We've Got to Know What We're Up Against
Why scary movies never show you what the monster looks like
October 7, 2020
It wasn’t until recently that I began to identify as an entrepreneur and an artist.
If you would have asked me two months ago to write a list of character traits that described me, creativity and boldness would have been near the bottom.
Actually, they probably wouldn’t have made it on the list.
Instead, my list included a bunch of sexy and provocative words such as logical, rational, analytical, and risk-averse. You know, the type of words that people use on their resume to sound as square and straight-edge as possible.
While these characteristics served me during my time in the corporate world, I had no idea how much they would challenge me when I quit my job and started creating.
Steven Pressfield’s book titled Do The Work begins with the following list of the forces that are arrayed against us as artists and entrepreneurs:
- Resistance (i.e. fear, self-doubt, procrastination, addiction, distraction, timidity, ego and narcissism, self-loathing, perfectionism, etc.)
- Rational Thought
- Friends and Family
He describes Resistance as an invisible negative force whose main objective is to prevent us from accomplishing our work. And that the more important a project or action is to our personal fulfillment, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.
The moment I read the above description of Resistance, it gave context to why I was struggling to achieve my dreams.
Thank You, Mr. Pressfield
It’s been three months since I walked away from my job in finance. I left in order to start living life on my own terms, to create a personal development company, and to build my personal brand. I left to follow my dreams and to live a story worth telling.
What I’ve found since quitting, however, is that chasing my dreams isn’t as easy as I thought it would be. In fact, it’s quite daunting and downright terrifying at times.
As I’ve begun working towards the goals I set for myself, I unknowingly have come face to face with Resistance. For me, it’s been manifesting in the form of negative thoughts.
And while these negative thoughts have been rather nasty, I feel such a weight lifted off my shoulders now that I know that Resistance is normal.
I had previously felt guilty that I could be experiencing any sort of displeasure. Who was I to wake up groggy, grumpy, and unmotivated? I had no job, no set schedule, and no boss to answer to.
It was the mixture of guilt, paired with the thoughts of how I should be feeling better, that started ruining my days.
Thank you, Mr. Pressfield, for defining the invisible monster that was slowly killing me. Now that I am aware of his existence, I can turn and fight him.
Thinking about how I am thinking
I was taught at an early age that logical, rational thinking was a superpower. It allowed me to navigate important life decisions such as the following:
Should I draw designs on the garage floor with gasoline and then light them on fire?
Okay, maybe I didn’t always make the right decision. But at least I thought about it for a while before lighting the matches!
Sorry, mom, I didn’t mean to almost burn the house down.
Now that I am 25-years-old and I only light things on fire occasionally, I have found that rational thought is often my greatest adversary. Each day since I quit my job has involved me attempting to do something that I have never done before. Whether it’s building a website or setting up a business bank account, I never actually know what the heck I’m doing.
My recipe for success has been the following:
- Do not think (much)
- Take action
- Make small adjustments when necessary
- Make HUGE adjustments when it becomes obvious that I blew it
- Complete task and reflect on how it went
Let’s compare this to my original operating model:
- Realize that I have no idea how to do a specific task
- Think really hard about the task for hours with no actual progress
- Brainstorm 3,000 potential (but extremely unlikely) scenarios that could happen
- Get overwhelmed by my lack of experience
- Almost give up
- Finally, take action
- Realize that figuring out the task was not too difficult and that I should have acted immediately
I’ll let you decide which way of doing things is better.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions
It seems borderline blasphemous to think that the people who love you most may become your greatest adversaries, but sadly, it’s true.
Even though they love you dearly, your friends and family will try and discourage you from changing. They love you for who you currently are, and may feel uncomfortable when you start to change. They will try to limit you because your growth challenges them. Your commitment to improving will shine a spotlight into their own lives and make them think twice about their daily habits. This will cause them to offer up unsolicited opinions and judgments about your dreams and goals.
And while many of their suggestions come from a place of love and good intention, heeding their advice will not get you where you want to go.
If we truly want to grow, we must surround ourselves with people who are constantly challenging us to do more and be better, not telling us to relax and act our age.
We need new relationships, new experiences, and new thought patterns. And while we can still enjoy the company of our previous circle, we must recognize that our evolution begins at the edge of our comfort zone.
Understanding Made Me Dangerous
I remember watching the scary movie When a Stranger Calls when I was in the sixth grade. It gave me nightmares for weeks on end and was the sole reason I never accepted babysitting gigs.
But there was one aspect of the movie that I will never forget. The movie was ten times scarier when I had no idea who or what was terrorizing the babysitter. When the director finally revealed the monster at the end, I remember feeling relieved that it was just some creepy human.
An undefined monster is far scarier than one that we can see because our imaginations are limitless. There’s a reason that many scary movies never show the audience what the monster actually looks like. Because that which is undefined can live on inside our minds and terrorize us indefinitely. And nothing is scarier than the power of the human imagination.
The first step was understanding that all of the frustration and anguish I was experiencing was not only normal but a key component of change. And that there was an insidious monster in my head who was on the offensive.
Defining this monster is what then allowed me to shift from the victim to a warrior. It made me dangerous because I can now properly shield myself whenever I go into battle.
Sometimes all we need in order to become dangerous is to realize the true nature of what we are up against.