This post is a continuation of my first War of Art Translation post, where I examine how Steven Pressfield’s thoughts about Resistance to creating art also apply to business. Pushing forward often seems impossible, as seen below, but it’s the only way to achieve the goals you create for yourself.
Resistance obstructs movement only from a lower sphere to a higher. It kicks in when we seek to pursue a calling in the arts, launch an innovative enterprise, or evolve to a higher station morally, ethically, or spiritually.
When you started your company, did you envision yourself in a corner office? Not right away, sure. But did you ever think that you would have lots of employees and you would be focused on solving the big problems that your big company had? Probably. Maybe you even had some measure of success. You don’t quite have the corner office in a high rise now, but you are certainly beyond the single room you started in. You have learned a lot by this point.
To grow like you have, you had successes and failures. You still imagine yourself in a corner office, but the difference now is that you actually know what it will take to get there. You might have to fire that family member you hired, to make the department function the way it should. You might need to change cherished policies, or enforce them, to get the kind of systematic business that can grow very large. You might have to expand into other types of products that will make your business more valuable in a sale, even though they aren’t the ones you’re passionate about.
Maybe, at this time, you start thinking back to why you got into this business. Was it really to have a corner office? Maybe it was just to be your own boss, which you are! You start thinking that maybe you are fine where you are, that your dreams of a big business weren’t really valid, that it was naive and stupid. If you had known then what you know now, you would have set your goal a little less lofty. You would have set it, in fact, right where you are now. Which, convientenly, means that you are done!
Is that really true? Or is that just a very insidious and tricky form of Resistance? I think this is Resistance using your own experiences against you. How do you know if you have really changed as a person or if Resistance is trying to get you to slow down or even scale back? Easy: Resistance opposes in one direction. If you decided to cut your product line, scale back staff and go back to the two-room office, how easy would it be? Could you start it tomorrow? I bet so. But if you wanted the corner office in a high rise, how much more work would that be? Your fear of this extra work is Resistance.
Pretty powerful stuff, that.
Resistance by definition is self-sabotage. But there’s a parallel peril that must also be guarded against: sabotage by others
Are you afraid of success because your friends will look at you differently if they knew? They will. Success and money come with lots of baggage. Entitlement is rampant. Not in the over-politicized way that a Republican will accuse a Democrat, but in the much more subtle, insidious way. Your becoming successful will serve to point out others’ failures, even though that’s not your intent. As a general rule, people tend to associate with people like themselves. So if you have a two-room business, you likely know lots of other two-room business owners. You likely don’t know many high-powered executives because they hang out with, you guessed it, high-powered executives.
This isn’t a problem, it is just an inherent characteristic of being human. But Resistance uses that against you. If you sell your two-room business, or move it into a high-rise building, it is unlikely that your friends and family will stop liking you. But they might resent you. If they haven’t overcome their own Resistance, your growth just demonstrates how they are failing.
People love Resistance. Most people work together to maintain it.
Sometimes entire familes participate unconciously in a culture of self-dramatization. The kids fuel the tanks, the grown-ups arm the phasers, the whole starship lurches from one spine-tingling episode to another. And the crew knows how to keep it going. If the level of drama drops below a certain threshold, someone jumps in to amp it up. Dad gets drunk, Mom gets sick, Janie shows up for church with an Oakland Raiders tattoo.
Anyone that has worked for a company larger than a certain size has seen this. Department A all of sudden is overwhelmed and needs more people. By the time Department A is stabilized, Department B has an issue. Then Bill in marketing quits because of the “drama.” Then Management starts a new initiative to help stop, once and for all, the problems and issues that Departments A and B have had. And everyone hates the solutions because they weren’t fully consulted.
Ever try to change a workflow in a company with more than five people? Then you have come to face to face with Resistance, my friend. “Boss” is just a title. If you think people will do what you say just because you are in charge, you have been listening to Resistance too long. They will find a hundred ways you never dreamed of to stop the changes. Why? Because Resistance has convinced them that change is bad, that they are happier in the suffering than they are about making changes and trying new things.
The danger is greatest when the finish line is in sight. At this point, Resistance knows we’re about to beat it. It hits the panic button. It marshals one last assault and slams us with everything it’s got.
I have seen this more times that I care to remember, and it is always sad. I have seen more business deals fall through than go through. People who started with nothing in this world and screwed a deal that would net them $7MM because they thought the business was worth $7.5MM. The truth is, they didn’t know or care what their business was worth. Resistance had them so scared they wanted to do everything themselves, they didn’t trust anyone, they couldn’t understand how these kinds of things worked.
But they understood the suffering. They understood the long days, the stress, the tension, the constantly being behind and scrambling. They understood all that it took them to get where they are now. And Resistance convinced them they were more comfortable in the suffering than taking the leap to being independently wealthy and having the freedom to do whatever they want. Resistance convinced them that freedom is scarier and harder than the suffering of building a successful business from nothing.
Are you starting to see what Resistance is and how it can affect your business? Resistance is, at its core, unhappiness. But you know what makes you happy. If you are a true entrepreneur, then happiness comes with the success of your business. Sure, that great meal out and bottle of wine probably make you feel pretty happy. You are also likely to be pretty happy sitting on the couch on a Sunday afternoon with a bag of chips.
But none of these compare to the wins in your business. When you make that big sale. When you cover payroll with cash to spare. When you hire your first employee. When you hire your tenth. When you walk through the halls of your office and realize that everyone is working and knows their job, without being told, because of the systems you designed. When you realize that you could walk away for a week and everything would run just fine. In those moments, Resistance is defeated. You did the work that you were meant to do.
Keep an eye on this site for more information on overcoming Resistance in your business. Bookmark the home page, subscribe to the RSS feed, or get in touch with me, and I’ll let you know about new resources as they become available.
All quotations are from The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.