I read this article recently in which the competitiveness of three of the best basketball players of the last 20 years were pitted against each other. Kobe, LeBron and Jordan. Jordan wanted to annihilate everyone around him at everything. Kobe is not competing against current players but a roster of the game’s greatest. LeBron, as far as we know, doesn’t seem to care about either. He just seems to be playing against himself. As though his body and the sport are a video game and he wants to see if he can be the perfect player. 30 points on ten attempts was the example used. I even remember reading a piece by the fiction author, Michael Chabon, where he said something along the lines of, “I want everything I write to be better than anything else anyone else has ever written.” And he believes it too.
I know most of us are motivated by money and it’s true the more you collectively pay a group of people the more likely you are to get a superior product, teacher, athlete whatever. But there is a law of diminishing returns somewhere, after which personal motivation becomes the primary drive in your attempt to do better. Maybe you want to be the biggest star in the world. Maybe you want to actually change the world. Maybe you simply want to dominate your opponents, the competitors around you. Maybe you want to be the best in history. All of these somehow play off the size of your ego. I feel like an asshole for even broaching the subject.
I’m kind of curious what drives me. Writing had always been an outlet to some degree and also a way of thinking. I’ve never been one for sitting contemplatively. I do better when I can verbalize my thoughts or write them down and edit after the fact. (This sometimes leads to odd arguments as I learn how I feel about a subject as I debate it.) How do you transition from an activity that translates as a hobby, with meditative and therapeutic benefits, to something actually professional? I suppose that’s where the competitive motivation comes into play.
I try not to put too much stock in dreams. If we had a spiritual advisor and a third of the time she told us we were anxious over our ex because our ex is a falcon and we know that if we don’t hold on to the rope tight enough she might just fly away, and the other two thirds of the time she told us we are in fact the falcon, shitting dynamite onto Chernobyl before hitching a ride to the mall where we pecked off the frosting from some Cinnabuns–I’m pretty sure if that was the advice we would take whatever she had to say with a grain of salt. Consistency and reliability have to count for something. That being said, I’m going to indulge this dream I had the other night anyway.
My ex-girlfriend had a friend in one of her art classes who was a big big personality and sort of a big big guy as well. Sort of like a Korean Neil DeGrasse Tyson. He was an artist but had bigger aspirations to manager artists. He definitely seemed to have the personality for it. Anyway, he was reviewing my website. We were projecting the website onto the wall of a warehouse and there may have been some rave going on behind us.
“You’ve got a podcast, yes,” he said, “But it’s just you talking to your friends. We want bigger things. And your story? I don’t want to hear you reading it to me. You’ve got a nice voice Chris but we need a BIG voice.” Everything in the dream was about bigness. Big voices, big website, big ideas. Big, big, big.
This website, as I see it, can serve two purposes. I can make it a hobby, a simple way to spend some time and write and let loose inner demons and observations. Or it can be something greater. I can make it a professional touchstone, a place where I can at least treat myself–fake it until you make it–like a professional. I like that idea. Because of it my inklings of competitiveness have begun to kick in. I do want everything to be grand. I don’t just want to put out shorts, I want to put out a LOT of shorts. I don’t want to be just one author but a collective of authors. Good authors, great authors. I want artists and musicians. I want to create a living breathing world you can tap into. Audio, maps, history lessons even. How about instead of a reading of one of the shorts we create a drama of one, like the BBC radio adaptation of Lord of the Rings? These are the sort of places my mind goes. It’s just the sort of asshole I am I guess.
And my feelings about the dream no doubt reflect my anxiety about this website and about my writing in general. I’m ready to become not merely a professional hobbyist but a professional and simply that.
It’s in this vein that I’ve started to really enjoy LeBron James. He’s been around long enough that the narrative of his career is starting to come into focus. There’s something wonderful about watching greatness. I like watching Kobe Bryant struggle mightily–and it is a struggle–to measure up against the greatness of the past. It was sort of wonderful to watch Jordan plow through a game while he had the flu just to beat the Jazz. But it’s also wonderful to watch a guy now seemingly attempt perfection, for which he has his own yardstick. To become the perfect basketball player. Surely his 20 million dollar a year salary helps him achieve this. Beyond that is some other drive, no doubt developed when he was just a kid, now rekindled. It’s a fucking great thing to know.