An ingredient of the extraordinary

Feb 10 2024 • 6 min read

"As you become an adult, you realize that things around you weren't just always there; people made them happen. But only recently have I started to internalize how much tenacity everything requires. That hotel, that park, that railway. The world is a museum of passion projects." — John Collison

To go above and beyond what is considered good enough and do the extraordinary, you need deep-seated intrinsic motivation. The best way I can describe this motivation is "love"—a profound and passionate interest in our pursuits.

Our world is a grand museum of great and small pursuits embodied by love. Each exhibit, no matter its scale, espouses love—for expression, for progress, for craft, for a problem space, for humanity, for a person or a group of people, for an idea, for a cause, and so on.

In every one of our pursuits, no matter how small, we're instituting change in an important part of our world. With love as a cornerstone, we develop a devotion that ignites inventiveness, fuels perseverance in the face of adversity, and fosters a deep sense of joy and fulfilment that becomes the undergirding for extraordinary achievements.

This devotion is strikingly evident in startups—one of the many kinds of pursuits. YCombinator (opens new window) has seen >4,000 such pursuits, of which a few excelled, some middled, and most failed. YCombinator often says that a startup truly only dies when its founders become demotivated. In another sense, startups die only when the founders no longer have their love—either for the vision, impact, problem space, or the community being served. Love, not just a business model, market, or funding, is the driving force that sees successful founders through countless throes, iterations, pivots, and near-death setbacks.

YCombinator's aphorism holds for pursuits other than startups. Love is an essential ingredient of extraordinary feats. Take learning something hard, for example. The learning process can be likened to a seafaring journey from the Island of Ignorance to the Kingdom of Mastery. Love serves as the ship—a vessel of devotion that gets you across the tumultuous gyre filled with sirens singing tunes that fuel impostor syndrome, whirlpools of information overload, deceptive calm waters that foster complacency, islands of false mastery, currents of comparison, and countless storms of failure.

Stella Adadevoh's heroic effort that curtailed Ebola's spread in Nigeria and West Africa shows love for humanity. MLK's leadership in the American Civil Rights movement shows love for progress. Satoshi Nakamoto's invention of Bitcoin shows love for an idea. The effort and resulting body of work of Beethoven, Hans Zimmer, Dieter Rams, Jony Ive, and FKA Twigs all show love for craft. Alan Turing's work in computing and Elon Musk's ventures in sustainable transportation, renewable energy and space-faring both show love for a problem space.

Extraordinary feats are non-trivial to accomplish. As you embark on your pursuits, it's worthwhile to look within and identify the love that'll propel you towards your objective. Your love, treasured and nurtured, will make the seemingly impossible a reality.

We're all looking forward to your addition to the world's grand museum. 😉