The path of least resistance is… creative suicide. You want zombies? It’s like The Walking Dead. This is the path which takes everything you’re born with in life: all your hope, your dreams, your abilities… and squanders them on cheap thrills and forgettable nights; on quick highs and years-long hangovers of rock bottom mediocrity.
Don’t walk that path. It’s a path of a long life, but a slow death. It’s the path that most people take, (just none of the greats.) You are the company that you keep.
You know how long it takes me to sit down and write on any given day?
If I don’t do it right away, like first thing when I wake up, it usually takes hours.
Oftentimes, even that’s being generous. Sometimes it takes days of me feeling like I’m simply too busy to sit down and focus on any meaningful topic for even just a few minutes, before I finally realize how much I miss it, like a long lost lover, and once again find myself falling in love with my laptop.
These days, while I’m saving up for my move (and the weather is so shitty– like literally, I’m talking -11 degrees– I have nothing better to do) it is not unheard of for me to go weeks on end without an actual day off, helping other people do things they want to achieve and rarely ever tending to one of the things in the world I find most important: writing.
You know, putting my mental nose to the mental grindstone.
That’s because, as we like to say “life gets in the way”.
But does it really?
For example, I’ve had the last two hours free, and any moment now I’ll be interrupted by a baby waking up; in which case, it will be back to the day’s grind, running around the house, making messes and cleaning up, in an infinite array of variations upon roughly the same thing.
Where did those two free hours go? Well, I called a friend, made myself some scrambled eggs and played with my dog. I could have been doing something sort of productive– and it’s not that those things weren’t enjoyable, or that they were a mistake, or even that they were completely unproductive.
But the truth is, I chose to do those over sitting down to write. Later tonight, had I not written this article, I might have looked back and thought that I had been too busy during the day to write. Although, the truth is [made clear to me in this moment], I wasn’t.
I just simply chose to do other things first. Now that I happen to “have the time to write”, I’m doing it. But it obviously wasn’t first on my list of priorities.
That’s just the truth, based upon the factual evidence of my actions. I thought I wanted to write. But more than I wanted to write, apparently, I wanted to do other random shit which was a lot less of an emotional or mental commitment.
Sound familiar to you?
Last year, when I stopped nannying and started writing, I began a new relationship with time. When you have the entire day to do whatever you want, you realize how amazingly quickly it goes by.
You also realize that, without someone goading you along, things only get done when you see to it that they do. And that just because time is passing, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily being spent wisely, or that you’ll have anything to show for it at the end of the day.
I also noticed that, although I had quite literally all the time in the world to write, I didn’t always do it. Even though writing was my favorite thing to do, and even though I had literally up and quit my job in order to do it– even then, it still didn’t mean I always did what it was I had set out to do.
There was always a household chore which needed doing, my dog always needed something, or I would be hungry, or then I’d have to pee. There was a never-ending cycle of shit that could use up all my attention if I let it.
Eventually, I realized that even with having unlimited amounts of time to fashion however I wanted, there would always be something in the way of me pursuing my dream, if my mind would allow it to be so.
In practice, it turns out that the path of least resistance is to simply amuse and distract yourself continuously, while the day gets away from you like a slippery prized fish through your clumsy little hands. Even if you work a desk job, you probably spend a good deal of your time simply playing mental gymnastics.
You text your friend, surf the web, and generally distract yourself from meaningful work and productivity. (Maybe that’s because your job isn’t actually meaningful– or productive– to you personally– in which case, that’s a big red flag on a whole ‘nother topic.)
Like an uncanny magic trick, hours turn into days, which turn into weeks and before you know it, you’ve effectively wasted a good portion of your life without anything to show for it.
This is why television, the internet, and now smartphones… are like crack. It’s so much easier to zone out of our own responsibilities– even ones we have chosen for ourselves– than to face them. There is something intrinsically uncomfortable to applying yourself. To sitting down with focus and clarity; to doing the work that only you can contribute to the world to make it a bit of a better place.
