it knocked me out of my flow for about three months.
I think the reason i tried to avoid talking about it (besides that the internet is at max quota for whiners.) is that it gave me an immense amount of my drive, and admitting that is a scary thing.
Breaking up is difficult; when your basis of reality is shaken everyone tells you to work out, and work hard, keep moving, and stay near people, but no one ever says “take your time and grieve.” The hard reality is that i learned how to code in three months because i needed something to focus on. Since i launched this site (about a year ago at this point) I’ve launched (on average) 1.7 sites a month. That is not efficient, that is an addiction.
I have been working for so long to get my mind off of that pain that long after the pain subsided my work continued to be my “safe place.” That is my “why.” It’s in my work that i can say “look everyone, i can do something, i’m not such a screw up.” It’s in my work that i can control my life, and in that same control I lose sight of what work (and my life) is about.
In the final scenes of the The Social Network, Mark Zuckerberg is working alone, and Rashida Jones (who btw is a total babe) reaches out and shares that she too had become obsessed with work because of a rejection that happened. Mark shrugs it off, and at this point, the viewer is left with a feeling of pity for Mark. Instead of reaching out towards the community around him, Mark counter-intuitively spent all of his time creating something that would prove to everyone that he deserved a community around him.Ironically, Mark had spent his life pushing people that loved him away in favor for work, in hopes that that very work would give him some validation that he deserved to be loved.
Mark’s “why” became a vicious cycle of “lose friends » work more,” and when he reached the end of the movie, he had no one to share his ideas with. The last scene really hit me, because sometimes i see me in that chair, working alone, thinking “this will make me important” with every pen stroke, and it is a dangerous place to be.
I think sometimes I focus so hard on what I’m making of myself that i separate myself from the community i am looking to connect with in the first place.
Mark and I both learned the hard way that what you do is important, but it’s not nearly important as the people around you. By stepping back I finally realize that its not my work, but my vulnerability that makes me a good friend.
Surround yourself with people you love and get to work.
Not because it makes you important, but because you are important.