Category: fear (page 1 of 3)

deep roots make strong trees

We live in a world of instant information. Now more than ever we can access data that confirms our own beliefs; it has never been easier to live in an echo chamber. We compound our confirmation bias by simultaneously broadening our social circle to global and limiting our intake to only that with which we agree. We can have a thousand “friends” and choose to listen to only a fraction of them. Even though there’s more information than there has ever been before, we can still choose to insulate ourselves.

The instant nature of this information also means that much of it will be unfounded. It’s harder to verify. There’s little at stake when data can be made global at the click of a button the moment a thought has been had.

Anonymity also lowers the stakes of sending thoughts into the world. A twitter war with a faceless entity can make us feel entitled to express our opinions without consequence. And each side will be “right,” justified in their opinions. Divisive language happens when there is anonymous emoting (because what more can we call it when no common ground or intellectual growth is sought?)

We have to do better. We have to dig deeper. We have to be open to learning that we are wrong.

An education worth having must begin with humility. It’s important to recognize bad rhetoric; there’s a lot of it out there. A voracious reader will begin to make himself less easily duped by false or manipulative talk. Exposing oneself to a broad range of thought will make for a better thinker, a more discerning human being, and therefore a better citizen of the world.

We can’t expect to be good judges of our present if we are unwilling to zoom out and consider the wider context.

Reading great works from those who came before us gives us roots. The ideas of past geniuses broaden our own network of ideas. When a strong wind of someone disagreeing with us comes along, we can take that view into consideration without fear that it will uproot our entire system of beliefs. The roots are deep enough and broad enough to take on new ideas and weigh them against existing ones. We needn’t be threatened by new ideas because we are equipped to look at them critically and with an open mind. More importantly, we have trained ourselves to learn from everything with humility.

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politics as resistance

Today is a day of celebration for some, mourning for others. There is time for each, so long as everyone is respectful of others. Be slow to judge others for their disappointment or elation. Don’t think less of anyone for their political views. We are all humans deserving of each others love, and we are all at least a little scared.


Few things can so quickly hinder mutual respect and forward progress than political opinions. A passage from “The Screwtape Letters” by C.S. Lewis seems appropriate today:

My Dear Wormwood,

Be sure that the patient remains completely fixated on politics. Arguments, political gossip, and obsessing on the faults of people they have never met serves as an excellent distraction from advancing in personal virtue, character, and the things the patient can control. Make sure to keep the patient in a constant state of angst, frustration, and general disdain towards the rest of the human race in order to avoid any kind of charity or inner peace from further developing. Ensure the the patient continues to believe that the problem is ‘out there’ in the ‘broken system’ rather than recognizing there is a problem with himself.

Keep up the good work,

Uncle Screwtape

Surely we can hold on to our own values without being threatened by those of others. We can deflate negativity and despair by recognizing political differences as a means of sharpening our own beliefs rather than allowing it to sabotage us. We can choose whether or not it is a form of Resistance for us.

My initial reaction to the election result was tears, knowing that division and rioting are surely moments away. Then I had to remember that the good people of the world will need to be all the stronger and step up to the plate doing enough good to crowd out the hate and division. I’m heartbroken that our country has done this to herself, that she thinks she deserves it, but our mourning period should be brief because there is much work to do.

Be wise of mind, tender of heart, and bold in spirit. Be good humans to one another. We are better than to let little things like opinions divide us.

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the most important defense against resistance

The single most important thing you can do to defeat creative resistance is to get the focus off of yourself and get around people who think bigger than you do.

Find your tribe

I had been so keen on finding what I wanted to niche down into and find out what I was good at outside of my day job that I was elbow deep in assessment tests and books about finding my element. Instead of trying to find my element, I should have been trying to find my tribe. I recently attended the very first seanwes conference in Austin, Texas. I’ve been listening to the seanwes podcast and a part of its online Community for about a year and a half. These are people who think bigger. I was intimidated going into the conference because so many of them are killing it in their chosen industry, and here I am not knowing what I want to do with my life.

When you’re talking to the right people, your floundering introduction of who you are and what you’re about gets abbreviated quickly. I went into the conference with something like, “My day job is as a sign artist for Trader Joe’s, but on the side I also like to write, draw, hand letter, and sometimes I sell crochet stuff and…” Then someone would say something like, “Oh I love Trader Joe’s! What kind of writing do you do? What are you working on?” If you do this more than once, you’ve gotta come up with a better elevator pitch.

