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.
The amateur believes he must first overcome his fear; then he can do his work. The professional knows that fear can never be overcome. He knows there is no such thing as a fearless warrior or a dread-free artist.
If tomorrow morning, every dazed and benighted soul woke up with the power to take the first step toward pursuing his or her dreams, every shrink in the directory would be out of business. Prisons would stand empty. The alcohol and tobacco industries would collapse, along with the junk food, cosmetic surgery, and infotainment businesses, not to mention pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, and the medical profession from top to bottom. Domestic abuse would become extinct, as would addiction, obesity, migraine headaches, and road rage.
Resistance comes when you do: Any act that rejects immediate gratification in favor of long-term growth, health, or integrity. Any act that derives from our higher nature instead of our lower.
Resistance seems to come from outside ourselves. We locate it in spouses, jobs, bosses, kids.
Resistance arises from within. It is self-generated and self-perpetuated.
The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.
We don’t tell ourselves, “I’m never going to write my symphony.” Instead we say, “I am going to write my symphony; I’m just going to start tomorrow.”
Never forget: this very moment, we can change our lives. There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny. This second, we can turn the tables on Resistance.
Doctors estimate that 70-80% of their business is non-health related. People aren’t sick they’re self-dramatizing. Sometimes the hardest part of a medical job is keeping a straight face. As Jerry Seinfeld observed of his twenty years of dating: “That’s a lot of acting fascinated”.
Those who will not govern themselves are condemned to find masters to govern over them.
Individuals who are realized in their own lives almost never criticize others. If they speak at all, it is to offer encouragement.
If you’re feeling massive Resistance, the good news is, it means there’s tremendous love there too. If you didn’t love the project that is terrifying you, you wouldn’t feel anything.
“Who can get through the day without two or three juicy rationalizations. Have you ever gone a week without a rationalization?”
Rationalization: a series of plausible, rational justifications for why we shouldn’t do our work.
A lot of them are true. But all this means diddly. Tolstoy had thirteen kids and wrote War and Peace. Lance Armstrong had cancer and won the Tour de France.
The Marine Corps teaches you how to be miserable. This is invaluable for an artist.
The qualities that define us as professionals?
1) We show up every day.
2) We show up no matter what.
3) We stay on the job all day. Our minds may wander, but our bodies remain at the wheel.
6) We accept remuneration for our labor. We’re not here for fun. We work for money.
7) We do not overidentify with our jobs.
8) We master the technique of our jobs.
Now consider the amateur: the aspiring painter, the wannabe playwright. How does he pursue his calling? One, he doesn’t show up every day. Two, he doesn’t show up no matter what. Three, he doesn’t stay on the job all day. He is not committed over the long haul; the stakes for him are illusory and fake. He does not get money. And he overidentifies with his art. He does not have a sense of humor about failure.
The pro concentrates on technique. The professional masters how, and leaves what and why to the gods.
Professional respects his craft. He does not consider himself superior to it. He wants to be in possession of the full arsenal of skills when inspiration does come.
It wants us to stake our self-worth, our identity, our reason-for-being, on the response of others to our work. Resistance knows we can’t take this. No one can. The professional blows critics off. He doesn’t even hear them. Critics, he reminds himself, are the unwitting mouthpieces of Resistance
Critics: They can articulate in their reviews the same toxic venom that Resistance itself concocts inside our heads. That is their real evil. Not that we believe them, but that we believe the Resistance in our own minds, for which critics serve as unconscious spokespersons.
The professional recognizes his limitations: He gets an agent, gets a lawyer, gets an accountant. He knows she can only be a professional at one thing. He brings in other pros and treats them with respect.
The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.
“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it. Begin it now.”
None of us are born as passive generic blobs waiting for the world to stamp its imprint on us. Instead we show up possessing already a highly refined and individuated soul. Another way of thinking of it is this: We’re not born with unlimited choices. We can’t be anything we want to be. We come into this world with a specific, personal destiny. We have a job to do, a calling to enact, a self to become. We are who we are from the cradle, and we’re stuck with it. Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.
Of any activity you do, ask yourself: If I were the last person on earth, would I still do it?
If you were meant to cure cancer or write a symphony or crack cold fusion and you don’t do it, you not only hurt yourself, even destroy yourself. You hurt your children. You hurt me. You hurt the planet.
Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.
The moment a person learns he’s got terminal cancer, a profound shift takes place in his psyche. At one stroke in the doctor’s office he becomes aware of what really matters to him. Things that sixty seconds earlier had seemed all-important suddenly appear meaningless, while people and concerns that he had till then dismissed at once take on supreme importance.