Pain and Indifference

The source of motivation is pain; the consequence is indifference.

Motivation, or drive, isn’t something one human imparts to another.

Rousing speeches, gimmicky videos, clichéd books briefly uplift before their effect fades.

Drive originates within, and is built not on happy dreams and lofty goals, but on indifference and pain.


Indifference is the lack of engagement, one way or another – not positively throwing oneself into, but not negatively condemning either.

Indifference is choosing to spend life on what has value for you, on what you care about.

Spending more on fewer things means the vast majority of life consists of indifference.

Life – time, money, energy, any unit of measure – is finite, and everything competes to claim a share of it.

The concept of opportunity cost.

A limited number of f**** to spend but an unlimited number of things to spend them on.

To spend on one thing is at the same time a decision to reject all the other alternatives you could have spent on.

A tiny kernel of the few things that matter, and a large universe of all the rest of it.

A vacuum of indifference resides in that large universe outside that small kernel.

Indifference, because there are no strong reactions in that vacuum.

Were it strongly positive, it would belong in the kernel.

And a strong negation is a pointless expenditure of life.

Not hating, not raging – just a cutting out.

If you’re not doing something about an issue, it means you don’t care, no matter what you may like to tell yourself and others.

Getting worked up about the matter doesn’t change that; it doesn’t solve the problem either.

And there’s no reason you need to care, so why pretend?

Unless you’re interested in the usual virtue signaling; the reason why so many are so outraged by so much and yet do so little.

Instead, a cutting out entirely – the vacuum of indifference.

Indifference is not about sacrifice either – on the contrary, it negates the idea of sacrifice.

The athlete who doesn’t indulge in smoking or drinking for the sake of his performance doesn’t make any sacrifice.

Someone who spends his nights studying or working on what he cares about doesn’t make any sacrifice either.

It’s simply indifference to the things that don’t have value for the individual.

Everything else pales into insignificance before the few things that matter.

They aren’t ‘given up’ or ‘sacrificed’; in the void of indifference they fade away into insignificance.

FOMO – the fear of missing out – is wanting many things, but mildly, and therefore being drawn to all of them equally weakly.

The usual choice of spending lots of life on few things, or little chunks of it on many things.

Neither being better or worse; there are no prescriptions.


Indifference is the consequence of motivation.

What doesn’t motivate, meaning, what doesn’t have value, is a distraction, and is purged from the kernel.

Indifference thus belongs outside the kernel, for all that doesn’t have value to the beholder.

Inside the kernel, indifference breeds the sloth that creates a vicious cycle of inertia.

Inertia meaning stagnation – the tendency to remain in the same state, whether at rest or moving with a particular velocity – and oppose any change to that state.

If doing nothing, to keep doing nothing; if doing something, to keep doing that, unable to break out of it.

Inside that kernel, indifference has negative value.

In the kernel extremes trump medians; black and white beats gray.

Something that you don’t care about much either way – which is something you’re indifferent to – breeds the stagnation of inertia.

Something you absolutely despise, on the other hand, is fuel to fire.

It’s the strongest push to action. The dissatisfaction a constant reminder.

Something I despise would be preferable to something I don’t care about; disdain preferable to indifference.

And something you’re positively driven to?

That intense liking is, at its heart, not the powerful pull of attraction, but the negative push of discontent.

The source of your greatest momentum will not be the happiness that pulls you, but the pain that pushes you.”

Kapil Gupta

What brings momentum is not indifference, and perhaps not even happiness, but pain.

It’s not a positive attachment that pulls.

But a negative discontent, a hunger that pushes.

An athlete who trains or an artist who works long hours – not because they want to achieve something, but because not doing that is too painful to endure, too despicable a scenario to bear.

It’s not the lure of winning competitions or creating great art that pulls, but the unbearable pain of not doing that that pushes.

Not loving something, but hating not doing it.

In Boolean terms, it’s the difference between saying X and NOT(NOT X); in mathematical terms, the difference between stating X and -(-X).

A positive pull is a temporary temptation – like perhaps a bar of chocolate.

Until the temptation is sated. Or fades away. Or is displaced by another competing temporary temptation.

A pull that is internalized becomes a push.

It isn’t easily sated. It doesn’t fade; it’s always with you, never far from your mind. And it isn’t displaced by every passing whim.

Inertia ends where genuineness begins.

When you really want something – when not having it, or at least not trying – when remaining as you are, is no longer bearable.