I married into a golfing family. The sport has grown on me to the point where I can even enjoy watching golf on TV (yep, we watched Rory win the PGA Championship last night.) And of course golf movies, like The Legend of Bagger Vance. Remember these lines?
Bagger Vance (Will Smith): You wanna quit Mr. Junuh? You know you can just go ahead and creep off somewhere, I'll tell folk you took sick... Truth be told, ain't nobody gonna really object... In fact, they'd probably be happy as bugs in a bake shop to see you pack up and go home...
Rannulph Junuh (Matt Damon): You know I can't quit.
Bagger Vance: I know... Just makin’ sure you know it too...
I recently discovered that the author of Bagger Vance also writes non-fiction. One of these is a powerful little book that I’d like to introduce you to here: Do The Work! by Steven Pressfield. Pressfield’s books are often about war and battles, and this book follows a battle theme as well. The epic “battle” in this case being You vs. Resistance.
When I read it, I thought about all of the different ways it could apply to my own life, and I found it especially relevant for business owners who face fears and doubts (from others, from themselves) related to starting a new business and making major business changes. If you find yourself in one of those rough spots, I recommend this book as a tool for business guidance.
Image credit: Sherri Lynn Wood
Overcoming the Resistance
Pressfield describes “enemies” that try to prevent us from making healthy changes to our lives, such as starting a business, taking a risk, or tackling (and finishing!) a new project. The book may apply to any of life’s changes (though I’m looking at it with a slight Bread Business bent). Resistance is the main focus of Do The Work!, having these seven characteristics:
Plays for Keeps
Resistance wins when we quit — and it’s a powerful adversary. We can’t see it, but it’s always there. It takes different shapes, depending on our goals. It’s completely indifferent to us and attacks everyone as a “force of nature.” It might come in the form of a friend telling you all the reasons your business idea will fail, negative self-talk, or distractions. (Prime example: I lost count of how many times I’ve checked email instead of finishing this blog post).
Thankfully, we also have some strong and important “allies” in this battle. One of them is Resistance’s own infallibility. As Pressfield says,
“We can use this. We can use it as a compass. We can navigate by Resistance, letting it guide us to that calling or purpose that we must follow…The more important a call or actions is to our soul’s evolution, the more resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.”
The list of our allies doesn’t look quite as impressive as Resistance’s characteristics, but that’s why we are the underdog here:
Friends & Family
Stupidity is an ally because Resistance causes us to overthink and hesitate. Steve Jobs is a genius in hind-sight, but at the time, he had to buck a lot of conventional wisdom. Pressfield writes,
“Ignorance and arrogance are the artist and entrepreneur’s indispensable allies…Don’t think. Act. We can always revise and revisit once we’ve acted. But we can accomplish nothing until we act.”
Our blind faith and unrelenting belief in our project are our strongest weapons. Resistance will work hard to shake our faith through the entire process. We need passion, assistance, friends and family to carry us through against all the fears we will face and remind us of what is important at the end of the day.
The Beginning of the Battle
Just getting started at all is often the hardest part. Resistance is smart enough to know this and will lead us down all kinds of dead-ends with excessive research and over-planning. Pressfield recommends setting a research limit of three books and then diving in.
“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 millions reasons why we can’t/ shouldn’t/won’t do what we know we need to do.”
Of course we need a plan, but not a planning encyclopedia. Put a plan on one sheet of paper and start at the end. Answer questions related to the end of this project or after you’ve acquired your new habits. What experience are we creating for our customers? What is our project about? What are we going to achieve? Get clear on this. Spend the time clarifying the dream, but remember that Resistance will throw chatter, distractions and questions at us while we are working on our plan.
The Middle Leads to the Belly of the Beast
At some point in the middle of our project or efforts to change, we are going to hit a wall and feel stuck. Maybe we asked for some feedback and people don’t like our idea. (Telling your parents and co-workers that you are going to quit your job to open a bakery. What??...I’ve heard several stories over the years of that not going well.) The voices in our head tell us we’re not good enough. Distractions abound. We’ll want to quit, like Rannulph Junuh on the golf course. Pressfield calls this:
(You can’t miss it in the book.)
The forces of Resistance are strong and throwing everything at you. Here’s where you need your allies. Assistance will come if you are open to it. Think of your favorite story – the hero doesn’t succeed alone. He always has help -- Bagger Vance for Rannulph Junuh. Bagger doesn’t make the shots to comeback, but he reminds Junuh of his dream and his abilities. And he reminds us all that the Resistance is inside ourselves. We can’t go around it. We have to battle through it. To win, we must be totally committed.
To slay the beast, we need to remember that Resistance is a compass. It arises as a result of our decision to change or write or launch. Resistance reacts to keep us from achieving our goal, so we just have to remember why we started in the first place. Pressfield reminds us,
“The opposite of fear is love – love of the challenge, love of the work, the pure joyous passion to take a shot at our dream and see if we can pull it off.”
“The problem is not us. The problem is the problem. Work the problem.”
When we solve the problem, we’re out of the Belly of the Beast, but we’re still not done.
Once we finish or launch or change, we’ll be exposed to rejection. This is scary! Will I be accepted? Will people walk in my bakery on opening day? Will people complain? Will I miss the green? Resistance is hard at work using our fears to try to stop us right up to the end. In fact, the pressure to quit may be strongest now. But Pressfield writes,
“Slay that dragon once, and he will never have power over you…you’ll know you can beat him again. That’s a game-changer. That will transform your life.”
Small but Powerful Book of Wisdom for Business (and Beyond)
In the forward to this book, Seth Godin encourages the reader to pass this book along to others who need it. So this post is my attempt to do just that. I’m definitely still on the journey of learning to overcome the Resistance (still checking email and grabbing a cup of coffee), but just acknowledging and recognizing Resistance has helped shape choices I’ve made since reading this book. I hope it will help you too.
Have you read Do The Work!? What did you think of it? If you’ve applied this book to your meaningful changes in business, we’d love to hear from you (or maybe you have another book you’d recommend for business guidance?). Let us know in the comments.
You may also enjoy these blog posts on fear and business changes:
- Business Tips from the Sports World: Create Interest & Bold Changes
- Conquering Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt to Open a Small Business
- What Would You Do if You Weren't Afraid?
- A Franchise Startup Takes Real Courage