Ithaca, a poem by Constantine Cavafy recently found it’s way into my life.
I was listening to Jonah Hill being interviewed by Howard Stern. Jonah mentioned that he turned down a huge amount of money to appear in a movie, simply because he didn’t think it was very good. He said he was able to turn it down because he doesn’t care about the money. (A lot of people say they don’t care about money, but when the big offer comes, they take it).
Side Note: On the flip side, he also did Wolf of Wall Street with Leonardo DiCaprio for just $60,000 because he liked the movie so much.
When asked why he only does movies he loves vs doing the movie that makes him the most money, Jonah said that he was given a poem many years ago by David Geffen that changed his life. The poem was ‘Ithaca’ by Constantine Cavafy.
I did some research and found that Ithaca uses the story of the Odyssey as a metaphor for the journey of life. It hit me so hard that I felt I had to share it. Here it is.
Ithaca, by Constantine Cavafy
When you set out for Ithaka
ask that your way be long,
full of adventure, full of instruction.
The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,
angry Poseidon – do not fear them:
such as these you will never find
as long as your thought is lofty, as long as a rare
emotion touch your spirit and your body.
The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,
angry Poseidon – you will not meet them
unless you carry them in your soul,
unless your soul raise them up before you.
Ask that your way be long.
At many a Summer dawn to enter
with what gratitude, what joy –
ports seen for the first time;
to stop at Phoenician trading centres,
and to buy good merchandise,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensuous perfumes of every kind,
sensuous perfumes as lavishly as you can;
to visit many Egyptian cities,
to gather stores of knowledge from the learned.
Have Ithaka always in your mind.
Your arrival there is what you are destined for.
But don’t in the least hurry the journey.
Better it last for years,
so that when you reach the island you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to give you wealth.
Ithaka gave you a splendid journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She hasn’t anything else to give you.
And if you find her poor, Ithaka hasn’t deceived you.
So wise you have become, of such experience,
that already you’ll have understood what these Ithakas mean
Whether you’re in a band, doing online marketing, trying to get in shape or just trying to get through day-to-day life, Ithaca applies.
- In A Band. Instead of focusing on fame and fortune, focus on writing great music and having fun with your friends. If fame is the only goal, and it never comes you’re good time will look like failure.
- Online Marketing. Instead of focusing on making a certain amount of money, enjoy the game of launching campaigns and split testings ads and landing pages and copywriting. Most of the top guys I know would be playing around online whether they made money or not.
- Getting in Shape. Instead of focusing on getting ripped / losing weight as fast as possible, enjoy the process of going to the gym, getting exercise and feeling a better each week.
- Day to Day Life. Don’t regret things that happened in the past, even the terrible stuff, because it’s part of the process that got you where you are today. And you never know where it will lead you next.
Ithaca reminds us to live for the journey rather than the expected results... A concept that is very simple to understand yet very hard at times (for me) to do.
Now, it’s your turn. What does Ithaca mean to you?