I was sitting at a cafe in Australia, listening to some girls seated at a nearby table talk about guys and dating.
“Guys are only motivated by one thing,” said the first girl.
Chuckles erupted from all the other girls. It was clear they all knew what that one thing was.
“Yes, which is why you can’t let them have it!” — Another girl blurted out.
“If you do, they lose interest or get lazy.”
I thought to myself that whoever or whatever designed our procreation system surely had a sense of humor.
I also wondered how the system managed to work, given it appeared, based even on this short conversation, that the motivations of men and women were at odds with each other.
What, You Mean No Ejaculation At All?
Fast forward a few years into the future and I was sitting on the floor in a tantric workshop run by my yoga teachers.
Before you get too excited, ‘tantra’ in this case referred to a yogic philosophy about all of life. This was not a sex workshop, which frankly I was happy about as there were plenty of other attendees I had no desire to see naked.
Although we weren’t having sex, it was one of the topics covered during the two-day weekend workshop.
Tantrics believe that sexual energy is creative energy. It’s the energy that powers all aspects of life. It’s what drives us to go after any goal, not just sexual pursuits.
“Tantra offers two paths when it comes to sex. You have abstinence or sublimation,” explained my yoga teacher.
As a young male, celibacy (abstaining from sex) did not appeal, leaving me with one option, if I was to embrace this school of thought… sublimation, or as the yogis called it, Brahmacharya.
Brahmacharya is the practice of channeling sexual energy, from the lower chakras to the higher ones, or put another way, to direct your energy towards positive internal growth and connection with the divine.
I won’t go into the somewhat graphic details regarding how to do this during sex (I had to pull my yoga teacher aside after the lesson to clarify a few things using crude drawings), but the basic idea is simple.
Instead of releasing sexual energy during sex, you channel it for use in other aspects of life, in particular, creative pursuits.
Whether you are a writer, painter, entrepreneur, scientist, doctor, athlete, politician or any role in life that requires creativity, this energy is what you use to create with.
However, this energy isn’t just what you use to create with, it’s the energy that drives you to do anything.
Just as a man or woman feels a compulsion when they are attracted to someone else, the same energy is behind a desire to win a game of tennis, or solve a math equation, or build a million dollar company, or win an election.
This energy is the energy that moves us, individually, and as a species. You could say this energy is life itself.
Master Of Your Domain
At the time I was learning about this yogic belief system, I was also studying a completely different world — the pickup artist community.
The men in this group were dedicated to the art and science of meeting and seducing women, using techniques and strategies that they shared online and then practiced ‘in the field’ when meeting women in shopping malls, bars and clubs, and at college campuses around the world.
During several occasions, while reading online forums at pickup artist websites, I came across men conducting 30-day ‘experiments’.
These young men were, effectively, practicing Brahmacharya.
Their experiments tapped into a simple idea. They believed that by not masturbating for a month, they would be more motivated to take action and actually talk to girls in real life.
You see, most of these men were petrified of the opposite sex. They were not studying pickup artist techniques so they could trick women into having sex with them, they were just trying to work up the courage to say hello to a pretty female stranger!
As all men will testify, masturbation does not lead to a sudden burst of energy. It has quite the opposite effect.
The idea of a 30-day master of your domain challenge is rather than release sexual energy through masturbation, you take that energy and use it to force yourself to get out there and talk to real female human beings.
As I read reports from men participating in this challenge, I started to notice something…
Not only were these men getting out there and talking to women, they were reporting back some interesting additional ‘side effects’.
Some of them explained how they were able to write pages and pages of a book they were working on, or spend hours composing music or pushing themselves extra hard at the gym, or getting more done at their job than they had ever before.
It seemed, just as the tantrics proclaimed, by not releasing sexual energy through sexual acts, including masturbation in this case, these men were channeling that energy into other pursuits in their lives.
The Journey Is The Destination
Before I discovered tantric practices and pickup artist challenges, I came across a book that in many ways was an initiation to what would eventually become my version of spirituality.
The book you probably know well, as it is one of the most popular books of all time…
The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho.
I read The Alchemist at the perfect time. I was a young man, fresh out of high school, feeling lost about my future direction.
I was effectively the young sheepherder in search of my own treasure, just like in the book.
The Alchemist is clever because it itself represents the idea it presents within the pages.
Let me explain what I mean…
Spoiler Alert: If you have not read The Alchemist before, I’m about to completely spoil the plot, so you might want to skip the next few paragraphs.
The Alchemist shares the story of a young shepherd boy, who gives up his simple life of tending sheep to follow a prophetic dream he has of hidden treasure in Egypt.
The book is the story of his journey to Egypt, only to finally discover at the end of his quest, that the treasure was buried right back at the church near where he lived with his sheep.
The real treasure of course, is not the material wealth found by digging into the ground to unearth old gold, it’s the experience and awareness gained from the journey itself.
In other words, the journey is the destination.
For us as readers, the book delivers the same experience as the shepherd boy lives, because we take the journey with him.
Paulo could have written a much shorter book. He could have talked about a boy who had a dream of treasure in Egypt, but in truth, the treasure was right under his nose the whole time.
However, if that was the book, there would be no impact. The concept of the journey being the destination doesn’t have any meaning unless we actually go on the journey.
This is a metaphor for life. Our journeys ARE the purpose. It’s not where we are going as much as it is about how we get there.
Anticipation As Purpose
When I was around 13 years old I had a passion for video games.
I grew up with Sega and Nintendo, and I especially loved RPGs – Role Playing Games. Zelda and The Secret of Mana are my all time favorites.
However, there was one thing I loved more than video games…
I loved to read magazines about video games.
