When Your Well Runs Dry

Just handling the obligations of being a successful man in today's world and facing today's economy takes a lot of energy. Facing and managing your midlife transition can be a huge energy drain on top of the energy you're already expending just to keep your head above water. What happens when you get to the point where there's just no energy left in there to give? What do you do when your well runs dry?

Most likely, you handle a lack of energy (or lack of sufficient energy to do everything) by cutting back. What you decide to cut back on depends on your priorities and, in their turn, your priorities depend on your values. If you're like most people, your highest value will be maintaining financial security. Almost any other fear will most likely take a back seat to the rear of economic insecurity. If you wonder about this, just ask yourself how well you maintain your personal health regime and your quality family time when your business or career obligations call.

There's a rule in common law that says, "Nemo dat quod non habet", or "Nobody gives what he hasn't got." In this discussion, I want to apply this rule to the empty well of creative energy. You can't expend the quantity of creative energy that you lack. In life, it's your creative energies that produce the sense of joy and satisfaction that makes your life worth living. Of course, you also need to have purpose and direction; but purpose and direction and all the most exceptional plans in the world won't do you a bit of good without the creative energy that you need to be able to bring them to fulfillment. Even our best plans sometimes go awry (as Robert Burns reminds us), but the difference between having stuff happen that gets in our way and running out of creative 'juice' is that the latter is almost entirely under our control.

Stephen Covey (The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People) talks about the 'emotional bank account' that we build up in our interpersonal relationships: how we make deposits, and how we make withdrawals. There's another bank account that we have that isn't mentioned in Covey's book, our personal bank account of creative energy. Whenever we engage in any creative endeavor, we make a withdrawal from our own emotional bank account. If we're not making periodic deposits, sooner or later, the well will run dry and we'll find ourselves working harder, enjoying it less, showing less creativity and poorer results. Instead of being buoyed up by a sense of accomplishment, we'll be further dragged down by a sense of shame and dissatisfaction as we recognize that we're not putting forward our best work.

How can you refill your depleted creative bank account? Ironically, it takes work. It requires that you educate yourself in the appreciation of the arts . . . all of them. The list of artistic and cultural possibilities is extensive. There's painting and sculpture, music, dance, theater (drama, comedy, musical theater, opera), literature (short stories, novels, poetry), film, architecture (residential, commercial, landscape) and interior design, just for a start. Which of these are your favorites? Of these, what do you know of their history? Which periods and artists are your favorites? Can you explain clearly why?

Are you wondering why the arts are so important for a busy person like yourself to spend your precious time on? The answers lie at the core of what it means for us to be human. First of all, ever since Howard Gardner (Intelligence Reframed and Frames of Mind), we've known that human beings have not one or two intelligences ('verbal/linguistic' and 'logical/mathematical'), but nine intelligences all of which need to be both fed and exercised. What would your life be like if you never read, never spoke or were spoken to, and never had to figure out any problems. Wouldn't you be afraid that your brain would atrophy? Those are just your linguistic and mathematical intelligences. What about the other seven? Are you starving them?

Additionally, the various arts stimulate and feed you not only intellectually, but emotionally as well. Artists challenge, inspire, disturb, disrupt and even upset you through their works. They confront you with the raw energy of another (foreign) creative mine. When you take the time to understand and appreciate their message (whether or not you like it is very secondary, if not entirely irrelevant), your spirit is fed and you grow emotionally just from your contact with another creative soul. Without that contact — without that stimulus — your own soul is prone to atrophy. If you're experiencing the midlife transition as a period of dryness, boredom and lack of enthusiasm for much of anything, you may be experiencing a kind of cultural and artistic deprivation.

Am I suggesting that, when you feel depressed and empty, you should immediately go out and immerse yourself in the arts (to the detriment of your business, your health and your home life)? I'm obviously not suggesting that. But I do strongly hold that, unless you're taking the time and spending the energy now (while you're feeling pretty good about your life and your work), you'll sooner or later have to deal with that dry, empty well of emotions I described earlier. I'll go farther: education in the arts is not an optional luxury that we can just throw in the trash when our school budgets get too tight. We wouldn't think about doing that with language and mathematics; why would we be willing to do away with education in the other intelligences? Our society — and humankind as a whole — can't afford to raise more emotional and cultural neanderthals. So, here's my closing question: what plans do you have this week to keep your well from running dry?


H. Les Brown, MA, CFCC grew up in an entrepreneurial family and has been an entrepreneur for most of his life. He is the author of The Frazzled Entrepreneur's Guide to Having It All. Les is a certified Franklin Covey coach and a certified Marshall Goldsmith Leadership Effectiveness coach. He has Masters Degrees in philosophy and theology from the University of Ottawa. His experience includes ten years in the ministry and over fifteen years in c...

Go Deeper | Website

Want More?

New Graphic
Subscriber Counter