The author and speaker Zig Ziglar classified goals into two categories.
(1) “Give Up” Goals. Think of trying to lose weight or quit a bad habit. For these type of goals, tell everyone. Let them know to keep you in check. It’ll serve as extra motivation, especially in those weak moments when your willpower is sapped.
(2) “Go Up” Goals. Think of making art, starting a business, pursuing a new interest. For these type of goals, only tell a few trusted people. You never know people’s reactions to the change you’re trying to make. Some might feel threatened and turn into psychic vampires. Others will be inspired and motivate you even higher. Just be discerning. Especially at the outset.
One more thing about goals…yes, you can do anything. Just not everything. At least not all at once. Limit yourself to just a few goals at a time.
“Look, and it can’t be seen. Listen, and it can’t be heard. Reach, and it can’t be grasped.” –Tao Te Ching, Stephen Mitchell Translation
Here’s the definition of a heat check as told by writer Shea Serrano:
A heat check is (mostly) a basketball term. It’s used to reference a shot attempt, specifically a difficult one attempted after a handful of easier, wiser shots have been made. Think of this: you make a layup, then you make a wide-open midrange jumper, then you make a wide-open 3-pointer. That’s great. Those are smart shots. You’re feeling very good about yourself and all the decisions you’ve made in life that have led you to that point, so the next time down court you receive the ball and then chuck up a 29-foot fadeaway. That’s the heat check. You are literally checking to see if you are figuratively hot. If you make it, you shoot again. If that goes in, then you do it again. And again. And again. Until you miss. Each make becomes exponentially more exciting and intriguing and more of an accelerant.
Nine times out of ten when you watch an NBA game and the announcer exclaims “Heat Check!”, the player misses. Whatever flow state they were in prior to the heat check is now gone.
No one knows how or why we get “into the zone.” If we did, we’d all be in the NBA or winning Pulitzer Prizes or Academy Awards.
But the surest way to get out of the zone is to start noticing that you’re in it. To lose humility for the mystery. To start feeling like you can do no wrong. A stand up comic will tell you that the minute they think the audience is in the palm of their hands and that the next joke will really slay, that’s when they hear…crickets.
Instead, when you’re in flow, just keep doing what you were doing. Stay focused on the task at hand. Remain fully present to the other person. And let the game come to you.
P.S. – The psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi wrote a brilliant book called “Flow.” Among other things, he studied flow states across many different jobs. Short order cooks experience some of the highest measures. Go figure.
The Resistance will try a million different ways to knock you off course. To prevent you from doing the work you’re supposed to do. The work you’re born to do. It’s a motherfucker. Insidious. It’s the wolf at the door.
Fight it every day of your life.
Your soul depends on it.
Go make your art.
P.S. – Check out Tim Ferris’ excellent podcast interview with Steven Pressfield (author of The War Of Art and many other books) who first named The Resistance. Click Here to listen.
Do you have a bucket list of all the plays and roles you’d love to do someday?
If not, why not start one?
Write down every play you read or see and the date. It’s a good exercise and fun to keep count.
For any plays that really grab you, bold them. Write down the role and maybe a short sentence or two why you’d love to do it. That’s it.
Obviously, you won’t get to play every role on your list. Some you’ll age out of (I’m too old for Paul Bratter in “Barefoot In the Park.”). Some you’re not yet old enough. (I’d love to take a crack at “Willy Loman” someday.) Doesn’t matter. The process of actively searching and selecting is what counts.
Because eventually, you’ll find one that’s just right.
Legendary hedge fund investor, Ray Dalio, swears by his principles. By knowing and writing them down. By constantly examining and refining them. He credits this act for his success and advises others to do the same. He even wrote a book about it.
The Stoics actually argued about the necessity of principles. What they termed “precepts.” Some like Aristo thought it a giant waste of time to write these down. He argued that a person should just instinctively know what the right thing was to do in any situation. Others like Zeno and Seneca countered that life was complicated and taxing. Situations would arise that would test us, that called for nuance, and it was important to know our principles so as to make the right decision in those difficult moments.
When you do hard things, when you make art, you will be tested. Constantly. Tough decisions will be required. You will second guess yourself. That’s part of the price to pay for leading.
Having principles you live by can help making those decisions a little easier. As well as being committed to doing your absolute best for the project and the people involved. To always have everyone’s best interest at heart.
When you make mistakes–and you will, lots of them–reflect on them. Learn from them. You’ll sharpen your principles and be that much better equipped for the next project.
I once asked a good friend of mine and phenomenal actor what it was like to work regularly in television. This was her response:
“Most days, I feel like a Ferrari stuck in a garage.”
She was very grateful for the steady work, money and the friendships that were made. But inside, she felt like she had so much more to offer. Her tremendous skill and passion wasn’t needed or called upon very much . She longed to do the kind of demanding work and roles she found early on in the theatre.
Maybe you feel like this sometimes? Or know people who do? Or both.
Good news! There’s a solution.
Find a play and role you’re passionate about. So much so that you’re willing to produce it. Produce it with excellence and generosity. For yourself, your fellow artists and the audience you seek to serve.
As a result of your decision and bravery, you can let that Ferrari out! And bring some talented artists along with you for the ride.
At some point in your art-making process, you will feel nervous. Opening night of your play, the first day on set, the first time you read your novel in front of a live audience, the day you meet with potential investors for your new company, etc…It’s inevitable.
So, what you do with those nerves?
First, let them fuel you. There’s a reason it’s called “nervous energy.” Let that energy pervade you, focus you, inspire you to work a little bit harder. Like sunlight to a plant. Use it!
Second, be grateful for the nerves. They’re a signal that you’re on the right track. You’re risking, you’re out on the edge, you’re “doing it” as Ray Manzarek once said. The nerves mean you care. Love that you feel them.