If you’ve read Pressfield’s Virtues of War, you might be familiar with the concept of a daimon. Although the Stoics often called it by a different name, they believed in it too. It’s the idea that we have an inner spirit–a destiny inside us–that pulls and powers us. When you look at accomplished people you see a drive that made the success inevitable. I feel that urge. It is insatiable. That’s why I read so much, always feel like I’m stagnating, it’s the vague notion that I must be heading in the right direction at all times. For the people that’ve asked: that is why I work so hard.
But here’s the thing, I think. A lot of people have that. Maybe even most people. No one “aims” to end up part of a massive shell game, deluding themselves and others. At some point, they broke. When you get to Hollywood you see that most people don’t do anything. I don’t mean that they don’t work hard but that their job literally has no purpose. Again, not in the metaphorical sense–it does not need to exist. They don’t even know HOW to do anything. No wonder they’re unmotivated and lazy. Somewhere, something went wrong.
For me, it’s all about protecting that daimon. I’m absolutely paranoid about it. Were I to lose it, it’d be over. At 20, no less. Your daimon is sort of like your inner-child. Your purity. Your passion. Your clearheadness. The ability to look at problems and solve them instead of accepting them. The drive for a calling over a career. But it is in a constant state of temptation. And when it goes away it doesn’t come back. You make bargains like “80 hours a week for the next 50 years” and “yeah, I’ll sell a product I know is worthless.” Then you’re fucked.
By the time most people have made it through school, they’re gone. 8 years in intellectual prison breaks quite a few spirits. Each year after that, the world weeds us out. Cognitive Dissonance takes care of the ignorance. In preparing for this radically shifting marketplace, I think the single most important thing you can do is to protect that daimon. To prevent and resist breaking.
Here is the quote I try to use:
“Never regard something as doing you good if it makes you betray a trust, lose your sense of shame, or makes you show suspicion, ill will, or hypocrisy, or a desire for things done behind closed doors.” – Marcus Aurelius
I’ve enjoyed your blog consistently for a few months now. Partly due to timing, this post was especially rich for me. Thank you.
I remember my junior year of college I was over it and wanted out. I had already interned in Hollywood and gotten a taste of reality. Going back to the classroom was tough. If I had stayed for a MBA I certainly would have broke. My brother did, and 7 years later, he’s still writing his thesis.
I also find that the women that I have been involved with have tried to set me straight and keep me on a steady predictable “safe” path. It is because of this that I have avoided the serious relationship for a long time now. Thanks to Greene’s books now I avoid corners. Ryan, you have said many times your girl makes you a better person, (they might be hard to find) but many of my close friends get broken and loose all drive because of the women in their life. What do you think about this theory? Do you think Tucker would have been as successful if he would have married at 26? How about you?
I know what you mean – I can always feel the various pressures of life pulling away at my drive, my determination, my ambition. I just never understood why it is that people say “because that’s the way it is” when you ask why you can’t change something.
Big question is, if you can feel school slowly numbing you and sucking the drive out of you, should you quit it? And at what level? Is there a point below which you should not by any means leave? And then what if you do?
Sorry to plaster you with questions here, Ryan. I know you’re busy. And, one more time because I don’t know when to shut up — thankyou for everything you’ve written. I had a depressive few days a while ago and then I started to think about what you and Aurelius and Tucker have said over the years, gave myself a good slap in the face, and straightened up a bit. I’m writing the beginning of something now – expect it on the messageboard. Peace.
My girlfriend has almost nothing to do with this at all, but ok.
you know, I have to disagree with the idea of an un-salvageable loss of inner strength and power. Perhaps that’s simply because my personal goals, motivations, and my inner drive come and go. Even if that’s my personal reasoning, though, I have seen people recover their inner drive after having their spirits seemingly crushed. The human spirit is a really tough and surprising thing. You CAN make those bargains, so long as you keep them. I agree, it is possible to not find the inner strength to gain your personal goals again after giving in the temptations you mentioned, but it’s also possible to succeed with it.
Thank you for introducing me to this concept. It’s a concept I haven’t had a name for. I’ll be researching it further. Do you have any other resource recommendations on daimon?
Just read this through a series of links of your site. Insightful read. Thanks again for sharing.