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What Are You Running From?

Photo by Colin Rex on Unsplash

I recently had someone tell me they were questioning their love for writing.

When I asked for a reason, they said it was because they didn’t write enough. “If I really loved writing” they said, “then I would be more consistent with it.”

Well, I guess I don’t love reading then. For my entire life, I genuinely believed that it was my #1 pastime. It gives me more pleasure than anything else. But ever since I got married, started running a startup, and got old enough to lose my ability to pull all-nighters, finding time to read is one of the hardest things for me to do. Sometimes, and I’m truly horrified by this thought, entire days get away from me without me picking up a book. So that settles it, folks. I don’t really love reading because I would be more consistent if I did.

Here’s the assumption we’re making when we reason like that: If you truly love something, the power of your love will compel you to behave in a manner that’s consistent with your priorities and principles.

Is that really true though? Is “love” truly enough to ensure our ability to do the right thing? Is there anyone on this planet who has never ever behaved in a manner that was inconsistent with their claim to love someone or something?

This kind of logic fails to take into account what Steven Pressfield calls “Resistance” with a capital “R”:

Have you ever brought home a treadmill and let it gather dust in the attic? Ever resolved on a diet, a course of yoga, a meditation practice? Have you ever felt a call to embark upon a spiritual practice, dedicate yourself to a humanitarian calling, commit your life to the service of others? Have you ever wanted to be a mother, a doctor, an advocate for the weak and helpless; to run for office, crusade for the planet, campaign for world peace or to preserve the environment? Late at night have you experienced a vision of the person you might become, the work you could accomplish, the realized being you were meant to be? Are you a writer who doesn’t write, a painter who doesn’t paint, an entrepreneur who never starts a venture? Then you know what Resistance is.

Resistance is the most toxic force on the planet. It is the root of more unhappiness than poverty, disease and erectile dysfunction. To yield to Resistance deforms our spirit. It stunts us and makes us less than we are and were born to be.

Look in your own heart. Unless I’m crazy, right now a still small voice is piping up, telling you as it has ten thousand times, the calling that is yours and yours alone. You know it. No one has to tell you. And unless I’m crazy, you’re no closer to taking action on it than you were yesterday or will be tomorrow. You think Resistance isn’t real? Resistance will bury you.

Here’s the idea in a nutshell. If you’re just goofing around and wasting your time on things you know you’ll regret, the seas will part for you and let you through to the other side of mediocrity. Take one step in the direction of your evolution, however, and life will start to seem like it’s trying to drown you.

C.S. Lewis once observed that you never get to experience how strong the wind is blowing until you try to walk against it. That wind is Resistance. And whenever you “go with the flow” by living as if nothing matters, you’re cooperating with Resistance. But once you decide to live purposefully, you’re walking against the wind of Resistance and all your weaknesses will be brought to the surface.

Too many people treat the process of “finding what you love” or “following your passion” as if it’s some kind of golden ticket that exempts them from the otherwise normal human experience of self-doubt, temptation, stress, risk, and adversity. “If I can just figure out what I love,” people think, “then I will have the confidence, clarity, and inspiration I need to do the right thing all the time.” No you won’t.

When you figure out what you love, your responsibilities will double, your distractions will quadruple, you’ll have moments where you forget why you fell in love, you’ll have expenses that make you wonder if you can afford what you love, and you’ll experience a few insecurities and fears you didn’t know you were capable of having. That’s not just how life works. That’s how love works.

If you want to take the easy way out, go ahead and tell yourself that you don’t really love what you know you love. Go ahead and let yourself off the hook while you wait for some magical thing called “passion” to come along and save you from the uncertainty, fatigue, and discouragement that eventually knocks at everyone else’s door. If you want to defeat the resistance and live the adventure you came here for, then start listening to your conscience and get after the things you know you need to do.

Instead of telling yourself “If I really loved X, I would have found a way to do X”, ask yourself the following:

“If I didn’t really love X, then why am I’m utterly incapable of ignoring X without being continuously haunted by the conviction that this is something I need to do?

Sometimes you know what you love not by what you run towards, but by what you can’t run away from.

What are you running away from? Better yet, what’s the thing that won’t let you run away in peace?

Relax, Everything Doesn’t Need to be Easy

Photo by Krista McPhee on Unsplash

Nearly everything you can imagine is easier said than done.

Taking a shower and brushing your teeth is easier to talk about than it is to actually do. Preparing a meal or riding a bike is easier to talk about than it is to actually do. Going to the gym, making changes in your diet, becoming a better listener, establishing healthy boundaries, hosting a friend’s birthday party, learning a new instrument, showing up at your job— it’s all easier to talk about than it is to actually do.

Most things, from the simple to the complex, require an increase in the expenditure of time, energy, and effort when you make the shift from merely talking about them to actually doing them. This simple and widespread fact has never been a sufficient reason for failing to engage in constructive action.

If you have something you’re thinking about doing, don’t refuse to do it merely because it demands a greater amount of hard work. No matter what you choose to do, you’ll have to figure out a way to deal with scarcity and sacrifice anyway. That’s just what happens when you decide to become someone who acts on their ideas.

Yes, change is easier said than done, but it’s much better done than said.

Office Hours (Episode 4): The Inner Ring and Communication with Coworkers & Crowds

This week’s Office Hours is all about communication. Whether it’s at work, for a large audience, or for someone who doesn’t share your beliefs, communication can create great challenges or opportunities at work and in your day to day life.

