How do you finish with it?

Was the project worthy of us? Was it ours alone, in the sense that we were writing from our own gift … and in the face of our own fears? Did we live up to the goddess’s expectations of us? Did we live up to our own? Did we give it all we had?

There are no spotlights in the writer’s life. There’s no moment of acclamation as we tap in a putt on the 72nd green. Our moment is private. When I wrap a book, a lot of times I won’t even tell anybody.

This is self-evaluation. Self-reinforcement. Self-validation.

~ Steven Pressfield from, https://stevenpressfield.com/2024/04/finishing/

As usual, Pressfield is talking about writing and writers. But it made me think about how I finish with an episode…

It occurs to me that the very last things I do, are social media posts, and usual a final “hey thanks, it’s published” to the guest. I’m left [after reading pressfield’s post] wondering if I could re-imagine being done to be something I enjoy… some way to put a positive “done!” on the end.

What might that be? …maybe I print a copy of the episode notes and put it on a pile, or in a binder. …or some other way to create a visible “there’s the stuff that’s done!”

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Resistance

Opinions are strongly divided about Pressfield’s concept of Resistance. And yes, some days I do find myself over in the Resistance-is-bullshit encampment thinking: No, Resistance is not real. It is important and meaningful for me to be spending my time rearranging these deck chairs, polishing this silverware, sorting these shelved books, getting the edge of my lawn just so, tagging and organizing all these blog posts… And then, “Curse you, Resistance!!

For myself, I was years into the act of having a practice before I even thought about its efficacy as a strategy to overcome my own Resistance. Resistance was (and is) a given for me. It wakes up with me. I know I will have to face it every day, and I know it will never diminish or relent or go away.

~ Steven Pressfield from, https://stevenpressfield.com/2024/02/a-practice-and-resistance/

I’ve been looking for a word to replace “professional” in my regular usage. (Please hit reply if you’ve got one.) I’ve given up on changing how others perceive the words I say; People take professional to first refer to getting paid for one’s efforts. But by professional I mean—and this is the way Pressfield uses the word—competent, skilled, assured, and approaching mastery. Steve Martin is talking about that sort of professionalism, not about money, when he says, “be so good they can’t ignore you.”

Why do I care? Because with the concept of getting paid pushed aside, then professionalism can be used as a razor for cutting through resistance. I simply consider my practices (left for another day is the discussion of whether or not it works to have more than one practice) and ask the question: Would a professional do this?

Yes, a professional would take time off for this restorative activity. No, a professional would just ignore these deck chairs. Yes, a professional would spend 3 days writing software tooling so 10 years from now this stuff is still organized and useful. No, a professional would not stoop to that level. Yes, a professional would totally get this part pitch perfect.

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Onward

Be sure that you’ve first fully assimilated the idea of ‘no’, above. For if you don’t, you risk the mistake I make of reflexively saying ‘yes’ to the next thing that comes up.

We do it because to stop (or pause) after Project number-1 means we are one-hit wonders. We are dabbling. We are amateurs.

To continue, on the other hand, means we are pursuing our calling as a practice.

~ Steven Pressfield from, https://stevenpressfield.com/2023/12/having-a-practice/

We do, in fact, want to—we must—say ‘yes’ to some next thing.

First, master the wonderful, short, complete sentence: No. Second, immediately say yes to the correct, next thing.

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Always be starting

Am I too often seeking the sense of safety or control? (And it is indeed only a sense-of. It is only an illusion.) What happened to the simple feeling of joy in being?

What this means, as I understand it, is that when we let go of all attachment to the outcome of our novel publication/album release/opening of our Thai Fusion restaurant … we shift the locus of our enterprise from the ego to the Self (or the soul if you prefer.)

The Muse likes this. Heaven likes this.

We are now operating on the plane of the soul, not the plane of the ego.

~ Steven Pressfield from, https://stevenpressfield.com/2023/12/start-the-next-one-today/

Sometimes an outcome is important; the measurements, the color, the specific dimensions. When the idea began with the intention of trading the outcome with another. But not every waking moment. Too much of that is obviously an imbalance.

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Honka! Honka!

Godin’s writing frequently—it might be fair to say always—attempts to inspire. But from some quarters he is criticized for being too trite; that he speaks in platitudes.

No need to be part of the circus. If you can find a problem and solve it, you can skip the clown car.

~ Seth Godin from, https://seths.blog/2023/11/turtleneck-confusion/

Two points: First, the problem with platitudes lies with the listener; if I’ve heard it so often, that it feels like a platitude, then why have I still not yet embodied the lesson? Second, Godin doesn’t get enough credit for his efforts to teach professionalism; and professionalism has nothing to do with getting paid (c.f. Steven Pressfield.)

