What It Takes

What It Takes

The Next “Next”

By Callie Oettinger | Published: November 20, 2015

""When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him." —Jonathan Swift

“”When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.” —Jonathan Swift

Wyck had a brilliant mind. Quick witted. Educated. Creative.

Depending on when you landed in his life, he was the next Jim Morrison, the next Mario Puzo, the next Casey Kasem, the next Babe Ruth.

During the next-Jim Morrison phase he was Molly’s first boyfriend. Unlike Luther, who was his replacement years later, he was a close friend of mine, too. We discussed books and music and dreams. We thought he’d “make it” and that inspired us to want to make it, too.

Looking back . . . He was the next Ignatius J. Reilly.

If his life was a movie, this would be an oft-repeated scene:

Wyck walks into his parent’s kitchen, where his mother and her friend are playing cards.

He walks in with “purpose,” making a point of clearing his throat once he stops to pose, so his presence isn’t in question. He’s wearing his best Jim Morrison uniform (black leather pants and a white, gauzy, poet’s shirt).

Wyck: I’m the Lizard King.

Wyck’s mother: That’s nice honey. Would you like a brownie?

His mother’s line is delivered as she places down another card, not breaking to look up at Wyck.

Wyck pauses. For a heartbeat the audience expects him to scowl like all the other misunderstood twenty-something’s embracing the emerging grunge movement.

Instead, he quick steps to the table, leans in, picks a brownie from the glass plate and then exits the kitchen, looking more Dennis the Menace than Lizard King, a child distracted by a treat.

I thought his parents didn’t “get him” — that they underestimated his potential.

The reality?

They’d lived through 20 years of him being the next x or y or z before I entered their story — and were used to being the test audience for the various incarnations of “I’m the Lizard King” lines that went with each “next.”

I thought about Wyck after reading Mark Manson’s article “Screw Finding Your Passion.”

Read Mark’s entire post. For now, here are two slices:

Today I received approximately the 11,504th email this year from a person telling me that they don’t know what to do with their life. And like all of the others, this person asked me if I had any ideas of what they could do, where they could start, where to “find their passion.”

And of course, I didn’t respond. Why? Because I have no fucking clue. If you don’t have any idea what to do with yourself, what makes you think some jackass with a website would? I’m a writer, not a fortune teller.

***

The problem is not a lack of passion for something. The problem is productivity. The problem is perception. The problem is acceptance.

The problem is the, “Oh, well that’s just not a realistic option,” or “Mom and Dad would kill me if I tried to do that, they say I should be a doctor” or “That’s crazy, you can’t buy a BMW with the money you make doing that.”

The problem isn’t passion. It’s never passion.

It’s priorities.

In Wyck’s case, his parents would have supported whatever he tried. They were those kinds of parents. The problem was that, like Ignatius, he erred on the lazy side, with a solid helping of self importance mixed in.

He was “meant” for something special. His were bigger plans — a grander purpose. All of this led him on a quest to be someone famous, which meant he had to write something or appear in something or do something BIG. He was chasing what he called a passion — while in reality ignoring who he really was, which was where his greatness existed.

In hindsight, he would have been a great lawyer, which was too “straight-suit” for him. Quick-witted. Photographic memory. Fast processing for connecting the dots. And, at times, ruthless. He enjoyed a good fight — and was a great debater.

However, as Hanson pointed out, the problem was priorities. He didn’t want to put in the work.

Eli Manning

Which Eli Manning are you?

A few years ago I heard he was in Palm Beach, the next playboy scuba instructor to rich, bored socialites.

Today I think of him when I see those Direct TV commercials, with the sports figures encouraging the audience to be one version of themselves vs the other.

Whether he’s the bad joke-telling Eli Manning or the smooth and sophistic Eli Manning, I hope he’s found himself.

I hope he’s doing the work.

I hope he’s happy.

I hope he’s being Wyck instead of the next “next.”

Posted in What It Takes

22 Responses to “The Next “Next””

  1. Mary Doyle
    November 20, 2015 at 5:48 am

    Thanks for a great post Callie! The sad irony is that Ignatius J. Reilly’s creator did do the work, but Resistance got him in the end.

    • marvin Ginsberg
      November 20, 2015 at 7:54 am

      We must resist resistance by accepting it, thereby not fighting it.
      And moving on from that by doing the work.

      We can move on from that because “that” doesn’t exist. It has nothing to do with the workings of the Universe, which is non – resistance.

      Let’s get real and walk away from resistance, and do the work.

  2. November 20, 2015 at 8:28 am

    I’m starting to wonder if it might NOT, in fact, be all about “laziness?” Is that really all it is? Is the antidote to the big “R” really a “lack of laziness?”

    I’m starting to wonder. The “kick yourself in the ass and do the work” thing doesn’t seem to be working for me. In fact, a gentler approach seems to have allowed me to get some work done lately. I can’t really explain the formula, but perhaps it would be good for me to figure it out.

    • November 20, 2015 at 8:44 am

      With respect and love to both Steve and Seth Godin, I take a 3rd approach to Resistance.

