The Need To Be Present

Author Ryan Holiday writes about what it means to persevere through challenges and struggles in his book The Obstacle is the Way. He builds on ideas of stoicism dating back to Marcus Aurelius and Seneca, and helps us understand how greater awareness, presence, and focus can make a big difference in the world in 2016.  Looking at those who marched forward in the face of adversity, Holiday presents us with a list of major businesses that thrive today, but were founded during economic challenges and depressions. These companies, he argues, found success in difficult times by staying present, and not focusing on the doom and gloom around them, but rather on their own strengths and innovation.

 

When we incorporate this into our own lives we can find the same benefits, and Holiday writes, “…in our own lives, we aren’t content to deal with things as they happen. We have to dive endlessly into what everything “means,” whether something is “fair” or not, what’s “behind” this or that, and what everyone else is doing. Then we wonder why we don’t have the energy to actually deal with our problems. Or we get ourselves so worked up and intimidated because of the overthinking, that if we’d just gotten to work we’d probably be done already.” Through this quote holiday writes about the ways in which we focus on things which distract us from our true goals and worry about things which lie beyond our control. These fears and worries steal our energy and focus, preventing us from driving toward our goals.

 

Holiday would argue that we would be more productive in our lives and reach better outcomes by turning inward rather than being distracted by things external to our mind. It is not up to us to determine what others think or do, but it is up to us to decide how we will react to others. We can think deeply and critically about the world around us, but we can never be certain of the forces surrounding us and the thoughts and ideas of others. Living in a world where external validation and success is determined by what others think of you is dangerous and unpredictable. When you value yourself based on how you perceive others to value you,  you are giving up control of your own life. Building in more reflection of your actions and dropping a worry about the opinions of others will help you find more freedom and power in your own life.

Persistance and Dreams

Published in James Harmon’s collection of letter from creative writers, actors, designers, and musicians, a letter from writer Bob Schacochis offers insight into the process of creating meaningful work. Schacochis writes, “Hey, it took a long time; as often as not I felt I was wrong, deluded, crazy to have dreams and cursed to have ambition.”  This quote resonates with me because I have often looked at what I want to do and create in life and been intimidated by how challenging and intricate things become. Whether it is a career, a hobby, or even a family, once I start to evaluate everything that I desire, I begin to feel overwhelmed by the difficulties that hide beneath the surface of all my desires.  A great job always looks great until you really look at what the people working that job actually do. Hobbies and passion projects are exciting until you see how much work takes place behind the scenes to get the desired results. And having a family is what we all strive for, but being a parent is so time consuming and requires so many sacrifices. With all of these difficulties in mind, it seems to me as though life would be so much easier if I simply decided to sit on the couch, and strive for nothing.
Schacochis’ quote reminds me that these difficulties are OK.  It speaks to me on an internal level to remind me that it is good for me to struggle and face difficulties in doing something meaningful.  This reminds me of the quote from Allison Vesterfelt’s book where she said that there is a perception that if we are doing life right it should be easy, but that that perception is false.  I think that doing the easy thing leads us to a life without meaning, but by striving to do the difficult thing we grow and reach places we did not even know to dream about.
The quote above shows the inner challenges that one faces on a creative journey, and it helps me to see that those challenges are normal to have. For me it helps me see that I am on the right path, even if I am doubting myself.  I want to do more than watch movies each night, even though it is difficult and I feel like my ambition is a burden that spreads me too thin.  Knowing that other creatives have faced these same challenges is reassuring, and helps me to persevere.