Not being satisfied has been part of my existence as far back as I can remember. In high school, I had paper routes, a lawn mowing service, painted houses and fences, and went to class. I had this insatiable desire to be productive and to evolve - to get better. The status quo (whatever it was at the time) was never, ever enough.
It is difficult emotionally at times to come up against others who are on the opposite end of the thought process that I am. It seems the "challengers of the status quo" are few and far between, and it has been extremely difficult for me to communicate and help others understand my desire to overcome the status quo.
Then, I see Conan O' Brien's interview with White Stripe's Jack White and I am thinking, "that's it." That is what I am trying to say. This is a beautiful example of the kind of thinking that I have. That is me. My vision. My passion. My struggle.
Jack White is passionate about his craft. He knows exactly who he is and does not care if you like him or not. Jack does not take the easy way. He takes the challenging way and savors the struggle. He does not care if you want his music because he knows he appeals to a select few. Jack White is a seeker - seeking to experience - the truth - but on his terms. There are ways he could do things easily and no one would know except for him. And he cannot live with that because the struggle is part of the journey.
There are a few things that Jack said that rung in my ears. A few things that are critical to challenging the status quo and making your company and self successful.
Here they are:
"What good can come from comfort?"
Being comfortable is great. Your couch is very comfortable, and, at times, you would love to hang out on it all day. However, you are not a couch potato, so you go to work. Why should life be any different? When you get comfortable in your job or in life, you become a couch potato. You are not growing, you are not improving, and you are not an asset to your company. I absolutely 100% agree that no good can come from comfort. If you are alright with being comfortable, you are probably not fit to be a leader. Many people are unaware that they are getting comfortable, which is why you must take a careful look at the areas in life and work where you can "get off the couch."
"I could do it the easy way, but . . ."
White could easily use engineers and technology to make a song better, but he cannot let himself do that. He emphasizes this point by saying you can get to the top of the mountain by climbing or by taking a helicopter, but once your at the top no one will know how you got there. White goes on to say that you should "want to create something under circumstances you can be proud of . . ." Someone once told me that integrity is what you do when no one is looking. You have to ask yourself, "If the world could see me doing this, would I still do it in this particular way?"
As a leader, it is important to be able to identify what you can do to make life and work simpler. Now, I am not saying you need to identify the "easiest" way, but the simplest way. White says that he thinks about one particular image almost weekly - the three staples used to hold a piece of upholstery to furniture. He explains that the three staples were the minimum number of staples that could be used to hold the upholstery on the furniture. White has built his entire life around this concept -this image- of minimalism, which puts him in the mindset he needs to be creative, but he says you have to be careful about not taking this concept too far. He is not taking the "easy" way but forces himself to free himself to be creative. As a leader, you have to pare down to free yourself for the things you have to get done.
"I work with people who are cooking and making themselves."
When White was asked by Conan why he works so well with women, White explains that he does not discriminate based on any factors. He simply works with people "who are cooking and making themselves." I find this one very important. You have to work with people who have the same values as you and work collaboratively with you. In White's mind, he believes he works well with women, whether it be Loretta Lynn or Meg White, because they get straight down to work. There is no competition or ego at play with women. Like White, you have to work with those who fit the culture to create something great.
There is beauty in not knowing why it worked.
Jack is creating everyday, and when you do create everyday, you do not get to always know why it worked. He finds beauty in not knowing and says this is why science fascinates him. In some cases, knowing the "why" behind things is important, but you also have to appreciate the unknown sometimes. As someone who is constantly bombarded with the "why's" of life, you need to realize that sometimes not knowing is beautiful.
Being never satisfied can be a lonely existence. It can be hard when your thoughts never "resonate" with those around you. There are very few that are constantly dissatsified with the status quo as Jack White is, but Jack is proof that this dissatisfaction can create something beautiful.