The prime motivator in my life at present is my need to be validated.  The rules are simple:  I want to be acknowledged by a reliable source for something I believe I have done well.  This motivator has been a huge blessing and a serious curse to me, and I’m deciding what to do about it.


I couldn’t have asked for a better motivator.  In my quest for recognition, I’ve written countless essays, stories, books, songs, compositions, scripts, graphic novels, and I’ve pushed myself to be a great performer, speaker, thinker and learner.  The idea is that if I just produce enough, or make myself great enough, something will make it to the end zone and give me that recognition I so crave.


In fact, I have gotten recognition for my work, some of it substantial.  So far, none of that recognition has filled the void.  And so I keep creating and improving.


This is the danger, the fact that no amount of recognition is enough.  I don’t have an end-goal.  Nobel, Pulitzer, I suspect even those wouldn’t satisfy me.


That danger is very real.  It makes me vulnerable to people who offer validation through work, money, even interpersonal relationships.  Any decision based solely on the promise of validation will lead me in a painful and fruitless direction, one that could sap my emotional, physical and financial resources.


Seventeen years on a book?  Yes, I’ve done that a couple of times.  What could I have done with those seventeen years besides “perfect” a book?


Now I’m thinking hard about this motivator, how it triggers me, forces me to obsess about the use of my time, directs my activities and my relationships.  In some sense it’s kept me from living.  Certainly it’s gotten in the way of my ability to enjoy my life.


I may never know the reason for this desire to validate myself, though I’ve spent years looking.  At this point, I’m convinced that knowing the reason wouldn’t help me.  Instead, I have to work on another way to live in the world.


Escaping my validation-addiction is tricky.  I certainly don’t want to jeopardize my work-ethic, to stop writing my books and songs just because they’ve been fueled by this particular need, to give up performing.  Yet I don’t want to go through life chasing, dreading or recovering from this particular demon either.


I’m hoping there’s some other way to be a creator/performer in this world.  I want to be a sharer, taking things in and giving them out.  I want the reason for sharing to be curiosity, joy, concern.  


Typically I ask for comments at this point.  I’m not asking for them as validation, though.  If you have something to share, I’d love to hear it!   


News from a Jazz Musician Who Writes Books

The amazing voice-over talent Sharon Feingold is working on an audiobook of the first section of Motherless Child!  This is an exciting development for me and will allow me to share the book to entirely new audiences.  We'll let you know when it's available for free download!

If you've read Motherless Child, or if you are planning to buy it now, please review it on Amazon!  This means the world to me, because Amazon will make decisions about how to present it based on the number and quality of these reviews.  The link to Amazon is here:

Adam Cole is a Jazz Musician Who Writes Books. Fantasy author, music educator and performer, Adam chats weekly on the subject of listening, creativity and living your best life. To get a free book on marketing tips for passing out fliers, getting on your own radio show, and writing a blog people will read, please go to and subscribe.



Dave September 02, 2019 @10:52 am

You touched on two distinct points that I was thinking while reading. That the need for external validation approaches maladaptive behavior similar to emotional, sexual, chemical addiction. And that publishing your thoughts on a weekly basis and inviting comments seems to be a part of that. Yet by bringing all of that forward you simply seem to be like a lot of us whose compulsions led them astray. “It happens, I accept it and I use a system to help arrest it.” I know its a common misperception for artists with substance use disorder to fear losing their mojo if they clean their act up, While there may be something fringe artistic that is emitted by a ravaged mind, either you have it or you don’t. Becoming numb enough to allow vulnerability through expression isn’t mojo. I think maybe fear is one your deeper, genuine drivers. Either fear that you aren’t good enough, and you are, or fear that others will not be able to acknowledge it. That if you somehow refine your technique or spend more time editing or add an additional platform that then...they will see. I turn to you for advice and guidance because you are good at what you do and provide thoughtful commentary and genuine responses. And I enjoy listening to your work because “that is my friend and I like and admire him and enjoy listening to his songs.” I am enriched by it and am thankful for your hardwork.

Leave a comment:


Subscribe with your e-mail and receive a free book

Basic Marketing Skills (pdf or e-book)