Bashing against the resistance

… Resistance is natural, just a sensation in the body that is a response to change, discomfort, uncertainty. Our minds have a hard time dealing with these things, because we like routine, comfort, certainty.

Here’s the thing: the resistance isn’t always at a constant, full-on intensity. Resistance ebbs and flows. 

~ Leo Babauta from, https://zenhabits.net/resistances/

Steven Pressfield also writes a lot about resistance. (For example, see his book, The War of Art.) The approach he advocates is one of showing up and doing the work. He has a lot of good advice around preparing for the inevitable arrival of resistance, and even goes so far as to consider it a necessary evil; it’s a thing within each of us that cannot be avoided and which must be faced in the process of heading the call of the work.

Maybe.

Me? I’m just exhausted from should’ing on myself.

These days, I’m definitely in a Leo-zen phase where I’d like the path of least resistance. My personal challenge is not that I’m going to get sucked into video games and sit around all day. My personal challenge is that I’m going to bash myself on the task-of-the-day one time too many… or a thousand times too many. For me, the path of least resistance is obviously still a path towards the goal; I still have goals and I cannot help but choose paths towards those goals. I’ve permanently ingrained the habit: Here’s an idea. Here’s the goal. Here’re the first 10 next-actions. I’ve got that. Can’t avoid it. I could never not do that.

But do I take those next-actions now… like, right now? Perhaps it would better to relax doing nothing for a bit, and take those next-actions tomorrow? …or maybe even next week?

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Ernie Pyle

What I love about Ernie Pyle (and Bill Mauldin) is that they were indefatigable champions for the man on the ground. The WWII infantryman was part of a breed we don’t have any more—the citizen-soldier. Like the Greek farmer-hoplite who took down his spear and breastplate from above the fireplace and marched off to defend his city, the American citizen-soldier had no fondness for war, yearned only to get it over with and get home—but he answered the call and delivered, as Ernie Pyle did and as he describes so eloquently in the passage below.

~ Steven Pressfield from, https://stevenpressfield.com/2011/08/the-god-damned-infantry-by-ernie-pyle/

[presented without comment]

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Reflection

What makes this moment so precarious is that most of us are unconscious, in the event, both of our aspiration and of our Resistance. We’re asleep. We know only that we feel bad. Something’s wrong. We’re restless, we’re bored, we’re angry; we’re seeking something grand but don’t know where to look 

~ Steven Pressfield, from https://stevenpressfield.com/2011/05/resistance-and-addiction/

These days, the skill of reflection is on my mind. I’ve become convinced that discovery, reflection, and efficacy are the three stepping stones to self-actualization. It seems to me that the way out of the Gordian knot presented by Pressfield is via reflection.

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Humility

The artist and the entrepreneur (and all of us on the soul-level) live in an uncertain world. Our trade is in ideas, but who can say where the next one is coming from—or even if there will be a next one?

There’s a wonderful quote from John Gardner or somebody that, alas, I can’t find. The bad paraphrase goes something like this: …

~ Steven Pressfield, from https://stevenpressfield.com/2010/08/humility/

Yes, I left out the best part to make you click through to his site.

It seems there are three choices:

  1. be a braggadocios asshole, “I am the King of Awesome!”
  2. be faux humble, “little ‘ol me? …I’m nobody, I’ve not done anything.”
  3. be actually humble, “I’m in love with this idea, and I’ve over here quietly working on it.”

Of course, there’s an infinite range of coloring on those axis. But I think my point is clear. I spent a lot of time over in zone 1; that didn’t work out well (for me or anyone else.) I’m disqualified from zone 2; there are simply too many things I’ve done.

Which leads to the problem: Over in zone three, one would necessarily want to sacrifice everything else to nurture the idea. That way lies madness, I think.

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Depth of learning

Working deep is the answer for me. To be happy, to feel good about myself, to not feel guilty about sucking up my share of oxygen on the planet. I have to get back to it.

~ Steven Pressfield from, https://stevenpressfield.com/2010/02/writing-wednesdays-28-depth-of-work/

I too am drawn to deep work. I wonder if there’s anyone who is not?

But for me, deep work seems to not be enough. I also need deep learning. I need to spend two uninterrupted hours reading something, (perhaps S Ambrose’s Eisenhower, or T Ferris’s Tribe of Mentors,) with stops to copy out quotes, detours to lookup some detail, bookmarking of another author’s work, and so on. My mind is one large pressure-cooker, and I need to regularly vent the pressure, pop the lid and jam new stuff in before sealing it back up again on medium heat.

Roughly a quarter of U.S. adults (27%) say they haven’t read a book in whole or in part in the past year, whether in print, electronic or audio form, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted Jan. 8 to Feb. 7 [2019].

https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/09/26/who-doesnt-read-books-in-america/

Interesting article that digs into who exactly is, and isn’t, reading. Want to change your life?

Read more.

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Territorial, not hierarchical

It has to be territorial, not hierarchical. Meaning real success comes from the inside out, not the outside in. Real success is the process, not the product. It’s what we would do if there were nobody else in the world, yet it depends in the end on everyone else in the world. The essential expression of our art is that of a gift. We draw from that which is most ourselves–and then offer that essence to our fellow travelers on this planet, to help them, entertain them, show them they’re not alone … asking nothing in return (well, maybe enough to pay the rent, we hope.)

~ Steven Pressfield, from https://stevenpressfield.com/2009/11/writing-wednesdays-15-elements-of-success/

This is a classic that has nothing at all to do specifically with writing. If you are involved in creating anything, you will find this is a great article with a long list of elements of success. (“Elements of Success” is his title.) After you read this, you should run—not walk—and get a copy of his book War of Art; you can thank me later.

Anyway.

The paragraph above really spoke to me. The idea that “success is the process” is something I keep losing hold of. Like a swimmer who keeps forgetting that kicking effectively and continuously is a necessary part of staying afloat and getting there, I keep forgetting that the process is success and I begin to struggle.

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Real satisfaction

Real work and real satisfaction come from the opposite of what the web provides. They come from going deep into something—the book you’re writing, the album, the movie—and staying there for a long, long time.

~ Steven Pressfield