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It’s resistance

In the most recent months I’ve been waking up with this strange sensation. In the Fall I started deleting things; I started changing projects to require less input, simplifying where I could, and in some cases outright eliminating. Whereas in recent years I’ve generally awakened with a sense of “should”—I should do this, I should have yesterday done that—in the most recent months I’ve awakened with this strange sensation. It’s not optimism per se, but it’s close. What do I want to do today? …do that.

Hovering before me as I wake is the work I know I need to do that day. Inevitably, that labor is daunting. Inescapably, it brings up fear. I don’t want to do it. This fear and this avoidance combine to create the witch’s brew that boils and bubbles in the cauldron of my brain.

~ Steven Pressfield from, https://stevenpressfield.com/2023/10/my-head-in-the-morning-2/

In the Age of Fire I continuously expanded what I wanted to do, beyond the bounds of possibility and reason. Lately, having realized that nothing I do actually matters, I’m free—I’ve always been free—to pick a few nice things upon which to apply myself.

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Part two

It’s time to accept that I’m definitely in part two of my life. I’m done pretending that living to 100 is realistic. (Although, I’m open to being surprised.)

Now on my Artist’s Journey I barely drive to the grocery store.

~ Steven Pressfield from, https://stevenpressfield.com/2023/03/after-the-wilderness/

The thought rattling around in my head is: What are the differences between parts one and two? And I think the central thematic difference is activity versus passivity. In part one the hero expended tremendous effort bashing their way towards the objective. In part two the hero has realized it’s time to play a supporting role.

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Human collaborators

And so we did the math, and it was really at the same time that I had lost [my idea] that she had gotten [her idea]. And we like to think that the idea jumped from my mind to hers during our little kiss that we had when we met. That’s our magical thinking around it. But it’s — there is no explanation for that other than the one that I’ve always abided by, which is that ideas are conscious and living, and they have will, and they have great desire to be made, and they spin through the cosmos, looking for human collaborators.

~ Elizabeth Gilbert from, https://stevenpressfield.com/2022/09/the-muse-strikes-again/

Obviously that’s not how any of it really works. But it is a sublime, inspiring idea! I know that if I focus (or worse, fixate) on where some idea came from it’s easy to lose the delight of the overall thing. This cosmic perspective from Gilbert reminds me to simply take things and run with them. If I can. If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.

If I can’t run with it, well, that’s okay too. It is simply okay. But, if I still need some self-convincing, that cosmic perspective gives me the comfort I need to let go.

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Talent is bullshit

Marty is a death camp survivor. He’s got the tattoo. He never speaks about the experience directly (I only know through my friend Pablo, who originally introduced me to Marty) but he’ll make remarks from time to time whose gist is, “Appreciate life. Never complain. Work hard and do your best.”

Marty has one other mantra: “Talent is bullshit.”

~ Steven Pressfield from, https://stevenpressfield.com/2022/07/talent-is-b-s/

It’s worth reading simply because Pressfield wrote it; He doesn’t write that much on his blog and so I make time to read it all. Marty (who is a fictionalized version of a real person Pressfield knew) consuls a tidy, four points. I was gut-punched to realize that while I excel at the last two, “Work hard and do your best,” and I suck at the first two, “Appreciate life. Never complain.” The complaining bit I have made reasonable progress on. These days I don’t often complain, and when I do complain I am able to see it’s ridiculous indignation at its core. But that first one, “Appreciate life,”… yikes! I seriously suck at that.

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An impression

The passage that follows is from a book I’m working on right now. I’m not sure the passage works for a Writing Wednesdays post, but what the hell, I like it and my instinct tells me to put it out there.

~ Steven Pressfield from, https://stevenpressfield.com/2022/07/the-river/

I do have certain distinctly imprinted “passages” from my own story. No, it’s not story-time today. Upon reading Pressfield’s comment (and the passage) I was left wondering what was the critical feature (or features) of my own passages which made them indelible. It certainly wasn’t receipt of accolades or actual accomplishment. It certainly wasn’t that a passage began with a grand vision or even a coherent plan.

I hope you weren’t expecting me to have an answer… this blog is, after all, just me working with the garage door up.

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Depth of commitment

If someone were to ask me to identify the single primary quality that an artist or entrepreneur should cultivate in himself, I would say depth of commitment. Because depth of commitment either embodies all the other virtues or establishes the fertile field in which they can take root and grow. Depth of commitment presupposes courage, passion, recklessness, capacity for self-discipline, and the ability to have fun. It implies perseverance.

~ Steven Pressfield

slip:4a916.

Villians and a new word

If you do not know the cinema-history relevance of the movie, Rashomon—no, not Rushmore—please check out the Wikipedia article. I’m not suggesting you watch the movie; You will not like it. (If you are the sort of person who would enjoy the movie, then you have already seen it!)

