Ignorance and arrogance are the artist and entrepreneur’s indispensable allies. She must be clueless enough to have no idea how difficult her enterprise is going to be—and cocky enough to believe she can pull it off anyway. How do we achieve this state of mind? By staying stupid. By not allowing ourselves to think. A child has no trouble believing the unbelievable, nor does the genius or the madman. It’s only you and I, with our big brains and our tiny hearts, who doubt and overthink and hesitate. Don’t think. Act.Steven Pressfield, Do the Work
“When we ship, we’re exposed,” writes Steven Pressfield in his book Do the Work.
Do we deliver? The professional artist ships even if they don’t believe 100% in what they make.
Because behind the cycle of perpetual creation is a signal–whether through viewer feedback or connectivity—on what to make and where to go next.
What feels like a sinking ship is a great ship sliding out of port, toward a compassless journey that is long, arduous, but despite the shakiness, inherently still. The lighthouse is always there to guide us when we get lost.
The creative process rides the water’s edges in an attempt to find the treasure in the middle—the one that promises a little peace for the risk within ourselves.
We steer the ship. But only if we choose to keep slipping out to sea, on board with the whims of the waves.
gif by @mjguzmans
Don’t prepare. Begin. Remember, our enemy is not lack of preparation; it’s not the difficulty of the project or the state of the marketplace or the emptiness of our bank account. The enemy is Resistance. The enemy is our chattering brain, which, if we give it so much as a nanosecond, will start producing excuses, alibis, transparent self-justifications, and a million reasons why we can’t/shouldn’t/won’t do what we know we need to do. Start before you’re ready. Good things happen when we start before we’re ready. For one thing, we show huevos. Our blood heats up. Courage begets more courage.Steven Pressfield, Do the Work
I remember rolling the last page out and adding it to the stack that was the finished manuscript. Nobody knew I was done. Nobody cared. But I knew. I felt like a dragon I’d been fighting all my life had just dropped dead at my feet and gasped out its last sulfuric breath. Rest in peace, motherfucker. Next morning I went over to Paul’s for coffee and told him I had finished. “Good for you,” he said without looking up. “Start the next one today.Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
I’m not one to celebrate national trends but this gif tells you all you need to know about the history of the donut.
How the pink box has persevered so long may be about more than just dollars and cents. Experts say the color triggers an emotional connection to sweetness that makes doughnuts more irresistible than they already are.
If you’re a writer and you like donuts, you may also find this Steven Pressfield quote handy.
“As you travel through life, let this be our goal: keep your eye on the donut and not on the hole.”
When most people think of punishment, they think of negative consequences — jail for committing a crime or a lawsuit for tax evasion.
However, voluntary punishment, like stress, can also have benefits.
The US Marines have a saying: “Pain is weakness is leaving the body.”
Sometimes you have to punish yourself to get better. You need to wake up early, to exercise, and do your homework.
Punishment is synonymous with resistance. People want pleasure, not pain. Some consider writing punishment, but it is more like a bicep curl for the brain. As the writer Steven Pressfield likes to say, “the pros play hurt.” The pros play even when they are not motivated.
If you want something, you need to be able to wrestle with punishment. You need to persist in strengthening weaknesses.
Defining punishment comes down to perspective. There are obvious repercussions for doing the wrong things. However, punishment can also be the fuel that helps people progress.
What’s actionable? What makes one thing a priority over another; is it just the due date or the impact it may have on other people?
“The Principle of Priority states (a) you must know the difference between what is urgent and what is important, and (b) you must do what’s important first.” – Steven Pressfield
Important is what people care about most. But if everything is important, than nothing has intrinsic value. We can’t possibly do it all with 100% effort and concentration. The brain is a motor that runs out of gas. We can only do our best when we can focus on the task at hand.
There are simply too many tasks involved in daily life. The tasks at work, at home, and in our social lives. Life itself is one big Herculean task.
So what is one important task that you’re taking action against today?
Paperwork is an impediment. It’s the reason we avoid applying to school, to jobs, getting a new car or signing off on a business deal.
But it also saves our rears. All that verbiage in the paperwork is a litmus test for your own pertinacity. If you really want it, you’ll go through the painstaking effort to complete the paperwork.
Lawyers look dead tired because they live in paperwork. So do the people that handle IPOs and acquisitions. But that’s how they wanted with their lives and they get paid handsomely for it.
Paperwork sucks. But so does the alternative, doing nothing. You do it by doing the work.
This second, we can turn the tables on Resistance. How? This second, we can sit down and do our work.Steven Pressfield
Want to stay creative in the age of digital distraction?
Below are some of my favorite highlights from Manage Your Day-to-Day from the folks at 99U.
Grethen Rubin on the “Power of Frequency”
Often folks achieve their best work by grinding out the product. Creativity arises from a constant churn of ideas, and one of the easiest ways to encourage that fertile froth is to keep your mind engaged with your project. When you work regularly, inspiration strikes regularly.
“What I do every day matters more than what I do once in a while.”
