The demon that does not sleep

Happy New Year everyone! Here’s to hoping you have an awesome 2014 and all your wishes comes true. One of my New Year resolutions was to write more this year, and given that the enthusiasm to hold on to resolutions lasts about a week, here I am.

Sometime ago, I wandered on a great answer on Quora: Quote of Anonymous’ answer to Startups: How do you stay hungry? on Quora. Let me quote from it:

Demons.

Any truly great and driven person who is not, in the end, driven by demons – deep, powerful subterranean demons of the soul – is not telling you the whole truth.

They may, in the course of their life, learn to confront or harness or come to terms with these demons, but they will always be present – always driving them on.

I’m an accomplished individual.  I wouldn’t have to work another day in my life if I didn’t want to, but these days I’m leading yet another startup, having sold yet another vision to some investors, trying to fulfill another great mission, lead another team of idealistic hopefuls.

I don’t know the names of my demons, and I don’t always know what they want.  But they are there.  I didn’t always when I was younger, but now in middle age I have come to see them when they surface, even if I don’t know exactly what they want.  Perhaps I was never valued enough while I was young, so now I want to etch my name into the rock of history just to be sure.  Or I was only loved for my achievements and not my intrinsic self, so I feel that my self-worth is defined only by accomplishments.  Or maybe I just like beating people, being able to know that I’m better.  Each time I win, a few more people move from the “better than me” bucket to the “bested thoroughly” bucket.  I don’t know.  I’m not a horrid person or anything in real life, I’m a genuinely nice guy that most people like and admire.  I just can’t stop trying, building, achieving.  I feel good when I’m doing it and I feel like I’m being driven.  That internal fire, the one that investors (and friends and many women I meet) love – you can spin it like it’s a positive thing – he’s so driven and determined! – but deep down it’s demons.  Only demons could be that relentless.

If you have eaten a feast and you are still hungry, it’s because you have demons inside you, always consuming, always wanting more.

Maybe one day my demons will be fed.  But not today.

We are driven forward, sadly and unfortunately, but sometimes to greater glory, by demons.

It’s a brilliant piece of writing, and it really resonated with me. I’ve often wondered what caused great people to go on, despite already achieving so much. Labeling that internal drive a demon, something that is not satisfied whatever you feed it, seems very poetic to me. I was reminded of some lyrics from a Billa 2 song:

உனக்குலே மிருகம், தூங்கிவிட நினைக்கும்..
எழுந்து அது நடந்தால், எரிமலைகள் வெடிக்கும்..
கனவுகளை உணர்வாய் கேட்டு அது துடிக்கும்..
உன்னை அது விழுங்கி, உந்தன் கையில் கொடுக்கும்

The analogy of life as a feast also makes sense to me. Everybody starts out very hungry for success. But through college, higher education, and a job, people settle. They stop working so hard. They start to relax, enjoy life, pick up a hobby, make time for friends and so on. They have “eaten enough”.

Others don’t stop. They can’t stop. The next ring on the ladder just keeps pulling at them. The demon can never have enough. And so they go on.

I think most people have demons inside them: demons being just another word for issues, and who doesn’t have issues? My own particular demon is fame. Making a name for myself. Being known for doing something.  I know it is shallow, and fame is fleeting, and all that, but that doesn’t stop it from being the one thing that motivates me extremely well. I am not proud of that particular aspect, but at least I recognize my demon when I see it.

I think once you understand your demon, you are on the way to recognizing and controlling it. Just as you know that if you have a weakness for chocolate cake, you should control how you are exposed to it. If you stop by the bakery on the way home, you know you are going to have that cake 🙂

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5 thoughts on “The demon that does not sleep

  1. i agree ..daemon by definition doesnt sleep. and internal daemons doesnt let you sleep peacefully 🙂 it can make you look crazy and ppl around at times can hardly understand that craziness

  2. if something inside you helps u achieve positive results ,why would you call it a demon? an insatiable desire for/towards something is not a bad thing when it is harnessed right! even anger channeled rightly can be useful! just another perspective Vijay, enjoyed reading your blog.

    1. Thanks Bhuvana! Well, balance is the ultimate ideal right – anything that causes extreme behavior is not good. The “demon” might cause you to achieve more, but along the way might ruin all your relationships. Hence the “demon”.

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