The Pros and Cons of Having an Arch-Enemy
to Fuel Your Ambition
Arch-enemy, nemesis, villain… call it what you want, these concepts to define a specific type of characters were born from real life experiences. We all have people who trigger us and push us in our daily lives, for good or bad, and makes our lives hell… and sometimes make us wake up in the morning.
In creative fields, where there is usually no rules to the game and the one who wins might not be the most talented, the most motivated or even the one who deserves it punto, it can become easy to fixate on a peer who moves faster and baptize them the enemy to take down. (cue Hanz Zimmer)
But usually, we don’t talk about it.
So I was pleased to see magician Jon Armstrong in the aptly named documentary Magicians: Life in the Impossible talk about the often shameful and yet no-less often present relationship creatives entertain with a real-life “arch-nemesis”, as he calls it.
“For years, I had a rival. I had somebody whom I hated sooooo much. I hated him. I considered him my arch-nemesis. I hated him. We’ve since patched it up, and it was the worst decision I ever made because I have been incredibly unmotivated after I patched up with him.
That wand up on that shelf, that ’Close Magician of the Year’ wand, that was the direct result of me hating him. I worked so hard to get that. That’s not the best reason to get that wand. That’s a lot of hate. I’m glad I don’t have somebody else to fill that role. I’m a far better person for it. Just might not be as productive.”
Let me recap here:
- The Pros of having an arch-nemesis: keeps you motivated and on your toes, pushes you to go further and probably faster than you would have alone.
- The Cons of having an arch-nemesis: makes you live in perpetual hatred of someone, which is exhausting and toxic for you and the people around you.
Everything has a cost. My experience is that when we’re younger, trading the toxicity of “hatred” for success seems like a good bargain and as we get older -and hopefully wiser, values reverse drastically.
And if you’re wondering how close a filmmaker and a magician can be, watch Armstrong below perform a trick and be amazed by the level of storytelling and craft he packs his trick with. You’ll have a good time.