When 99% of people doubt your ideas, you're either gravely wrong or about to make history. - Scott Belsky
I tell myself that I don’t sweat the little things, that I’m really good at letting things go, but if I’m frank with myself and I take a hard look at the evidence, it’s clear that I do hold on to lots of little things. Many small, rather insignificant things that prevent me from growing and moving forward.
I came across a column article called How We Get Better, written by Steven Pressfield. Steven tells the story of his friend Paul who recently had a writing breakthrough and accidentally discovered his writing voice.
Steven explains how we get better by sharing the observations he made of his friend’s breakthrough. The observation that I found most interesting was number four: “This new voice was not the ‘real’ Paul; it was the artistic Paul.”
When I read any of my old writing, especially the writing that I feel is good, it never sounds like me. It’s as if there was someone else writing it. Was it because I was writing with my artistic voice and not my normal voice (i.e., the voice that I identify with)?
And if there was an artistic voice within me, what was holding it back when I wanted to write? Where was the resistance coming from?
Intrigued, I started scanning my collection of old unpublished drafts. I don’t know why I started there, but intuitively something told me that’s where I should go next, so I listened.
Within a few seconds I came across something that I had written nearly two years ago about not sweating the little things. The draft included two incomplete stories of events that caused me to start writing the draft.
While the stories were incomplete, I immediately remembered the events in great detail and recalled the importance and impact of their lessons.
In both events I had run into situations that seemed impassable. There seemed to be no possible resolution that did not come with repercussions.
But instead of stressing out, worrying, and taking premature action, I took a deep breath and released the situation to the universe.
Almost immediately the situation changed in ways that I never thought possible and both problems were resolved, like a magical missing piece to a jigsaw puzzle falling into a place that I didn’t know existed.
As I read this old draft and recalled the story and the lessons I learned, I realized that the resistance I most often experience actually comes from getting in the way of the natural flow of things.
The problem isn’t that I’m incapable of making more money, producing better writing, improving my social skills, or learning how to cook. It’s that I’m holding myself back from progressing forward by spending valuable time sweating the little things.
When I’m trying to learn how to cook, for example, I hold myself back by giving credence to thoughts of insufficiency.
Instead of looking up recipes online, buying ingredients, and then experimenting, I choose to worry about making something that won’t taste good, or wasting ingredients, or that my being too analytical isn’t compatible with cooking.
(In the past few weeks I’ve overcome a lot of this resistance and discovered that I love cooking, but more on that another time.)
When I’m trying to write, I resist forward progress by holding myself back by giving attention to needless thoughts.
“What if people don’t understand what I’m trying to say? What if I don’t know what I’m trying to say? What if my point is missed and my writing is criticized? What if I do more harm than good in my haste to publish?”
These thoughts, these unrelenting doubts and worries and questions, never seem to let up. They appear to be waiting for one thing and one thing only: for me to give up.
I’m realizing that the key isn’t to challenge these things that present resistance but instead to ignore them, like a raging river ignoring a large rock and flowing around it.
We get better by not sweating the little things but by letting them go and moving on to the next step with fearless bravado. It’s only when we try to take on the whole world, to shoulder responsibility for getting every single thing perfect, that we hold ourselves back from getting better.
With each step, the ambient light from the house dissipated. The ground was cold and my eyes strained to see where I was going. I dared not turn around or look up, too afraid that doing so would cause a giant creature to materialize from the darkness and swallow me in one gulp.
I was nine years old and although I had long since overcome my fear of the darkness inside the house, the dark forest surrounding the yard still held me hostage.
It was holding me prisoner, preventing me from exploring those places that my siblings wouldn't dream of going. I wanted to take that next step. I wanted to conquer darkness altogether.
One evening, without telling anyone in the house, I opened the back door and stared into the forest. The darkness was incredible. It shrouded everything in mystery, turning the daytime-yard that I was so familiar with into an unknown world of terrifying possibilities. Continue reading
The cage rattled and the creature inside gnawed and pulled at the metal bars. It was a Grey Squirrel, one of several that had chewed a nest into the side of my parents house. My dad was catching and releasing them several miles away with the hope that they would find another place to nest. The trap was designed to cage, not harm, so thankfully the creature inside wasn’t hurt.
Due to the design of the trap, tipping the cage over would cause the doors to unlock and open. The squirrel was definitely big enough to tip the cage over, but instead he paced back and forth and occasionally stopped to gnaw and pull on the metal enclosure.
That’s when I found myself wondering what a human would do if placed in the same situation. Despite there being no indication that tipping the cage over would open the doors, a human would surely try that anyway.
I realized that’s what makes us unique: When the outcome seems hopeless, we test the impossible.