My early career was as a drummer. In music – in all art – the essential element is an audience. Certainly there are people who play or paint to relax, with no intention of ever publicly sharing their work – but the majority of art is created to be heard, seen – felt – by someone else.
At some point, the artist has to stop practising and start showing their work to other people.
When I ran beach soccer events, the essential element was competition. We had bad weather days where literally no one was watching – but because it mattered who won, players showed up and sweated. Even in so-called ‘friendlies’, it’s rare that someone isn’t keep score.
Eventually, the athlete has to stop training, and start competing with other people.
There are other elements involved – fun, socialising, wellbeing, a sense of achievement … money.
In music, the audience pay for the experience. In sport, it’s the rivalry that brings people in. But if money becomes the essential element, then we lose something. It becomes the cynicism of ‘The X Factor’, or the greed that allows Coca-Cola to sponsor the Olympics.
What about other industries? When money becomes the primary purpose of an organisation, we see tobacco companies covering up cancer risks, then energy companies denying climate change, and now tech companies ignoring their role in teenage suicides.
Money should obviously be an element of any business. If we’re not making money, then it’s a hobby. But money shouldn’t be our main focus – that isn’t likely to end well.
What’s your essential element?