I wasn’t sure how to start my last post of 2013 until one evening when I was watching a replay of game six of the Stanley Cup playoffs from 2004. The Calgary Flames were up on the Tampa Bay Lightning three games to two. My family had the luck and forethought to purchase four tickets before the 2004 playoffs began. I just knew we were going to win the Stanley Cup. Seeing the Lightning win game seven and the ensuing celebration with the traditional raising of the cup over the victors’ heads is something I will never forget. How did I know they were going to win?
Throughout the year I watched as the team jelled. I watched as players gave their last ounce of strength despite pain, exhaustion, injury, and the prevailing notion that a team from Florida could never win a Stanley Cup. I watched, rapt with admiration, as what started as a struggle emerged as a victory. Luctor et emergo.
What the Lightning did back in 2004 is not so different from the struggles writers face every day. Our struggles are mostly private, the challenge of what we attempt to do unappreciated by non-writers. We face a bushel of barriers. The most evil barrier of all, Resistance, lurks in places where we least expect it.
The idea of Resistance is not new. Many philosophers and business writers have published works on how to kick Resistance in the butt. I like to read marketing books, and I have recently come across two books that helped me to identify the Resistance in my life. One of the most helpful books I have read that deals with the concept of Resistance is Do The Work by Steven Pressfield.
How does Pressfield define Resistance? It is an invisible force that fights your ability to complete a project. The more important the project, the closer you are to your goal, the harder Resistance will fight you. It will try to make your life miserable and throw a wrench into your schedule. You can feel it as it fights for control.
Pressfield defines Resistance as fear, self-doubt, procrastination, addiction, distraction, timidity, ego and narcissism, perfectionism, etc. He believes that there are two other forces determined to stop us from finishing our projects, rational thought and, interestingly, our friends and family.
I read Do The Work immediately after completing Eckhart Tolle’s New Earth, a philosophical approach to self-discovery. What is fascinating is that the concept of the ego is central to both of these books, but approached differently. Tolle believes that identifying and evaluating the role of the ego in our creative tendencies and social responses can help us grow as a person and achieve our goals through a more harmonious mindset. One must know when a response is coming from a part of ourselves that seeks to control us by causing drama or other distractions that will drain our energy away from our higher goals. The ego wants to be fed. We must become aware of its attempts to raid the refrigerator of our creative juices.
Pressfield identifies the ego partly as rational thought. Is it practical to want to be a writer, artist, musician? We all know it isn’t. There are hundreds of reasons why we will have difficulty succeeding. This is one time in our lives when we must ignore rational thought and practicality. We must be stubborn in our pursuit of our dreams. We must welcome the ideas as they come to us, let them flow freely, and stir them around in a big pot as they simmer into a savory soup. We must “trust the soup”.
Pressfield makes an insightful point on why friends and family might not be aligned with your goal. Our friends and family love us the way we are. They have invested time in their relationship with us. They want us to stay the same. Deep down inside they may be frightened that if we become a success in our new career we will change. Therefore, without malice and perhaps unconsciously, they attempt to thwart our efforts. How we deal with this is critical. Telling your loved ones that you will still be there for them can help.
There are, sadly, those who you may realize do not want to see you succeed. This has happened to me and it is sobering. Naively, I believed that everyone would be happy for my small successes and would want to help me as I had helped them with their projects. Dwelling on the negativity of this realization is another way the ego seeks to control us. Once you have verified that this is the situation, you must act in your own interest. I had to remove those few friendships from my life and so must you.
As 2013 comes to an end I am closer to achieving what was once a half-baked dream. There are many people who have offered me their support and expertise, their kind words, and their friendship. I am thankful for the minions of IU, and for Stephen Hise and his creative partner Kat Brooks.
When you are writing your New Year’s resolutions I hope you will add these two books to your list. I encourage you to look at the people you interact with on a daily basis. Build your network with care and be picky with whom you share your goals. As Steven Pressfield says, being “stupid” is often the best way to succeed. Otherwise, Steve Jobs, Winston Churchill, and Charles Lindbergh would never have attempted what they did. There was every reason to fail, just as the Lightning were expected to in 2004. As a good friend told me once, success is not always linear. I wish you a healthy and successful 2014.