“You can’t free anybody else and you can’t serve anybody else unless you free yourself” 

Nelson Mandela

You are not an accident.  You are a singular piece in the giant jigsaw puzzle that is this world.  This jigsaw puzzle is not a 50 piece puzzle, nor a 250 piece puzzle…  it is a 7 billion piece puzzle.  I find it frustrating when my daughter and I put together a 50 piece puzzle and find that there are only 49 pieces.  We can’t finish the game.  The great puzzle needs your piece.  Whatever you are given, you need to pass it on with integrity, humility and generosity.

You are not a Cog in a Machine.  Photo: iansand
You are not a Cog in a Machine. Photo: iansand

The greatest anger is the anger at ourselves for not living up to what we know we are capable of.  Hell is not after death, hell is the moment before death when a human being looks back on all the wasted potential.

“What you can be, you must be” Abraham Maslow.

Honestly expressing yourself.

The greatest gift you can give to those around you is your own shining self belief and glorious sense of meaning in what you do.  If you don’t have it, only you can do the work to get it.  If you have it, only you can keep doing what it takes to keep it.

The opposite of love is not hate, it is apathy.  Love is not easy.  Love is hard.  Doing the work that needs to get done, overcoming the devil in me that avoids the work is the course of love.  Allowing the resistance, the procrastination to win is the course of apathy.  Apathy leads to self-hate, which builds to resentment and then is shared with others in bitterness and cruelty.

The 3 Escuses

The Resistance

Stephen Pressfield speaks powerfully about the Resistance. It is a force within each of us that stops us from doing the work that really matters.

The 3 big voices of my personal resistance are:

  1. Comparison
  2. Pointlessness
  3. Fear

The Last 5% is the Hard Part

Starting is easy.  There are no prizes for starting the marathon.  You get the medal for finishing. Most people I know are good at starting.  Few people I know are good at finishing.

The closer you get to the end, the stronger the Resistance grows.

“An artist never finishes a work, he abandons it.”

Pablo Picasso

Here are a few of many ways I bring these voices into my life to procrastinate and avoid finishing important work.

  1. They won’t let me
  2. I am too young
  3. I am too old
  4. I am only one person
  5. I don’t know enough
  6. I am not a guru
  7. This could be embarrassing
  8. This will be embarrassing
  9. This is too touchy-feely
  10. I won’t get paid for this
  11. This isn’t business stuff
  12. I have to finish the things I have already started
  13. Seth Godin has already said it better than I can
  14. I’ll do it tomorrow/later/after this coffee
  15. Who am I to think I know something special about this?
  16. I’ve got plenty of time next week
  17. I’ve got plenty of time this year
  18. I’ll do it this summer
  19. I’ll do it after the summer
  20. I need to do a little bit more research
  21. Who’s going to read this anyway?
  22. [¡¡¡ insert your own excuse here 😉 !!!!]

That’s just 21…  I have many, many more…

“What ails you and me has nothing to do with being sick or being wrong.  What ails us is that we are living our lives as amateurs” Steven Pressfield

pablo (21)

I have often reread the book The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.  When you create real art, you will face “The Resistance“.  Any creation of something important will bring up your inner resistance.  If there is no resistance, then you are probably not creating something meaningful to you.

The following 10 point manifesto comes from Steven.  He calls it the “Lunch Pail Manifesto” (for reasons you can discover here on his blog).

The Lunch Pail Manifesto

  1. We must find the work that brings our lives meaning.
  2. We must strive to make our work purposeful, truthful, and authentic, a pure offering to our Muse and fellow human beings.
  3. We must wage a lifelong war with Resistance and accept that instant gratification is an oxymoron.
  4. We must not speak of our work with false modesty or braggadocio.
  5. We must not debase our work for short term gain nor elevate it above its rightful station to inflate our ego.
  6. We must not covet the fruits of our work, or the fruits of others’ work.
  7. We must respect others’ work and offer aid to fellow professional laborers.
  8. We must accept that our work will never be perfect.
  9. We must accept that our work will never be without merit.
  10. We must accept that our work will never cease.

Where are you?

Have you found the work that brings meaning into your life?

It is the quality of your labour that counts, not the quality of your recognition for that labour.  We can have pride in the quality of our labour, not in the fruits of our labour. Vincent VanGogh was a madman to his contemporaries, a genius only in hindsight.  Fame has little correlation with creative effort.

“It’s extremely difficult to do something big. I think setting out to do something small is easier and more likely to work.”  Seth Godin

If you are reading this, I will assume that you writing a book or are thinking about writing a book.  What is holding you back?  What obstacle sits between you and a flow-like state where all is clear and the words come?

I believe the biggest obstacle is not outside of you.  I believe the biggest obstacle is inside of you.

Your anchor is dragging.  More power to the motor won’t help.  You must raise your anchor: The Resistance.

The Resistance

Stephen Pressfield says that our purpose lies behind what we most fear.  The book we are most scared to write is the book we should be writing.  If there is no fear related with the writing, it is probably not important.

Our ego is so determined to undermine us, that it will justify all forms of procrastination.  The excuses will be rational.  They will be true.  They will be well argued.  If we engage on their level, they will always win.  Seth Godin calls this The Resistance.  The closer we get to achieving our purpose, the louder the Resistance will rebel.

Photo Credit: Franck Vervial via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Franck Vervial

The Wisdom of Horses

Ranulph Fiennes  is the oldest British man to have climbed Everest.  He climbed it at his 3rd attempt when he was 65 years old.  What changed on his 3rd attempt?

Ranulph’s wife is a horse trainer.  When he was setting out on this last attempt, she said “do it like horses”.

Ranulph asked “what do you mean, do it like horses?”

His wife explained to him that a horse runs with no thought for the finish line.  A horse runs until it drops from exhaustion.  She told him to only ask himself “can I take one more step?” and if the answer is “yes”, take that one more step and repeat.  Don’t allow your mind to consider more than the next step.

Great endurance athletes have learnt this.  They have learnt to cheat their mind by refusing to allow it to think about the sheer scale of what they are taking on.  They look at the summit of Everest and don’t really see it again until they are standing on it.

Prolific writers don’t think about the 60,000 words they need to write for the book, they think in pages or paragraphs or just word by word.  John Grisham wrote one page per day before starting work at his day job.  One page a day.

If a Gap Opens, The Resistance will win

The moment a gap of thinking is opened, the Resistance will step in and will win.  If I stop to edit, I will kill this writing session.  If an ultramarathon runner thinks “how much more have I got left?” his Resistance will win.  The moment that the pause comes in, is when the Resistance has a chance of winning.

The Resistance will win in any argument.  It has no morals nor any type of excuse that it will not use.  It can only be conquered for moments when you commit completely to the flow, to the production of words, to the practice of piano, to make the sales call, to finish the drawing.

Performance = Potential – Self Sabotage

I spent some time last year interviewing successful endurance athletes like Kilian Jornet.  I wrote about the Mental Models of High Performance.  How do they manage to do the “impossible”?

The answer was quite simple:  They don’t think.  When they are running, biking or swimming they don’t let their mind wander off into the future.  They stay present in this moment.  At most the next stroke, or at the very most the next pause for a drink.

How to write a book?

Write like a horse.  Can you do one more word?  Write one more word.  Keep going.