Buying and reading the latest magazines like Electronic Gaming Monthly, Next, Hyper, Nintendo Power, and Edge, was even more fun than playing the games themselves.
I’d head down to the local newsagent shop multiple times per week, hoping that a new edition of one of my favorite mags was released.
On those glorious days when I got my hands on the latest edition, I’d speed home, lay down on the couch and consume the magazine, page-by-page, word-by-word, picture-by-picture, making sure not to skip anything.
The strange thing was, I enjoyed reading previews and reviews of games, looking at pictures of gameplay and thinking about which games I would buy, more so than actually playing the games.
Don’t get me wrong, I still loved playing the games, but there was something special about that time leading up to playing the game.
I came to experience the anticipation of an event, and contemplation of the potential of the event, as more enjoyable than the event itself.
I didn’t realize this as a 13-year-old — and it’s still a counterintuitive idea today as a full grown adult — but I now understand that it’s the anticipation and pursuit of good things that deliver the most happiness.
As I grew older and lost interest in video games, the concept of anticipation and progress being more exciting than the goal itself, repeatedly showed up in my life.
I remember when I first started dating, that feeling before a date with a girl was all-consuming.
The anticipation of intimacy, the ‘quest’ of meeting someone and the dating journey, and then finding the treasure (hah!) if things go well, was about as exciting as life could get up to that point.
Later as an entrepreneur, I once again felt that unique motivation that comes from anticipation and a ‘quest’. I’d have a new business idea or learn a new marketing technique, and the possibility of it working was so exciting, it made the process of building so much fun (at least it was fun whenever I stopped letting self-doubt creep in!).
Over the years as I’ve appeared on podcasts to talk about my business success, people have asked what moment stands out the most.
When I answer this question I always talk about making my first sale.
As you can imagine, you can’t call a business successful because you make one sale. You can’t live off the proceeds of that sale either. You’re still very much on the way to success, you’re not done yet.
Yet despite this, it’s these moments on the path to the outcome that matter most. It’s each step, and the process leading up to each step wondering if it will work, that drive you forward.
Passion and purpose come from pursuit.
The goal is a lure, an outcome to stimulate your energy to chase, to work hard, but it is the use of the energy of pursuit that actually delivers happiness.
This is also why, once you do succeed and reach your goal, the happiness you feel is quickly replaced with a need to find another goal. You need something else to pursue because the act of creation is the purpose, not what you create.
I would hazard a guess that right now in your life, what makes you happy is what you are looking forward to and what you are working towards.
You might have a holiday coming up, and the act of planning and preparing for it gives much excitement. Maybe you’re toiling away on a project at work or in your business and it’s the day-to-day progress you achieve that motivates you.
You might be working on a creative endeavor like art or music or programming. It’s each brush stroke, musical note or line of code that motivates you to keep working, not just the painting, or song or software you are making.
Purpose Does Not Equal Pleasure
On several occasions, I’ve heard writers talk about how they have to ‘bleed words out onto the page’. Athletes note how much pain they must endure in order to train and perform at the highest level. Entrepreneurs talk about all the ‘blood, sweat and tears’ they put into their business.
None of this sounds very comfortable, yet these people choose to repeat these activities day-after-day, month-after-month, year-after-year. They then talk fondly about all the hard work they put into their endeavors and how much happiness it brings them.
What’s going on here? How can happiness come from so much pain?
The truth is that contentment and purpose in life come from what gives you meaning, not what gives you pleasure.
Pleasure comes from the satisfaction of a job well done, but the doing of the work, while incredibly enjoyable isn’t always incredibly pleasurable.
What’s important is that you feel a yearning to do the work each day, even knowing full well that it might not be easy or even fun.
Unfortunately many people on our planet today spend large chunks of their lives performing a task because of the outcome, not the work itself. They do it because they need the money, or they feel pressure from family, or they fear the unknown, so they continue being miserable, even when all it would take is one decision to change things for the better, even if it is scary at first.
The End Makes The Value Of The Journey Clear
As I’ve grown older, I’ve been given the gift of experiencing hindsight many times.
I’ve had the opportunity to look back over more than a decade of work on a business, and see what actually made me happy.
I can look back on past relationships, sexual encounters, friendships and moments with family and see where contentment came from.
Even simple things, like the first time watching what would become your favorite movie or television show, or the ah-hah insight gleaned from reading a powerful book for the first time, are reminisced about because you can only experience that first time once.
The older you become, the more hindsight will continue to demonstrate the value of the process rather than the outcome. You have to finish something in order to appreciate how amazing working on it was.
I believe at the point of your death comes the ultimate moment of hindsight. You experience full awareness of the journey you have just lived and can see that your life was not about getting somewhere or achieving something, it was about all the steps along the way.
The challenge is to adopt this mentality now, in the present, during each brush stroke as you create the painting that is your life.
We fixate on results. If we want to intentionally change something in our lives, we tend to look at the change we want, not the evolution we must undergo to realize that change.
However, it’s so important to savor the chase. Life itself is designed this way.
Time disappears when we enter flow state while doing work we love. The energy that motivates us to take any action, while anchored on an end result we see in the future, actually delivers contentment from the doing of the work, not the outcome of the work.
It becomes at times painfully clear as we begin to achieve our goals, that it was the striving for them that made us happy. We might not believe this while we are young and the yearning for achievement is strong, but as we age, looking back and appreciating past experiences becomes far more common.
What matters now is you value the creative process and the doing of your work today.
Making a decision to change something in your life is powerful because it creates the initial spark of motivation to switch direction. From there, you need to find meaning in the journey or you will never get to the destination.