The villain in Rashomon is humanity’s craven need to present itself in a positive light, even if it must perjure itself shamelessly to achieve this.

~ Steven Pressfield from, https://stevenpressfield.com/2019/01/kurosawa-on-villains/

That is the greatest one sentence summary of Rashomon I have ever seen.

Unrelated, that piece by Pressfield talks about how villains may have evolved in the past to become who they are, but that they certainly are no longer changing.

Question: Does that make me a villain if I am no longer changing?

Also, new word [to me], “helpmeet”— No, there is not a missing space there.

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but- ima- gah- werds-

Let’s consider another story, this time a tale of science fiction.

~ Stephen Pressfield from, https://stevenpressfield.com/2018/08/ins-and-outs-part-two/

“Ins and Outs.” That piece is short. It’s insightful. …and it’s about two movies that would definitely make my top 100, so there’s that.

Two things: The more I read from Pressfield, the more I want to open a bottle of scotch and weep that I will never write anything good.

And also, the more I read from Pressfield, the more hopeful I become that maybe something will absorb through my thick skull and mabye one day, just maybe, I’ll write something good.

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You learn who is invested

You learn who is invested.

You learn what they want.

~ Steven Pressfield from, https://stevenpressfield.com/2018/05/mistakes-are-opportunities/

Recently I’ve been trying to do some fresh self-evaluation. I happened to be thinking about, and talking to others about, how I handle mistakes. I was thinking about it from the obvious point of view of self-perception. What is my behavior? Is that good? Can I make a change that would be better? How does my behavior affect others? (All in the context of when I make mistakes.)

…and then I fell over this great post by Pressfield from 2018. (My “website serialize” tool is the second-most useful piece of software I have ever written. It is an endless source for me of terrific things.)

Woa. I hadn’t thought about using my own mistakes as a way to gather information about other people. “How do others react?” is a pretty clear line of investigation. But the idea that who notices a mistake, and how they react, tells you that they are in some way invested in whatever it is… ok, that’s pretty light-bulb. Who’s invested? Why are they invested? What’s their interest? …and so on.

Exercise for the reader: All of the above, plus, what types of mistakes does one make?

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The dots

This is what great artists do. But in order to connect the magnificent great big idea dots, they have to have boatloads of smaller idea dots.

~ Steven Pressfield from, https://stevenpressfield.com/2017/06/the-professor-the-artist-the-writer-and-the-dots/

Sometimes I don’t have a single, specific take-away to share. Sometimes there are one, or two, things which strike me as being related; I just toss these posts up as a, “Hey, did you see…” for the world.

But in the case of this little missive from Pressfield, I lost count of the things this is related to in my personal thinking. It’s apropos of a personal conversation I had the other day about feeling a general malaise around doing things. It’s apropos of trying to find a mission. …of trying to get bored enough, to do random, deep-enough work, to create space for one’s brain to have fresh insights. However the final straw was stumbling upon something written in 2017 which has a frickin’ Sarat reference, after I was just recently using Pointillism as a metaphor.

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Professional

This, in one sentence, is the difference between the laborer-for-hire and the entrepreneur. This is the Professional Mindset.

~ Steven Pressfield from, https://stevenpressfield.com/2017/02/tk-ths-job-n-shove-it/

Pressfield’s example—I’m always assuming you’ve clicked-thru and read—is oversimple: the factory worker. But that laborer-for-hire mindset is real. The shift required is real, and really difficult. Hard like: This is the air I’ve always breathed. …and I want to be a fish, so I need to grow gills, get in the water and learn how to swim in water without seeing the water—in the same way I used to be oblivious to the air. That is to say: Impossible.

Morning friends! How’s the air?!

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Common sense

It’s easier for Artist Today to post to Medium than it is to build her own site so Artist Tomorrow has a place to live when yet another publishing platform dies or becomes watered down by crap. It takes hard work and conviction to build your own thing — and it takes relationships, which are greater investments than ad dollars.

~ Steven Pressfield from, https://stevenpressfield.com/2017/01/common-sense/

I’m nobody. Nobody’s asking me why I’m not posting on Medium. Although, come to think of it, people do ask me why I don’t post on LinkedIn, and some people ask why I left Facebook… Anyway, you didn’t ask, but you’re still reading.

Truth be told, all the problems come from you, the aggregate readers (viewers, etc.) on the Internet. You have avoided doing the slightly-harder-than-droolingly-easy work of finding and following the things you care about. It’s easy to open an account on feedbin.com and to start following what you want to read. (And if something doesn’t play well with FeedBin, then it’s not actually on the open Internet and I encourage you to shun and shame it.) If you actively follow the things you care about, (using the Internet and software of course,) then you don’t need the middlemen; you don’t need the search engines and the social platforms.