Seth Godin on “Honing Your Creative Practice”
Because lots and lots of people are creative when they feel like it, but you are only going to become a professional if you do it when you don’t feel like it. And that emotional waiver is why this is your work and not your hobby.
If you’re a professional, you do not get to say, “Ugh, now I have to go sell it”—selling it is part of it because if you do not sell it, there is no art.
Leo Babauta on “Making Room For Solitude”
Today, it is essential that we find solitude so that we can learn what it has to teach us, so that we can find the quiet to listen to our inner voice, and so that we may find
What’s the point of sitting? There is no point—sitting is the point. You’re not doing it to reduce stress, gain enlightenment, or learn more about yourself—though all these things might happen—but to practice just sitting.
Cal Newport on “Scheduling in Time for Creative Thinking”
The key, however, is to never allow distraction. If you give in and quickly check Facebook, cancel the whole block and try again later. Your mind can never come to believe that even a little bit of distraction is okay during these blocks.
When possible, do your work with pen and paper to avoid even the possibility of online distraction.
Christian Jarret on “Banishing Multi-tasking from Our Repertoire”
We may tell ourselves that we’ll just answer one quick e-mail or make one short phone call. But in reality, switching tasks sends us down a rabbit hole, pulling our attention away from our priority work for much longer than we anticipate.
Dan Ariely on “Understanding Our Compulsions”
Because as we invent new technologies, we also invent new ways to kill ourselves. Think about obesity. Think about smoking. Think about texting and driving. All of those are self-control problems.
Scott Belsky on “Turning in to You”
When you tune in to the moment, you begin to recognize the world around you and the true potential of your own mind.
Notice one source of unexpected value on every such occasion. Develop the discipline to allow for serendipity.
Nothing should resonate more loudly than your own intuition.
Lori Deschene on “Mindfully”
When we’re mindful, we’re aware of why we’re logging on, and we’re able to fully disconnect when we’ve followed through with our intention.
All of the most fulfilled people I know focus more on the quality of their connections than the quantity of them.
Tiffany Shalin on “Reconsidering Constant Connectivity”
everything is an extension of our desire for connection. We couldn’t see far enough, we invented the telescope. We wanted to communicate across distances, we invented the telephone. Then, we wanted to connect with everyone and share all these ideas, and we invented the Internet.
We’re both focused and distracted. So I think the real problem isn’t the technology. I think we need to evolve to know when to turn it off.
James Victore on “Reclaiming Our Self-respect”
This busywork pulls our attention from the meaningful work—taking time to think, reflect, and imagine.
we need to consciously develop a healthy relationship with our tools—or we will lose perspective and become slaves to them.
As Marshall McLuhan theorized, “We shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us.” We let our tools take the lead because it’s the path of least resistance—the easy way. And the easy way is always a trap.
Todd Henry on “Creating For You, And You Alone”
To truly excel, you must also continue to create for the most important audience of all: yourself.
Unnecessary Creation gives you the freedom to explore new possibilities and follow impractical curiosities.
As Steven Johnson explains in his book Where Good Ideas Come From, “A good idea is a network..A new idea is a network of cells exploring the adjacent possible of connections that they can make in your mind.”
Scott McDowell on “Training Your Mind to be Ready for Insight”
When you’re working on a sticky problem, the solution is often disengagement.
What we do know for sure is that whenever your brain senses a pattern and gets too comfortable, creativity stagnates and it’s time to try something else.
Stefan Sagmeister on “Tricking Your Brain into Creativity”
If you want to come up with a new idea, the first thing you can always do is think of something that you did before or something that you’ve seen before. So starting with someone, or somehwere, else is just basically a trick to fool the brain out of thinking in repetition.
I feel the most satisfied if I work on projects where I know about half of what I’m doing and I don’t know the other half. If I go too much in one direction, meaning if I know too little about something, I get too anxious. And if I know too much about something, I get too bored.
Elizabeth Grace Saunders on “Letting go of Perfectionmism”
Saying something is complete doesn’t mean that it can’t be improved upon or elaborated on in the future. It just means that I can submit it and move on to other work.
To a perfectionist, settling seems worse than not completing the piece, which is why perfectionists often produce very little…My guess is that you’ll find you produce far more and far better work with much less stress by aiming for less-than-perfect.
Mark McGuinness on “Getting Unstuck”
It’s only when you’re focused on intrinsic motivations—such as your fascination with the material or the sheer pleasure you take in creating it—that you do your best work.
Don’t beat yourself up if you’re not on fire creatively every day—give yourself credit if you show up for work and make even a small amount of progress.
Steven Pressfield on “How Pro Can You Go”
Stage One is simply being able to sit down and work, if only for a single hour. Don’t laugh. Ninety-nine out of a hundred can’t do it.
As you travel through life, let this be our goal: keep your eye on the donut and not on the hole.
A professional is someone who can keep working at a high level of effort and ethics, no matter what is going on—for good or ill—around him or inside him. A professional shows up every day. A professional plays hurt. A professional takes neither success nor failure personally.