How to Beat Resistance

I opened the door and walked into my small home in central Virginia. I heard my wife getting dinner ready in the kitchen and saw my six-month-old son bopping around in his jumperoo seat.

“I’m home,” I called out.

“Hey hon,” Candace answered. “How was your day?”

“Great!” I lied. “I got a ton done,” I lied again.

“That’s great, baby. Dinner is almost ready.”

I dropped my bag at the door, walked past my son without a word, and went upstairs. I locked myself inside our only bathroom, leaned against the sink, and looked at myself in the mirror.

I had lied because I was ashamed.

I’d lied, because I’d made promises to Candace. I’d told her when I quit my job two months after our first son was born, that I’d be able to provide financially for us, and that she wouldn’t have to work.

I’d lied, because I wasn’t following through on that promise.

These are the thoughts I would tell myself every evening, in no particular order:

  1. You’re an idiot.
  2. Another wasted day.
  3. You’re a loser.
  4. You’re failing your family.
  5. Tomorrow you’ll get your act together.
  6. Tomorrow you’ll get your work done.

But of course, I knew the truth.

I’d go to my little office (well, “office” is a stretch — it was really a windowless closet my church cleaned out for me because I needed a place to work), and spend the morning playing a pirated version of the World of Warcraft video game, talking to my friends, or fiddling with my invoicing software.

Basically, I was a master at finding anything to do but actual work that would pay actual bills and get me closer to my actual dreams.

A few years later, I would read Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art. I looked back and realized that what I had been fighting in those early days was the enemy that Pressfield spells with a capital R: Resistance.

I’ve now been married almost fourteen years.

In that time my wife and I have fought depression, pride, selfishness, the possibility of divorce, and a host of other battles that have tried to tear us apart.

Here’s what I’ve learned along the way:

You can only fight something that has a name.

We would argue for months around issues , not about them, because we hadn’t determined the exact issues we were really fighting about.

Eventually, through counseling or meditation or other methods, we’d land on what it was we were really fighting about.

Such as, I was being selfish at a fundamental level.

Or Candace didn’t really think I loved her.

Whatever it was, once we had a name for the problem, the progress could begin. We could aim our guns and swords at the problem instead of at each other.

That’s what The War of Art did for me.

It gave me a name for the problem.

It gave me an enemy other than myself. So that instead of cursing myself, I could curse my enemy.

I could curse Resistance.

On the last page of The War of Art, Pressfield says:

“In the end, the question can only be answered by action. Do it or don’t do it.”

Those words still haunt me. They make me shudder.

Because every day, Resistance would beat me up, and every night I would make promises to myself to “do it” tomorrow.

“Tomorrow I’ll sit down and immediately get to work.”

But tomorrow would come and I’d screw that day too.

I was the embodiment of the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans:

“The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.” [New Living Translation]

Every. Damn. Day.

Dane was a friend of mine at this time. He was an entrepreneur too. The problem was Dane was a work horse. He churned out his work like it was nothing.

I hated people like Dane.

I would sit down at my desk, and end the day having done nothing.

People like Dane would sit down and get work done. They’d do more in two hours than I’d manage to do in a week.

It was embarrassing. It was shameful.

But I couldn’t change. Nothing seemed to help me get past this. For months and years, I wallowed in my own self-hatred and broken promises.

Pressfield would say, “Do it,” and I would respond with, “How?”

Over the last several years, a lot has changed.

Today I dropped my kids off at school and walked into my office at 8:02 am.

I spent ten minutes making coffee, getting my drinking water, and laying out my laptop and notebook.

Then I sat down and got to work.

I’m 754 words into the first draft of a new manuscript and I’ve been at my office less than an hour.

Today I will get a lot done.

I’ll knock out at least 2,000 words of writing.

I’ll finishing recording my podcast, then get that to the audio editor.

I’ll exercise for an hour.

I’ll respond to some emails.

I’ll follow up on a few lingering to-do’s.

I’ll pick my kids up at 4:00 pm and spend the rest of the evening with them.

This year, I’ll finish two new books and run a successful one-person business, all while working less than thirty hours a week.

Because now I keep Resistance on a short leash.

Of course, it never leaves forever, and from time to time, it renews its fight.

But it never wins.

I’m no longer Resistance’s slave. The roles have been reversed.

The biggest driver of that change has been a change in my fundamental beliefs about myself and my work. And belief drives behavior.

