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Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

The Sphere of Self-Reinforcement

By Steven Pressfield
Published: August 20, 2014

The last two Wednesday posts, Process and Spot and The Game of Numbers, have been about the mental game of writing. Specifically, they’ve been about self-reinforcement.

Can you strive here and keep believing?

This is a subject they don’t teach at Harvard.

What exactly is self-reinforcement?

It’s not just patting yourself on the back or telling yourself, “Good work, kemo sabe” (one of my own favorite me-to-me phrases). In the two examples above, we’re talking about self-reinforcement for actions we’ve takenĀ that have not produced results and that may not for a long time to come.

This, of course, is the most important kind of self-reinforcement. It’s self-reinforcement at the Ph.D. level. It’s professional self-reinforcement.

Let’s review, from last week’s post, Nick Murray’s concept of “the game of numbers.” Nick is a guru to financial advisors, i.e. the investment professionals that you or I might hire to help us take care of our money, to be sure we have enough to get our kids through college or to see ourselves and our spouse through a possibly-multi-decade retirement.

According to Nick, the most important skill a financial advisor needs is the ability to “prospect,” that is, to make cold approaches seeking clients. This is a helluva daunting chore. It elicits in most individuals profound, monumental, excruciating Resistance. Many financial planners fail simply because they can’t make themselves prospect or keep prospecting.

Nick Murray’s answer: make X approaches a day, rain or shine, and evaluate your success only by the fact that you made the approaches, not whether they produced immediate results.

If you keep prospecting, says Nick, the Law of Large Numbers infallibly kicks in. It may take 500 calls to get one client. It may take a thousand. But if you keep grinding, you will get the clients. The law permits of no exceptions.

Your job, Mr. or Ms. Financial Advisor, is to keep believing. And keep making approaches.

And you, Mr. or Ms. Writer, your job is to keep doing your pages. And keep believing.

Which brings us back to self-reinforcement.

How do we keep believing?

What keeps us from quitting?

Let me make a non-overstatement:

Self-reinforcement is more important than talent.
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Posted in Writing Wednesdays


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