Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art addresses writers and artists as it talks about Resistance, understanding it and overcoming it. As I read the book, I could see how those same principles apply to running a business. The post below is part one of two where I share my thoughts from reading the first section of the book, Defining the Enemy. Grab your copy of the book and join me in examining what it looks like to encounter Resistance in your business.
Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.
Why did you start your business? It certainly wasn’t to file quarterly tax forms. It wasn’t to worry about resolving employee disputes. But this is the life you are living now.
Let’s think back to that reason you did start your own business. Was it to grow a large company and become wealthy? Was it to be able to have freedom, both the freedom that comes with monetary goals and the freedom of destiny? Or was it to create something larger than yourself, something that would outlast your short time in this world? The answer is different for everyone but likely contains pieces of all of these.
Are you there right now? I didn’t think so. That is your unlived life. How did you end up stuck worrying about tax forms you don’t care about on the way to building a legacy?
You guessed it: Resistance.
Those tax forms are Resistance. Those employee problems are Resistance. That new marketing plan that you haven’t launched yet? The new product you have in the back of your head? The great new app? All the ideas you have to improve your company that never seem to happen? Resistance. Resistance is the reason that you have failed. And no, just because you’re bringing a few bucks home does not mean you have succeeded. Success, for the purpose of this guide, is living up to your potential. Living your “unlived life,” if you will. Because make no mistake: Anything less than that is a failure, no matter what trappings of success you have managed to pull together.
Resistance arises from within. It is self-generated and self-perpetuated. Resistance is the enemy within.
Why is your business not the success you envisioned? I bet it’s because of the economy. Just surviving in this environment is a success, right? Or maybe the bank wouldn’t give you the loan you deserved, those greedy bankers. Perhaps your employees are underperforming. You know how employees can be. Or maybe it’s the government with their meddlesome taxes and regulations.
The answer is that not one of these is the actual reason you fail.
Successful people think of creative ways to work with, or around, regulations.
Successful people consider taxes, have strategies to minimize them, but never worry about them.
Successful people take advantage of economic downturns to snatch up or eliminate the failures that will compete with them when things inevitably turn around.
Successful people have the ability to make any of their staff members successful right alongside themselves, with no hesitation, comparisons, or envy.
Resistance is like the Alien or the Terminator or the shark in Jaws. It cannot be reasoned with. It understands nothing but power. It is an engine of destruction, programmed from the factory with one object only: to prevent us from doing our work.
Just when you finally, finally, fix the one issue that was holding you back, lo and behold, a new problem even stickier than the last crops up. Now, if we can just get this one thing fixed . . .
But you never will. Things will never be completely fixed. Sometimes you have to make do with the imperfect. Sometimes you have to find workarounds. Resistance will always find a reason. Success does not suffer fools and doesn’t care at all about your excuses. So if you want to run with Success and avoid Resistance, you had better do the same.
Like a magnetized needle floating on a surface of oil, Resistance will unfailingly point to true North—meaning that calling or action it most wants to stop us from doing.
We can use this.
You know that task at the bottom of your list? The one that could change the face of your company? That one you are going to start as soon as you get your plate clear so you can really, truly, honest to God FOCUS on that big idea?
You should probably start it now.
Resistance’s goal is not to wound or disable. Resistance aims to kill.
Success takes time. Just like every bit of stress takes time off of your life, every minute delayed by Resistance reduces the Success you will have. This is it. Every dollar you don’t make is a dollar lost. Resistance is the sports team in the lead; all they need to do to win is run out the clock.
The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day.
Who or what do you use as your measure of success? It likely depends on your motivations and how you define success. Maybe it’s the person who owns the business just like yours but is ten times the size. Maybe it’s the guy who has retired and plays golf three times a week. Maybe it’s the woman whose app changed how people look at the world.
But only someone who is listening to Resistance thinks that Success is an end point.
All quotations are from The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.