You can say whatever you want, but I’ll know what you really believe to be true by what I see you actually doing.

You can say you believe that that chair will hold you, but if you aren’t willing to sit down on it, I’ll know better.

Your beliefs about who you are creatively drive your creativity.

You can say you want to be a painter, but if you never paint, you’re lying.

You can say you want to be a writer, but if you never write, you’re lying.

You can say you want to start your own business, but if you clock out of your 9-to-5 and then watch Netflix the rest of the night, you’re lying.

I’m working on a new series for this site, about beating Resistance.

And here’s the thing …

During that series, I’m going to ask you to start believing things you know aren’t true right now.

That’s OK. Just trust me (even though I just told you I’m a liar).

Because one of the threads that runs through beating Resistance is believing things that aren’t yet true, but that one day, in the near future, will be true.

Another word for this is faith.

If you’re reading this, you probably want to do something beautiful and meaningful with your life. However, you may not be doing it yet.

I’m going to walk you through many counterintuitive things to get you there. Hang with me. It’s for your own good.

In this series, I’m going to ask you to do some extraordinary things. Things that will take guts. Things that will make you feel or look silly. Things that might piss off your friends.

But here’s the deal.

Resistance is a cancer.

It’s actually worse than cancer, because Resistance won’t kill you. It will just turn you into a zombie.

Somebody who’s dead inside, but still walking around like a normal person, looking for other people to infect with Resistance, so they don’t feel bad about their own state of undeadness.

When you are being held back by Resistance, you are part of the ever-growing plague that is keeping humanity from reaching its potential.

To beat this plague called Resistance, you can’t play nice. It doesn’t understand the Golden Rule. It will eat your pacifism for lunch.

You have entered into the war of art. But this series will give you the weapons you need to fight and win.

They are weapons of death and destruction, and you must wield them against Resistance, without hesitation or mercy.

You have creativity inside of you to share with the world. Your one and only enemy is Resistance, and you must be steadfast and ruthless in your fight.

So when I ask you to do things that are uncomfortable, scary, and socially awkward, remember that this is your life we are fighting for. And that it’s worth it.

For the last eight years, I’ve made it my sole purpose in life to learn how to overcome Resistance and to get my work done.

During that time, as I’ve worked with hundreds of authors, I’ve had a behind-the-scenes view on how some of the most prolific writers of our time get their work done.

Here’s what’s funny: Even they don’t understand how they beat Resistance. They do it so naturally, or they’ve been doing it for so long, that they don’t even realize how they’re doing it.

That’s where I came in. Their end point is where my own process started.

As I was drowning in my own battle against Resistance, I was forced to reverse engineer what they were doing so I could apply it to my own life.

No matter what they say, it’s not as simple as “Write every day!” or “Just put your ass in the chair!”

Much like a professional dancer who doesn’t need to think about each individual step — they “just dance” — most professional creative people can’t explain how they beat Resistance.

They just “do it.”

But that wasn’t good enough for me.

I wanted to know how they did it. What were the tricks they used to make them create every day? How did they overcome the time constraints of a crowded schedule? What did they do on the days they didn’t feel creative?

I asked these questions, dug deep, and found the principles these creatives used to beat Resistance.

I’ve taken everything they taught me and applied it to my own life. I now know how to “Do it.”

In this series, I’m going to show you the tricks of that trade.

It’s no accident that I now get more done in a week than most people get done in a month.

This isn’t another me-too productivity series.

I don’t care about productivity.

I don’t measure my output or keep a strenuous GTD to-do list.

I only care about one thing: I fight Resistance.

Because I know the secret.

I know that a new to-do list app isn’t going to fix my problem.

Neither is finding a better writing software.

Or reading one more productivity guru Checklist Manifesto or Getting Things Done book.

My problem is Resistance, and if I can beat Resistance, then I will finally be the person I want to be.

If you can beat Resistance, you’ll be the person you want to be.

In this series, I’m going to show you how.

I’m going to take you on my journey of the past eight years and show you exactly what it takes to beat Resistance, giving you the workable, practical ways that you can overcome it in your own life.

These principles are tried and true.

They will help you finally write that book or finish that painting, start your own business or prepare your first speech, or whatever it is you’ve been imagining yourself doing all these years.

If The War of Art is the declaration of war, then this series is the battle plan.

We’re going to kick Resistance’s ass together.

Let’s get started.

Current articles in the Resistance series:

[catlist name=resistance]

More to come…

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