      Steve sees it as a dragon to be slain.

      Seth sees it as an ally, to motivate.

      I see it as a bully, to be made irrelevant.

      How do I make Resistance irrelevant?

      Habit.

      Resistance is there, every day, nearly every hour, most minutes.

      So every day, I go into my writing office and do the next thing. I use timers and I have a schedule and mostly, I make it a habit to, every day, follow the ritual and do the work.

      Building the habit is grinding hard emotional work.

      Sustaining the habit is entirely about actively ignoring the bully.

      • November 20, 2015 at 11:17 am

        I get it. Really. I just seem to only be able to sustain that habit for short, productive spurts. Then distraction takes root and I get interested in something else, or lose interest in what I’m doing.

        I’m just wondering if the answer for some people (those with ADD, depression or other challenges) doesn’t involve pushing harder (you’re lazy — you just need to do the work), but rather some kind of forgiveness of self. Beating myself up over my laziness hasn’t helped. Believe me, I’ve done plenty of it. It hasn’t motivated me enough. Perhaps, as Steven says sometimes, I just am not hurting enough, that when it hurts enough, I’ll do the work.

        I’m just wondering if there isn’t a more compassionate way. Maybe I’m getting too feely for a Pressfield comment section.

        Most of Steven’s books are about war. Maybe it’s not about war. Maybe it’s about making peace.

        I’m just thinking out loud, and perhaps I don’t really know what I’m talking about. I’m not as experienced in this war as a lot of you.

        Steven knows the “R” as war. That’s his thing. Honestly, his work rings true to me as well. Really, it does. I’m just saying, so far, the approach hasn’t been as effective for me as I thought it would be. I get inspired, then I fall off track, then I kick myself senselessly about the head.

        Maybe this just is what it is, that it’s war, and war never changes (sorry for stealing that line). But I wonder. Is there a chance, just a chance, that just because some people don’t believe in fighting, they’re doomed to be lost to R forever?

        • Robin Young
          November 20, 2015 at 2:12 pm

          Aaron;

          There is nothing wrong with “short, productive spurts”. Sometimes they lead to a period of “flow” where longer creative sessions happen, sometime they don’t. Either way you are DOING THE WORK and that is the point. It may take you longer to get to “The End” but get there you will as long as you keep doing what you are doing. Don’t beat yourself up for the length of time you work, celebrate that you sat down and did it. “Writing isn’t hard. Sitting down in the chair is hard.” You sat – celebrate that.

          10-20 minutes a day is a valid effort and will produce results. “One bite at a time is the way to eat an elephant or write a book.”

          • November 25, 2015 at 8:34 pm

            Thanks, Robin… I think the issue is that, too often, they *don’t* lead to those longer spurts in my case. I hate to keep putting this on ADD, but part of the issue is that it’s easy to convince yourself that 10-20 minutes doesn’t mean anything. That in order to do anything, you need an hour or two. But yeah, I know that’s “R.” It’s probably just my particular brand of “R,” and I have to figure out how to work effectively for 10-20 minutes a day at a minimum, and start building success from those scraps.

            Cheers.

        • November 20, 2015 at 8:11 pm

          Aaron,
          I hear you brother. I’ve decided that ADD is better defined as ‘those with a broad band of interests & curiosities…’

          The upside? I think I make more connections than others, because I have interest in so many disparate places.

          I like the idea of trying to be gentle with youself as well, it is hard. Much easier (for me) to give someone else grace, but beat the hell out of myself.

          I think Steven would also consider that a component of Resistance.

          Looked at your website–pretty damn cool!

          I prefer war and sports analogies myself. They resonate with me–but I also think that Steven’s answer of finding grace & love via the grubby, utilitarian work a great metaphor. I believe it as well. I know that when I lose time, it is only when working on something that matters a great deal to me.

          I appreciated and felt some kinship with your post. Happy Thanksgiving.
          bsn

          • November 25, 2015 at 8:32 pm

            Thanks for the kudos, Brian. Trying to sustain the energy, you know? “Broad band of interests and curiosities” sure hits the nail. I often wonder if it’s a “grass is greener” thing for people who seem to be able to specialize and concentrate on one area. I have so many things I want to do, it’s tough to hit them all.

            I think right now, I’m going in the area where there is *less* resistance, which is writing about gaming (and I’m going to be making some audio podcasts as well). There is still resistance here… Quite a bit in fact. It’s a lot more involved and tougher than I thought it would be, and there’s the doubt as to whether or not any of it is worthwhile at all, but it’s not the giant wall of “R” that my scriptwriting has been running up against for years.

            Which is what led to my question — do I go where the river leads down and around the bend? Or do I continue to push uphill because there is more “R” there, and *that’s* what’s supposed to signify where the real successes will be once I conquer them?

            Maybe I’m really misinterpreting Steven’s work. But I wonder if being kinder isn’t part of the answer?

            And maybe you’re right about beating the hell out of ourselves and forgiveness being part of that battle. I’ll have to do some more percolating on that.

