Saturday, December 09, 2006

Curious about Obsession: When Is It Good? When Is It Bad? And Can It Be Ugly?

I hire obsessive people, people who literally work 60 to 70 hours a week for months on end and who have fine-tuned detectors for what's good and what's bad. A lot of them have been there for more than a decade.” - Dick Wolf, producer

The work is a calling. It demands that type of obsession.” - John Pomfret, poet

I chose this blog’s theme, obsession, because I just finished the powerful book by Michael Levine, Broken Windows, Broken Business: How the Smallest Remedies Reap the Biggest Rewards. It doesn’t matter whether our business is large or small, our obsession with tiny details “not only demonstrates corporate competence, but also shows that the company cares about what the consumer wants.”

Levine spurred me to thinking about having a good obsession toward personal development in my life, work and play. Yes, obsession in these areas can get out of hand and lead to disastrous outcomes. An example is anorexia or bulimia resulting from an obsession with being thin. However, an obsession with eating quantities of food while watching TV can lead to obesity with its unhealthy outcomes.

Of course, I was fascinated to read others’ thoughts in this area, so have several quotations to share with you.

Many look upon obsession and being obsessive with a positive attitude and results:
  • I spent several years acquiring the obsessive, day-to-day discipline that's needed if you want to write professionally, then several more, highly valuable years studying fiction writing at the University of Iowa.” - John Dalton, scientist
  • I've been called many names like perfectionist, difficult and obsessive. I think it takes obsession, takes searching for the details for any artist to be good.” - Barbra Streisand, actress
  • The creative habit is like a drug. The particular obsession changes, but the excitement, the thrill of your creation lasts.” - Henry Moore, sculptor
  • Your ability to use the principle of autosuggestion will depend, very largely, upon your capacity to concentrate upon a given desire until that desire becomes a burning obsession.” - Napoleon Hill, writer
  • The painter's obsession with his subject is all that he needs to drive him to work.” - Lucian Freud, artist

I do feel that there are those of us - and I count myself in this group - who have an obsessive personality. We easily become obsessed with what we do, who we are and our direction. As long as we use it for good, we will succeed. However, we don’t want to go too far in the wrong direction.

Gates McFadden, actress, sums it up well, “I love a lot of things, and I'm pretty much obsessive about most things I do, whether it be gardening, or architecture, or music. I'd be an obsessive hairdresser.”

And Yoko Ono, artist, wants to avoid it, “I'm a very obsessive type. If I do get into it, I'll soon be there 12 hours a day. I just don't want to do that.”

Other twists on obsession and obsessive behavior include:

  • You will soon find that I am a bit obsessive about my work. And that is a little sad, one often feels strangely restricted, not finding time to simmer, although one actually has many interests.” - Arne Jacobsen, architect
  • There's this obsession with the bottom being the best. So that's why, to get to the top, they want to act like they're at the bottom.” - Stanley Crouch, critic
  • The movers and shakers have always been obsessive nuts.” - Theodore Sturgeon, writer
  • Color is my day-long obsession, joy and torment.” - Claude Monet, artist
  • You try not to be too obsessive about things. We're always conscious that people have a view of us and expect something of us.” - Brian May, musician
  • I am obsessive, also I am industrious. Besides, the time when you are most alive and most aware is in childhood and one is trying to recapture that heightened awareness.” - Edna O'Brien, novelist

And, when an obsession is working against you:

  • I had to learn how to change my thinking, because I can really get caught up in not liking my body. It can turn into obsession, and it can be really bad.” - Carmen Electra, actress
  • The fear of losing success begins when you become entrenched with it. In my case it became an obsession.” - Sammy Davis, Jr., entertainer

Tell me, do you have an obsessive personality? Has obsession worked for you in your life and/or career? Or, has it ever become ugly for you? I would love to hear from you!

Here are a couple of quotations for you to think about and possibly apply to yourself and future path:

  • I think I have an obsessive quality to my personality. What makes things scary is you can't argue with obsession.” - Brad Dourif, actor
  • I learn from thinking about the future, what hasn't been done yet. That's kind of my constant obsession.” - John Cale, musician