I started saying that something I had thought about doing was writing and illustrating a series of books for children that broke down into digestible chunks the key concepts in the Great Books of western civilization, such as Plato, Augustine, Kierkegaard, Emerson, etc. When this was the part of my muddy introduction that people responded to, I tossed out the window the other ideas rattling around in my head that I wasn’t truly on fire about.

Get outside of your own head

If you’re being shy, you’re thinking about yourself. This was my problem in trying to figure out what I might be good at. I am an introvert in the extreme, but these were people I had interacted with online and knew they were people I just had to know in person. I already loved these individuals, and that made it so much easier to walk up and talk to them. I had to stop being selfish, stop being a wallflower.

Yes, I wanted to get the most out of this conference by engaging with people and building relationships. Yes, I wanted clarity for my own vision. But what happens when you get outside your own head and talk to others is that you see their vision, too. It magnifies what you’re doing. It empowers you to think about how you might serve a much bigger purpose, solve a much bigger problem, and to help more people.

That, in the end, is what it’s all about: how can I serve more people? Stop being shy and engage with others about your vision so you can better serve your audience. Serve your audience for the purpose of growing them and helping even more people. Do what you do because you love people.

Get a bigger vision

Get a bigger vision, then talk about it. Talk about it a lot. Once I put it out there that I wanted to do this illustrated Great Books series for children, people said, “Yes, do that!” The more I shared, the more feedback I got and the bigger that vision became. I started to see that the real reason I wanted to do this was to normalize what seems like big, daunting ideas for a younger audience so they’re not intimidated when they reach high school or college.

Sean McCabe often says, “Normalize what seems big to you. Think in bigger units.” Perhaps this would be more than a book series. It could be a whole curriculum. It could potentially change the way we educate young people. If understanding Plato’s cave analogy is normal in elementary school, think how much deeper students can dive into those primary texts when they’re in high school or college.

I went into the conference with very little focus as far as what I wanted to do outside of my day job. By day two, I knew exactly what I wanted to do and started taking action on it right away. By day three, it was a bigger calling than I could have imagined. I never would have imagined it if not for connecting with people who get it. I never would have imagined it if I didn’t have the guts to share that little seed of an idea.

Imagine if I had let shyness prevent me from going to the conference in the first place (I almost did). Sean also said, “The only thing holding you back is the smallness of your ideas.” Get a bigger mission so you can take massive action, be known, and help more people. You’re not being selfish by wanting to do big things and talking about your dreams; you’re being selfish by keeping them from others.


Don’t be afraid of success

Only you can build your dream. Talk about your vision, get the right people on board, get out of your own way and work your ass off on that thing. Focus hard on that one thing and build a bonfire that can’t be ignored. Get known so you can do more. Walt Disney said, “We don’t make movies to make money. We make money to make more movies.” The money you make enables you to do bigger things, so don’t be afraid to make as much as you can. It’s not greedy because it’s not about you. It’s an enabler of your bigger purpose.

Keep it positive

Even though everyone at the conference was light years ahead of me in their pursuits, I never once felt an ounce of judgement or embarrassment that I wasn’t at their level. Everyone was there to improve their game, and the atmosphere was overwhelmingly positive.These individuals are successful because there’s a team of successful people cheering them on. They are super humble about their success, too, so it’s very common to see high-functioning creatives struggling with impostor syndrome or the occasional hater.

Successful people don’t spend an ounce of energy tearing others down. –Sean McCabe

Sean also made a great point that the opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s irrelevance. If you’re successful enough to be noticed by a lot of people, you’ll elicit strong opinions on both ends of the spectrum. If you remain in the middle, you’re not putting yourself out there enough to be known or for people to care either way. But when people say hateful things, remember that it’s not about you at all. If they’re spending their energy tearing you down, they themselves are not successful. Don’t let someone else’s opinion limit you.


When creative Resistance has you up against a wall, try shifting your focus. It’s not about you. Are you stuck in a rut because you’re navel gazing? Remember that whatever your dream or passion, in the end it’s always about serving other people. Any money you make beyond what you need to survive is to equip yourself to serve others with what you do. Your unique talents aren’t merely for your own enjoyment, they are to do big things in the service of an audience. When you have people tearing you down, remember that it’s not about you. When you’re struggling with moving forward, get around a group of people who can bring perspective to your struggle. The world deserves what you have to offer, so put yourself out there. We are built for community. It’s your duty to share yourself and your gifts.