            Thanks for that.

            And a great Thanksgiving to you as well… :)

        • November 24, 2015 at 10:53 am

          Aaron,

          I really know what you’re talking about. Steven’s work has been crazy helpful to me over the years, but the part I could never get to work for me was the “just do it” approach. For me, I think the problem is that I have a massive history of being ashamed of myself and being really cruel to myself. So whenever I told myself to just do it, it quickly turned into self-bullying and self-shaming. The worse I felt in response, the less productive I was. So I too sought a more compassionate approach.

          What I found helpful for me was Steve’s mantra–it’s something like, “I am a disciplined professional. No matter what else is going on in my life, I am the kind of person who DOES HER WORK.”

          I just hung that on the wall, and said it to myself a bunch of times a day…and never tried to bully myself or cajole myself into doing any work at all. But I found that, by aligning my identity with that statement, the work began to happen naturally and consistently.

          I don’t know if that’ll be helpful for you, but I hope so!

          Best,
          Em

          • November 25, 2015 at 8:42 pm

            Em, yes, that is very helpful, and it’s something that I often forget that was helpful (because again, it has worked for me in short spurts, until I evidently forget it) — that really, all I need to do to keep that “being ashamed of myself and being really cruel to myself” feeling at bay and to be professional is just to SIT DOWN and DO THE WORK. Combined with Robin’s point of doing it 10-20 minutes a day? That might be enough to build on. :)

            Think I will print that out, yes. Fantastic idea.

            I will put it right next to the post from Seth Godin the other day about The Initiator.

            Cheers.

          • November 25, 2015 at 9:03 pm

            Actually, looking over your comment again, I think I missed the subtlety the first time – I see there can be a difference between “sit down and do the work” and “I am a professional that sits down and does [his] work.”

            Command vs. mantra leading to personal characteristic. Most excellent. I see it now.

        • December 2, 2015 at 11:48 am

          Exactly what I was trying to say, Aaron: for those of us who’d rather make peace than war, we need to find the “Sensitive Person’s Guide to Making Resistance Irrelevant.”

          Building habits doesn’t have to mean slaying Resistance every morning. It might mean facing it down every morning, but I can dismissively look a bully in the eye and go back to what I was going, and most days, he’ll move on to someone who’s scared of him, because bullies feed on fear. Yeah, some days, he’s gonna knock me down and take my lunch money, but in the end, I’ll win more days than I lose, and I’ll do it on terms I know I can sustain for the rest of my life, terms that fit my psyche.

          Make sense?

          (I started writing a whole book on this before I realized that I was the only person on earth interested in this perspective. Thanks for being the 2nd person on earth interested.)

  3. November 20, 2015 at 8:43 am

    Absolutely spot-on, Callie!

    My favorite line: “He was chasing what he called a passion — while in reality ignoring who he really was, which was where his greatness existed.”

    Yes, Yes, Yes!

    The magic is inside us, not out there somewhere. The more we write, the more we do the work, this essence, this voice, this dharma is revealed.

    Thanks for this insightful blog.

    I’m printing it and keeping it nearby.

  4. Sonja
    November 20, 2015 at 9:28 am

    Boy did I need this!! Thank you! I’m too easily distracted sometimes so it all comes back to the same thing: do the effin work. Put in the work.

    Thank you Callie!

  5. Beth
    November 20, 2015 at 10:20 am

    Not only insightful, but written with a compelling pulse and rhythm. Thank you, Callie!

  6. November 20, 2015 at 10:50 am

    Callie,
    I resemble that guy. For years, the work simply seemed so…pedestrian.

    From athletics, to school, to a military career, many things came pretty easily to me. My ‘do the work’ muscles atrophied in a world that didn’t truly require my full attention.

    This hit me between the eyes, “His mother’s line is delivered as she places down another card, not breaking to look up at Wyck.”

    When I am busy telling the world what I’m going to do instead of simply doing it–I bore the crap out of everyone.

    Great post, love the comments.
    bsn

  7. November 20, 2015 at 8:35 pm

    For Aaron and the rest of us: i never “kick myself into working.” A pro has not only habits, but a habitual state of mind, like guys around their consoles on the bridge of a modern battleship who don’t even cheer when the missile goes home—unlike their peers in WWII.

    For me, thanks to Theodore Isaac Reubin, M.D., I long ago came to believe in self compassion vs self hate, as an alternative to despair. I will neither write nor lose weight if I depend on my “personal Nazi guards,” better to touch my fatter parts and think loving thoughts—and do the work.

    And yes, I “walk the walk.” I have a manuscript going out in two weeks.

  8. November 21, 2015 at 7:30 pm

    Great post. Thanks.

  9. Christine
    November 23, 2015 at 1:27 pm

    Thank you Callie for the link to the blog post on Passion. It slapped me with an epiphany.

  10. Christine
    November 23, 2015 at 2:26 pm

    From the blog post:
    “If you’re passionate about something, it will already feel like such an ingrained part of your life that you will have to be reminded by people that it’s not normal, that other people aren’t like that.”