Chester Bennington was the most talented male vocalist of his era. And yes, that was true even before the tragic news of his death.
He and “the guy from Breaking Benjamin” have always been, in my opinion, in a league of their own.
Chester was freakishly talented. But as we learned on July 20th, that was not enough.
Chester was accomplished, but he was not fulfilled.
It would be wise for us to take notice. Because success without fulfillment can happen to any of us, and it already affects more of us than we care to admit.
Success vs. Fulfillment
Success is the accomplishment of goals. Chester accomplished more goals by age 40 than most people do in a lifetime. He was beloved around the world. He had six kids. He had plenty of money.
Chester was incredibly successful, but he still felt deep pain. It was evident in the lyrics that he sang.
Pain drives people to do something different. But the “something different” does not usually solve our underlying pain.
For example, most standup comics have dark demons that drive them to use comedy as an escape. But even Robin Williams was not able to escape his demons.
Most entrepreneurs, including myself and Elon Musk, often feel a deep sense of loneliness that drives them to seek achievement as a way to connect with others. But as they get more successful, they often feel more lonely than ever.
Many bodybuilders or athletes feel insecure because they were picked on, and it drives them to cover it up with physical ability. That’s healthy, until it drives them to use copious amounts of steroids or to destroy their bodies in the process.
We believe that if certain conditions are met, our pain will go away. “If I am rich, then I will stop feeling a lack of purpose.” “If I have muscles, people will respect me.” But the conditions don’t usually change how we FEEL.
When the way that we feel is dependent upon an outside condition, then we are a slave to it. We often become addicted to the result of our actions, rather than the actions themselves. For example, Chester’s pain drove him to create, which is healthy. However, his last album was poorly received, and his critics let him know. He source of anesthesia – love or respect for his art – was taken away. Shortly after, he took his own life.
As result, people can be successful without experiencing any fulfillment. Tony Robbins says fulfillment is an art. I think it’s a science. More on that later.
The Other Side Of The Dark
No one likes to experience pain, and that is why pain drives us. Pain is the most motivating driver ever created. It is more powerful than money, sex or drugs… in fact, all of those things are only addictive because they are viewed as possible solutions to pain.
Pain moves us to create, to innovate, to invent, and to write.
To numb the pain would be to numb our greatest motivator and our greatest source of creativity. We want the creativity without the pain, but we do not get one without the other. I would go as far to say that Chester would never have been a success if he did not experience pain as a young man.
Your greatest accomplishments often came BECAUSE of pain. Your proudest moments often came in the response to pain. To try to escape your pain is to escape your greatest gift. Amongst your darkest moments come your greatest opportunities.
Pain tells us that something is wrong, and it is the agent for change. This is, by the way, why it is a terrible idea to attempt to use government to relieve pain, or for doctors to prescribe something to cover it up. (I’m looking at you, Mark Zuckerberg. Please go back to coding and out of universal basic income.) It is pain that drives us to do something different or to create new solutions.
But doesn’t pain also drive us to overeat, to cut, and to take our own lives?
Yes, which is why what we need is not to eliminate pain, but to develop a better way of dealing with it and responding to it.
The Science Of Fulfillment
Pain drives us to find solutions. It becomes dangerous when those solutions become addictions rather than an outlet for the energy. Pain can drive us to create a new business. But when we seek money to cover up our insecurity, no amount of money will be enough. Loneliness can drive us to connect with no people, but when we use sex as a way to cover up loneliness, no amount of sex can be enough.
I believe that fulfillment is “achieved” through a two-part strategy: practicing active appreciation and through enjoying intimate relationships.
I am yet to find any substitutes for genuine appreciation (which is a muscle that must be developed via practice), and genuine relationships, which is a fundamental genetic input. Our relationships affect our hormones, our thoughts, even the food that we crave.
I’m yet to meet someone who focused on appreciating what they have, felt close to the people around them, and was unfulfilled.
Our brains are incredibly smart; they always find a way to get our needs met, either positively or destructively. When we experience pain, we can put that energy into creation or through destruction… and it can find a way to meet its needs either way.
Pain, therefore, is not something to fear or to run away from, but to embrace and to use as a source of fuel. Pain is a cycle, and it never will be fully eliminated. Instead, it is the fuel for us to grow continually, which is our ultimate purpose as human beings.
But enjoyment and fulfillment comes from appreciation and connection, and there are no substitutes.