In this episode, Isaac and I break down questions about communication in three different contexts and discuss a powerful essay by C.S. Lewis.

Check out the new episode of Office Hours now on iTunesYouTubedirect download and all major podcast platforms.

In this episode:

  • The Inner Ring by CS Lewis and the dangers of chasing prestige
  • How can you make sure your voice is heard at work?
  • How can you become a better public speaker?
  • How do you communicate with people when you feel that most people aren’t good at thinking critically?

Are You Ready for The Battle That Comes With Your Dream?

Photo by Henry Hustava on Unsplash

“I want to write a book. I want to build a business. I want to blah blah blah.”

No you don’t. You don’t want this.

You want to write comments on the things that other people build, but you don’t want to build. It’s an ugly game out there for those who think they have the right to build things. When you step up to the plate and create, you become a target. You can hide when you criticize, but you can’t hide when you create. You can no longer pretend to be the helpless little person when you create. You have to own your power in order to create and that means you have to give up a lot of the free sympathy and pity you get for being unimpressed by what other people create.

No one feels sorry for you anymore when you present yourself as someone who actually has something to say, to show, or to sell. Once you step into the arena of self-assertion, the rules and the standards change. And you gotta be ready for that. Following your dreams is like getting a boxing match with the heavyweight champion of the world: It’s exciting and promising when you get the chance to go for it, but you will neither make an impact nor will you be standing in the end unless you know how to take some hits.

Going after the things you want in life is great, but it comes with the cost of being misunderstood, criticized, and opposed by powerful or pesky forces. So if you want to create things you believe in, then you need to be mentally prepared for the psychological and social challenges that come with creating things.

Some people will accuse me of painting an unfairly harsh picture of the world or they might assume that I’m characterizing all forms of criticism as adversarial.  But this isn’t a critique of criticism nor is it a criticism of critique. It’s a challenge to those who say they want to create, but who are afraid of the reactions and responses the world may have to them.

For the purpose of the point I am making here, it doesn’t matter if the criticism is fair or not. If you step up and put yourself out there, you will have to deal with feedback that challenges you and makes you uncomfortable. You’ll never be a creator unless you’re willing to develop the fortitude necessary to grow from criticism without being broken by it.

Making things happen isn’t just about chasing your passion. It’s also about refusing to let anything or anyone steal your fire along the way.

You have to be willing to build yourself if you truly want to build something else.

Growth Over Glory

Photo by Mark Daynes on Unsplash

When giving a lecture before an audience of ethnobotany/entheogen enthusiasts, Terence Mckenna offered the following advice to those who dared to venture along the psychedelic path: “refuse to be paralyzed by astonishment.”

What he meant was this: When you’re on a journey of any kind, there are always cool things to look at along the way. And if you’re not careful, you’ll become so enchanted by bright and shiny things that you’ll forget about why you were on that journey in the first place. So stay focused on your original intent and don’t allow your mission to be halted by the blinding lights of novelty.

McKenna’s advice was specifically about the bizarre and beautiful visual images that people often report seeing while on DMT. For McKenna, the purpose of experimenting with DMT was self-knowledge, not recreational adventure or mindless escape. So his advice was about not getting spellbound by exotic elements encountered along the spiritual path.

This advice applies to any process involving the pursuit of a goal. Anyone who has ever fallen prey to the temptation of click-bait knows how easy it can be to get distracted by cheap thrills. You get online with the goal of getting some work done and before you realize what’s happening, you’ve already wasted thirty minutes chasing after sensational news headlines. That’s what it means to be paralyzed by astonishment.

Now I’d like to call your attention to a different sense of being paralyzed by astonishment. Instead of merely saying “don’t be distracted by bright and shiny things,” I add “and be extra careful in situations where you happen to be the bright and shiny thing.”

There are two ways you can be blinded by novelty. The first sense, and this is the sense McKenna warns against, is to become so fixated with a new object/experience that you lose your way. In this sense, the source of novelty is external. You are the observer and the novelty is the observed. The second sense is to become blindsided by the adulation that comes your way when other people are fascinated by your brilliance. In this sense, the source of novelty is internal. Another person is the observer and you (ie. your gifts, talents, insights, etc.) are the novelty that is being observed.

Most people will never take a trip to psychedelic space, but nearly all of us will know what it’s like to temporarily occupy the space of being flattered by another person. And this is a far more dangerous and deceptive space to occupy. When you get intoxicated by praise or the pursuit thereof, It leads to a lifestyle of trying to replicate the behaviors that led to the praise instead of seeking new opportunities for improvement. Once you get addicted to being adored, you personal growth becomes paralyzed by astonishment.

There’s an old saying that goes as follows: “If you meet Buddha on the path to enlightenment, kill him.” The idea here is that you should never allow your reverence for anything or anyone to delay your pursuit of self-realization. That’s relatively easy advice to follow until you wake up one day and realize that your commitment to personal growth has transformed you into a Buddha in someone else’s eyes. In cases such as these, following the adage becomes twice as important. In order to realize your full potential, you not only have to kill your own Buddhas, but you also have to kill your need to be somebody else’s Buddha.

Refuse to be paralyzed by astonishment….even the astonishment that others feel after you’ve created value for them.

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