By Steven Pressfield | Published: November 20, 2013
[Some quick notices before we get into today’s post:
[Remember the “Ask Me Anything” Q&A we did a few weeks ago? The hour-long audio went out then to everyone who had signed up for First Look Access. Well, since then Shawn and I and Jeff have recorded three more half-hour AMAs from that original batch of questions—questions we didn’t have time to get to in the first AMA.
[We’ll be sending the first half-hour audio out by e-mail on Monday. The other two will follow between then and the New Year. All are free, no sales pitches.
[If you have not yet signed up for First Look Access, do it now (upper right side of this page) and you’ll get these three Ask Me Anythings.
[Last note: to psych us all up for work in 2014 we thought we’d do a fourth Ask Me Anything—something like “How to Organize a Day,” “How to Organize a Year.” Send in any question you like. There’ll be a form in next Monday’s First Look e-mail. We’ll make this AMA an hour long if we get enough good stuff.
[Finally finally finally: from now on, Mondays on the blog will be “Ask Me Anything Mondays” where we’ll put up audio (with transcript link as soon as we can get our act together) of one question and one answer from the longer sessions.
[And now, at last, today’s post:]
I gashed my hand at the gym a couple of days ago. The mishap followed cracking my skull open on a shelf a few days earlier. On top of breaking my toe banging into the leg of a coffee table as I clomped barefoot across my living room—not to mention about half a dozen freak near-accidents on the freeway.
You may think I’m crazy, but these “accidents” are Resistance.
I’ve seen this syndrome play out dozens of times with myself and with others. Toward the end of a project (I’m in the last couple of weeks of a three-year all-out effort) I’ll start breaking bones, backing into parked cars, and in general trashing my body, my mind, and all other subsidiary paraphernalia.
Why does this happen? I don’t really know. One school of thought says it’s our psyche telling us, “Stop!” Our Self wants to get us re-grounded, back into our body. Another theory (the one I agree with) says it’s pure self-sabotage. If I gash my hand open, I can’t do my normal routine at the gym. I’m thrown off. If I wreck my car, I’m embroiled in all kinds of B.S. with accident reports, the body shop, etc.
I can’t work.
Resistance has become physical. It’s trying to knock me out of the game literally.
How bad has this gotten with me? Without getting into specifics, let me say only “life-threatening.” Can you relate? I’ll bet there’s not one of us who isn’t nodding his or her head.
There’s a second advanced form of Resistance that’s happening to me now as well. I’ll talk about it at greater length in upcoming posts. That is sabotage by others. There is more than one person in my life right now who, completely unconsciously, is doing everything they can to screw me up. I’ve seen this a hundred times before too.
But back to accidents, mishaps, and other self-inflicted wounds. The phenomenon is so common that sports teams routinely anticipate it by building in precautions as the season approaches playoff time. Practices get easier. Heavy contact is forbidden. Yeah, partly it’s common sense, to avoid injury. But coaches know that injuries happen more frequently as their teams approach the World Series, the Final Four, the Superbowl.
I’ll go beyond that. I think something in the universe itself conspires against us, the closer we get to some cherished goal. There’s a famous story of the great golfer, Bobby Jones, as he approached the final leg of the Grand Slam in 1930. First a bolt of lightning hit the stone chimney of a golf clubhouse as he was hurrying toward it to get out of a storm. The blast blew chunks of brick and mortar for a hundred yards, pieces big enough “to have killed a man had [one of them] hit him in the head.”
When I got into the clubhouse, someone discovered that the back of my shirt had been ripped down to my waist and I had received on my shoulder a scratch six inches in length and just deep enough to break the skin.
A few weeks later Jones was walking down a sidewalk in Atlanta without a soul in sight “when someone [behind me] yelled, ‘Lookout, Mister.'” A car had jumped the curb and was careening straight at him. Bobby just barely leapt clear.
There was no doubt that I would have been crushed between the automobile and the building had not the lone pedestrian warned me.
I know, I know. I’m taking this way too far. But I swear: something in the electromagnetic mojo-sphere changes when we get close to the completion of our novel, our Ph.D., our start-up. It’s a law of the universe. When Resistance sees that we’re about to move to a higher level creatively, ethically, or spiritually, it begins sticking voodoo needles in dolls that look exactly like us. I can’t prove it. I’ve got no evidence. But when it happens I can feel it in the air, and I’ll bet you can too.
Why do football coaches sequester their teams at the downtown Hilton two nights before the Big Game? Why did Michael Crichton move in to the Kona Village every time he hit Crunch Time finishing a novel? Why did Ike order the Normandy divisions kept on base forty-eight hours before D-Day?
Resistance is always heaviest at the goal line.
What’s my answer when this stuff happens? It’s dicey, I admit, and usually I’m hanging on by my fingernails.
I try to stick with my routine. I stay alert. I take nothing for granted. I drive like a man with two DUI’s on his license. I don’t even walk from the kitchen into the living room without watching where I’m putting my feet.
And I still wind up breaking my toes!