Recently I was on a call with a fellow entrepreneur and while discussing why they hadn’t put their new project out into the world the person said this to me (something I hear often):
“But Jason, I’m not like you, I can’t just, you know, do stuff… Launch things all the time and take risks. It’s not in my DNA.”
Up until a couple days again, my answer was simple: Yes you can, you just need to try harder.
Not the best answer right? I know. But then I finally started reading a book that’s been gathering dust on my bookshelf since last year (Nov 13, 2013 to be exact – thanks Amazon). That book is The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.
*That’s my Amazon affiliate link and here’s a normal link if you don’t want me to make $0.35 if you buy the book.
In The War of Art, which is a really solid book, Pressfield talks a lot about resistance and how it holds us back from everything we want to do in our lives. Resistance (aka the evil villain Dr. Resistance) is a constant thorn in our sides, always trying to keep us from saving the day or damsel in distress. Feel free to choose your own adventure in this metaphor.
We all deal with the evil villain Dr. Resistance. He can appear as an incredibly loud voice in our heads. He can be an uneasy feeling in the pit of our stomachs. He can even work his resistance magic and take over the people around us, infiltrating their words and thoughts with pessimism and negativity.
Unfortunately, Dr. Resistance is incredibly powerful. But, he does have a weakness… and that weakness is effort.
I will 100% admit that I’m probably more of a risk-taker, especially in business, than most people. But I haven’t always been that way and that doesn’t mean I don’t feel resistance. I’m just more willing to fight resistance because I want whatever thing I’m striving for more than resistance doesn’t want me to have it. And part of my abundance of effort to push through resistance has come from previous experience and success.
Here’s an example from the last 10 years of my work life:
- I took a small risk in applying to work at as a graphic designer for Men’s Professional Tennis (ATP) out of college. I had no experience with the sport of tennis, barely watched it on TV and certainly didn’t know how to hold a tennis racquet properly to rip a wicked top-spin-cross-court-forehand-winner (I still can’t actually do that with any consistency).
- Then I took a bigger risk to leave that secure 9-5 job to start my own design agency. I had no experience running my own company, getting my own clients, or doing any sales/marketing.
- Then I took an even bigger risk and created IWearYourShirt, a ridiculous idea for a business.
- Then I took a huge risk and put my name up for sale. Then I wrote the first ever fully-sponsored book. Etc etc.
The point here is that the more risks I take the less resistance I feel to taking action and doing things. Whether that’s starting a new business, asking for sponsorships for random things, or whatever I’m doing.
To visually illustrate this point, I want to present two diagrams to you:
1. The first one is my Effort vs Resistance. The two spheres are further apart because I’ve done lots of things to lower my feeling of resistance in work and life. You can see the intersection of those two spheres, which I’m calling “Holy sh*t I’m afraid to do this” zone, is fairly small. This leads me to taking lots of action and not being afraid to do so.
2. The second diagram represents people who don’t have as much experience as I do fighting off resistance. This means the sphere of resistance overlaps the sphere of effort much more, thus causing a much larger “Holy sh*t I’m afraid to this” zone.
Alright, I think you get the point. So, how can you defeat, or at least start fighting, the evil villain Dr. Resistance? How can push the sphere of resistance further away?
Start with looking at the thing you want to do and break it into tiny bite-size steps.
If you’re trying to quit your job and start your own business, don’t put “Quit job and start new business” on your to do list. Instead, create a plan with daily/weekly goals and to do lists (I wrote an entire other post for this too). If you’re trying to build an online course for something, don’t put “Build Online Course” on your to do list. Put “Write script for video for Lesson One” on your to do list and then go from there. If you’re trying to write a book, don’t put “Write Book” on your to do list. Start with a daily writing practice of 500 words. Focus only on getting one part of your book outline done per day. Whatever the thing is you’re trying to accomplish, make the steps to get it done much smaller and more accomplishable.
Don’t let resistance drive you to comfortable distractions.
I’m currently on a 30-day social media detox, but I’m fully aware that when I sit down to work on something, I immediately feel like I want to check Facebook. Heck, I’m willing to bet some of you have probably checked Facebook while reading this because the length of this email made you feel resistance to investing the time to read it. I get it. The trick is to replace your distractions with things that can help you finish the task in front of you. Maybe that’s grabbing a journal and writing down your fears (in that moment), or just sitting quietly, not actually doing anything. Replace your comfortable escape with a task that might actually benefit you.
Ask for help.
This is something I was terrible at, and am still not amazing at. But we all resist asking for help because we’re embarrassed that we can’t do everything on our own. That’s a totally natural feeling. If you ask the right people for help, which is an entire other topic, they won’t make you feel embarrassed or bad for wanting help. Find the right people through friends/connections and swallow your pride. You’ll be really glad you did.
Bonus tip: Write out your strengths and weaknesses (especially as it relates to the thing you’re resisting). Who is someone you know (or could get introduced to) that is strong where you are weak? Reach out to that person and ask them to help you with the things they’re good at that you’re not. Make it easy for them to help you.
Every single person reading this article feels the wrath of that a-hole evil villain Dr. Resistance. The key is to manage your level of effort and to acknowledge when you are resisting. Sometimes you may just need to hunker down and put in more work. Other times you might need to ask for help or reassess the task at hand.
Either way, understand resistance is something we all deal with. Fight the good fight and don’t give up!