Skip to main content

The Carrot and The Stick

carrot and stick

 Are you the old mule, mindlessly pulling the cart in an effort to get the carrot dangling in front of you, while also stepping it up to avoid the sting of that stick at your rear? A friend who published a popular financial newsletter years ago once told me while discussing why people read his newsletter, that people are motivated by two things, greed and fear.

Though it sounded cold, deep down I knew he was correct in the truest sense. Though many do not like being label greedy or even fearful, we all are to some degree.

Possessions past the basics of food, shelter and safety can sort of be filed under the greed banner. Protecting what you have is where the fear part comes in, and our instincts are seemingly wired for both. We want rewards, and we do not like punishment.

With respect to your art; why do we create? Why do some care to and others do not, especially to the point of wanting to become or to be called an artist? History indicates many artists have lived painful and frustrating lives. So much so, that the word starving has been heavily associated with the word artist. Who would want such a life for themselves? Do true artists have any choice? Of course they do.

What then is the carrot to an artist? Well, you may wish to get paid doing something you love. You may wish to leave an enduring legacy to be remembered by. You may wish to change the world and tell your story, while affecting the emotions of others. You may want the satisfaction of an award or money from the sale of your art.

So, what then is the stick or the fear part of this equation? Maybe a starving artist is all you can be, and failure seems a reality. Maybe you’ll never live up to your expectations or the expectations of others. Maybe you’ll never be known as an artist, or win an award.

As a creative type, or anyone for that matter, it’s good to know what motivates you. It’s good to know why you do what you do, and even the amount or ratio of carrot and stick in your life. For many, youth is about snatching that carrot and the going for it! As we age though, fear can creep in. It’s no longer about chasing the carrot.

Try to make sure you know exactly what you want. Have expectations for yourself, your art and your career in art if you indeed chose or have chosen that path. Do not think of the characteristic of a healthy amount greed or desire as improper. You do deserve to be the best you that you can be and if the stick is a helpful motivator, let it do it’s job. Growth though, is one wonderful common factor of both. You should always want to grow as an artist and person and you should fear not growing a lot!

Live an artful life!