Aside: Exactly ZERO percent of the stuff I share and talk about on this blog is discovered by search engines or social networks. (Just checked, and I have 485 things queued up as “that’s interesting, I should read it more carefully and look into it.” It was 486, until I created this post.) The kernels are found through my actively following many hundreds of different things. I receive exactly ZERO email newsletters [that’s a lie, I route a precious few into FeedBin :] Sure, I may go down search engine or social network rabbit holes learning more. But the things I care about I follow intentionally.

Once you start following things, you might even grow to love those things. One day you’ll realize that you even value those things so much that you voluntarily throw some money at them to support their work.

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Quitting at quitting time

The best thing you and I can do at the end of the writing day is to stash our work gloves in our locker, hang our leather apron on a hook, and head for the workshop door. If we’ve truly put in our hours today, we know it. We have done enough. It won’t help to keep at it like a dog worrying a bone.

~ Steven Pressfield from, https://stevenpressfield.com/2014/08/the-office-is-closed/

…and similarly: https://www.calnewport.com/blog/2012/07/24/perfectionism-is-a-losers-strategy/

I’ve recently learned that “inertia” as a word, was first applied to the cosmos during a fairly recent philosophical shift in thinking. People like Copernicus were looking at the cosmos and used “inertia” to point out the universe’s inherent, not-alive property; as in, the cosmos possesses inertia, the property of being inert. Newton’s idea of inertia, in the sense that slow moving dump trucks have a lot of inertia, aligns with the idea that the inert cosmos resists. It resists starting and it resists stopping. Newton’s equation, “F=ma” is a result of inertia; If (F)orce is zero on the left, then (a)cceleration is zero on the right. If acceleration is zero, then velocity remains constant.

Aside: “velocity” is speed, “how fast?” and direction, together as one property. Turning a corner in a car, at the same speed, is a change in velocity. To do so requires force from the steering tires of the car. The steering wheel is simply a well designed control for applying lateral force to the front of your car to control your velocity without changing your speed.

Where was I? …oh, right! Inertia. The cosmos. Back to it…

The inert cosmos resists starting and stopping. But I am not inert! I long ago recognized that when I was not moving—figuratively speaking, moving by being engaged making progress toward some goal… When I was not moving, then I needed to do something to get moving. I needed to start, and realizing that I was bad at starting, I needed to practice starting. Okay, did that.

Unfortunately, I have created a new problem: I don’t know how to stop. It turns out one really needs to also be able to start and to stop. Now that I’ve mastered starting, I can finally begin to learn to stop.

<sarcasm>And surprise!</sarcasm> F=ma. Starting and stopping are equally difficult.

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Redefining our mission

Our assignment, like that of any new boss or coach, is to overhaul the organization (i.e., ourselves), strip it down to its basics, redefine its mission, its goals, its virtues and its vices. We have to fire every part of ourselves that can’t or won’t get onboard the new mission and we have to achieve buy-in from all the other parts that we have allowed to remain with the franchise.

~ Steven Pressfield from, https://stevenpressfield.com/2014/10/why-the-raiders-suck/

This exercise always proves beneficial for me; systematically going through everything that I’m doing, my habits, my friends—everything. Take the time to assess, and in particular to consider: Knowing what I know today, if today I was offered this “opportunity” to allocate my time or resources, on this thing, would I take it? It’s a powerful way to work around our inherent tendency to fall for the sunk cost fallacy.

Here I have 500 books on my “read this” bookcase. Picking up one book, knowing all that I know today, would I read this book? Considering all that I know today, would I buy a TV, subscribe to Netflix, and arrange my living room in this fashion? …would I call it my sedentary entertainment room instead? Knowing what I know today, would I agree to have dinner or drinks with this person who I currently have labeled [in my mind] as a friend? How does each of these things move me forward?

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Willful ignorance

Now when I pass the sign, I try and think of at least one thing I do myself that willfully ignores truths I’d rather not accept. Things I know I should change about myself that I choose not to.

~ Steven Pressfield from, https://stevenpressfield.com/2015/01/willful-ignorance/

On one hand, I disagree: The sign’s purpose is to save ducks; it was not created “for everyone.” In that sense, the bad grammar of the sign makes it work better. But, the ducks sign is simply an example. Pressfield’s point about willful ignorance is clear and—at least for me—on target.

A question I like to reflect on periodically in my journaling is: What habit did I curb [today or yesterday]? Also, reflecting on what parts of my behavior I dislike—which was a huge part of my initial journey rediscovering movement 10 years ago—gives me specific things to work on. I think it’s a deeply useful practice to ask oneself difficult questions and to reflect on the answers, (or lack of answers as the case may be.)

Are there any questions you ask yourself on a regular basis?

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