For ambitious people (which I assume you are because you’re reading this), it’s sometimes hard to say what drives us. And it’s not the same for everyone. But I recently heard someone characterize the relentless drive I feel – and that which I see in so many of my friends and colleagues – in a way I’d never thought about it before.
That someone just happens to be Jerry Seinfeld. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the person who had the genius and drive to shape comedy and television as a whole for multiple generations could also offer a paradigm-shifting insight on life.
Seinfeld was a guest on the Howard Stern Show, and Stern suggested Seinfeld might like the new Michael Jordan documentary “The Last Dance” because it shows a person who worked hard and “willed himself to be the greatest.” But Seinfeld had a different take on it. He said:
“That was not will…what Michael Jordan uses and what I use—it’s not will. It’s love. When you love something, it’s a bottomless pool of energy. But you have to love it, sincerely. Not because you’re going to make money from it, or be famous, or get whatever you want to get.
Will is like not eating dessert or something. That’s just forcing yourself. Love is endless. Will is finite. Real love is what enables you to accomplish ANYthing. Not will, not discipline, not work ethic. You gotta love it. If you love it, those other things come in behind it. They’re the troops behind. Love is the general.”
While Jerry gifted us with some pretty profound humor (wink) in his sitcom days with lines like “look to the cookie” and “not that there’s anything wrong with that” – I can’t help but imagine this quote will probably rattle around in my head much more often than those in the future.
Because it puts an answer to a fundamental question (and one I like to ask in job interviews, whether I’m the interviewer or interviewee): “What gets you out of bed in the morning?”
In years of asking that, I’ve never heard a person say “love” – because, honestly, that would sound a little too hippy…a little too, “oh, did you just get back from an ayahuasca retreat in Peru?”
But when you really dig down to what’s behind some of the responses to that question I’ve heard, it really is love. I want to do work that helps people or I want to do the very best work I can or even I want to be the best at what I do.
It’s either love of people or the love of the thing itself (be that basketball, comedy, marketing, accounting, whatever) that fuels the drive to get you out of bed, move you through the day, move you through life itself. And, thinking that way makes the truth a little more obvious: Love is what animates us.
I’m not trying to get all motivational speaker here on you or anything, but this simple idea highlights what we all should aim for in this life: Figure out what you love and go after it. Because otherwise, what’s the point in any of this?