Jack White and Conan O’Brien on work ethic and shying away from too much comfort

I was led recently from Dan Coyle’s blog “Talent Code,” to this video on a conversation between singer Jack White and Conan O’Brien.

And they had some fantastic ideas. Dan Coyle mentions their attention to how good art is created and their individual rituals that allow for deep work. In addition, I heard some points that I can relate to.

Jack White touts his minimalistic philosophy which he views as the power of threes. He believes that you shouldn’t have more than what you need and that his philosophy is his way of setting a limit because he has found that free reign leads to disinterest. Conan agreed saying, “Comfort can kill an artistic impulse.” In tandem with his desire for a limit, Jack believes in structure. For example, he writes when he needs to not just when “inspiration strikes” supporting an old adage that “necessity is the mother of invention.”

What I took away from this video was that one can’t get too comfortable because that breeds monotony and laziness. I agree with this. When I’m on vacation, I have often still have things to do but if I don’t schedule them in or in some way hold myself to them, I get lazy and lose the desire to work, even on things I enjoy.

This applies to some ideas I’ve had in the past about school and its rigidity. In a way, that amount of structure is nice- it should lend itself to minimal procrastination. However, too much structure allows a comfortable lull all the same. A nice balance between preordained structure and a focused period of time in which to work creatively without a required subject matter is in my mind, the ideal.

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