Shy of becoming leader of the free world, winning a Nobel Prize is one of the greatest achievements imaginable. The prestige, economic rewards, and permanent place in history are the stuff dreams are made of. Millions of scientists, artists, and humanitarians devote their life’s work to chasing this highly coveted award.
But not Bob Dylan.
Last week, Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, an extremely rare recognition. In fact, he’s the first musician to ever win the award and now joins the ranks of literary giants such as T.S. Eliot and Samuel Beckett. You’d think that this news would spur celebratory parties, press releases, and boastful appearances on late night shows. But instead, in classic Dylan rebellion, he was nowhere to be found.
As the distinguishing folks at the Nobel organization made futile attempts to contact Dylan, the musician wanted nothing to do with it. He was busy performing, writing new music, and well… being Bob Dylan. Nearly a week later, a small note appeared on his website listing the Nobel Prize as a single line in his bio. But as of this morning, the mention has been removed completely. Dylan refuses to publicly acknowledge the award and is expected to skip the fancy ceremony bestowing the honor upon him.
Too many of us have a backwards view of achievement. We focus on the prize (recognitions, money, fame, status) and then do our work as a means to an end. But true artists engage in their craft because it is their calling. Dylan writes music to express his creativity and to contribute to the world, not to win a trophy. He performs to bare his soul, and for the intrinsic rewards his work creates. Ironically, those that focus on the mastery of their craft are the ones that actually get all the prizes and goodies. The biggest rewards come to those who seek greatness, not those who chase the brass ring.
Think what would happen if you recaptured all the energy you spent eyeing the prize and diverted it into doing work that matters. Instead of a means to an end, view your craft as your chance to make a mark in the world. Do the kind of work you’d be proud to share with your great grandkids someday. And in a counterintuitive way, the external markers you previously coveted will begin to effortless emerge at your doorstep.
Instead of taking a victory lap, Bob Dylan continues to play his authentic role of creating, writing, and performing. His Nobel Prize came as a byproduct of pursuing his calling, not the other way around. You can do the same. Double down your energy into doing work for the ages, and the recognition and rewards will take care of themselves.
The answer my friend, is blowing in the wind.