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fear of futility

Do you ever get tired of feeling guilty for not producing enough? For me, in the middle of National Novel Writing Month, this novel writing business is proving to be something hanging over my head rather than an enjoyable activity; I feel like I’m letting it defeat me.

Life is too short to not do something meaningful, but it will feel a lot longer than you’d like if you continually beat yourself up for not being perfect. It’s a catch-22. You will never meet your own standards, and that subconscious idea that perfection is the goal is completely paralyzing. Isn’t it better to just get something done rather than beat yourself up over something that you barely even started?

I know I have these unspoken, arbitrary, lofty standards. But what’s the point of such high standards if I’m incapable of meeting them? If I’m so afraid of failure that I never accomplish anything? If I have nothing to show for all my showing up, then I have failed. If I just do it I have succeeded. Isn’t the latter easier? What is keeping me from just doing the work to even 75% of my standards? There’s time for revision later. Why can’t I just do it? What am I so afraid of? Why do I feel like I’m not even capable? There are millions of people in the world doing what I’m doing. I know I can do it just as well or better than most of them, but not all of them. Being the best isn’t even the point. So what is it that causes me so much anxiety and paralysis?

It’s Resistance with a capital R. I’ve been showing up every day and trying to get out of my own way so the muse can show up. Shouldn’t that be enough to banish Resistance? Why is it still rearing its ugly head? What psychological roadblocks am I not seeing? It’s not fear of success, because finishing the first draft of a novel doesn’t really require anything of me after it’s done. I can roll with it or not. It can’t be the fear of failure because the only way to fail at writing is to not write. A draft is malleable. I can always fix what isn’t perfect. There are only words, and my only failure is not putting them on the page. I’m sure part if it is that little nagging dark force telling me that this isn’t what I should be doing. I should give up. I’m not a writer. I should either move on to some other creative pursuit (which I also won’t be good at) or just give up. Resistance is manifesting itself as both inadequacy and futility. What’s the point of all of this? My work doesn’t matter. My work won’t matter. So what’s the point of doing it? Why show up every day and pour my heart out? What are my blood, sweat, and tears going to accomplish in the end? I struggle to find the meaning and purpose in any of it. Who am I helping by showing up to write every day?

Somewhat ironically, the novel I’m struggling to write deals with immortality and youth. I ask myself why a character would want to live much longer, even with the benefits of youth. My thought was that many people wouldn’t know how to handle living more than a hundred years, that only those with an exceptional sense of purpose and joy would want to go on living. If you outlived all of your loved ones, what would keep you going? Albert Camus said that it takes more courage to live than to commit suicide, and that happiness (even for Sisyphus) is to enjoy your work in spite of the apparent futility of existence. I think the drive to create is stronger than the desire for immortality. Creativity, in one form or another, is where souls find their purpose. It’s how we make sense out of the lives we are living, and helps us and others enjoy that life. It brings context and clarifies meaning for us as we try to imagine what forever might be like. The need to create is a very strong human calling, and when I feel creatively blocked, I start to lose my sense of purpose, direction, joy, and meaning. Guilt creeps in.

Piled on top of personal guilt is the public shame of not having a word count on the NaNoWriMo site for my novel. This feels like a huge failure. Maybe it is a failure at the moment, but the entire project hasn’t failed. I am not a failure. I am a person who matters, who loves to write, and will write my heart out. Even if it feels like it doesn’t matter. Defeat is a mindset. The only thing causing me to fail is the idea that I’m not good enough. If I show up and write in spite of that voice in my head, I’ve won.

It’s frustrating to say that the cure for creative block is to just create, but time and again that’s the answer that reveals itself. Feel like you can’t do it? Just show up and do it. Simply doing anything creative usually helps to make the guilt of creative block go away, even if it’s not related to what you want to accomplish. If you’ve been staring at a blank page for a while, get up and go outside with your sketch book or make some bread. Every act of making something helps to bring you back to your center and remind you of the joy of creating without the pressure of meaning or perfection. It’s in your DNA to create, so find something–however small and seemingly insignificant–to make that makes you happy and don’t feel guilty about counting that as a success. It’s part of showing up to your work. If you showed up, you’ve won.

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