(As it turns out, after a spell of being completely disgusted with myself for having gotten nothing done in a really long time, a turning point for me was reading Steven Pressfield’s book, The War of Art. I highly recommend it if you’re struggling with what I’m talking about here, which is what Steven refers to as “Resistance”– yes, with a capital R.
Just realizing how universal this issue is, was enough to help me along. When I realized that everyone experiences this frustration with their ability to bring themselves to do what it is they know they should be doing, it made me realize I no longer had an excuse to put my work off.
That didn’t entirely cure me of my mad procrastination skills, but it certainly helped.)
Now that I’ve started nannying again (a temporary gig, for the next several weeks) I’ve realized it’s still just as true; the days go by in a blur in which I can hardly recall what I did, what I thought, who I spoke to, and why it seemed important at the time.
This post will be short [by my standards] because my time is short, and also because sometimes maybe you need to read less of what I’m or anyone else is thinking or writing– and simply act upon what it is that inspires you.
The whole point in consuming what other people produce, to my way of thinking, is to inspire yourself to produce more, better, and enjoy life even more than you did a few minutes before. If you are only ever consuming, you’re taking the path of least resistance.
That leads to weight gain, depression, lethargy, and all-around dissatisfaction with life.
… I’m just kidding. Actually, I’m not a doctor, but I’m pretty sure that’s actually just a little bit accurate.
I have learned that the times in my life when things are going the absolute best for me (regardless of what that looks like at the time– it could just be sitting in my car having a good sing or sitting in the sun), are the times when I’m not paying attention to the things going on around me. In other words, distractions.
There is no question: the best times in my life are whenever I’m not distracted by anything.
That’s because I’m focused on whatever the hell it is I’m doing in that moment. Even if it’s just folding clothes, stretching my legs, or taking my dog for a walk.
This is not as easy as it sounds. Believe it or not, at first, one of the hardest things in the world you will ever try to do is simply shut off your bullshit vacuum (you know, the one that’s constantly busy sucking up all the possible sources of stimulation around you), sit your ass down and be where you are, in the moment.
It’s not the path most people take, and it’s not the path of least resistance. But it is the path of peace.
The path of least resistance in our current lifestyle is that of constant distraction. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, my blog, his blog, and person texting you on your phone. (Never mind actual telephone calls).
The path of least resistance is a slippery slope. It eats minutes like we inhale oxygen molecules; it swallows hours like black holes. Before you know it, your day has gone by and you can’t even quite remember what it is you did. You may as well have had someone else live your day for you.
And that goes for a good chunk of your life, if you’re like so many people I know (and especially the person I used to be– just living on auto pilot and waiting for a million dollars or your dream job to fall from the sky.)
Now, I’m not saying you should never allow yourself a moment of pure guilty pleasure in social media, watching your favorite show (god knows I’m addicted to Wilfred these days), or chatting on the phone.
Life is made for your very enjoyment. At least, that’s the belief I subscribe to. Okay, enjoyment and personal growth… Until you’re enlightened enough for it to be all about fun– for good.
But if you ever want to get anything done yourself; anything of meaning, that is, the path of least resistance will not suffice.
The reason I think this is important is not because I’m a type-A personality or because I’m really that motivated by productivity. In some ways I am, but like I said, I really believe, deep down, that your life is being wasted if it’s not being enjoyed as throughly as possible.
So the other thing I should mention is that, even though it’s really fucking hard at the beginning, when you actually do sit yourself down and make yourself do your work– it feels really good.
Like, really really good. Like, you finally feel good about yourself because you know you’re doing something that’s changing the world in your own special way. It’s a high that isn’t the same as the easy ones which come from bingeing on McDonald’s french fries or coke. (Or even Coke the soda.)
It’s a high that comes from doing the work you were put here to do, no matter how difficult it may seem to overcome all the distractions of your modern lifestyle and finally just… begin.
Sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking that life just got too damn busy, too stressful, too dramatic on all other fronts, and that is what prevented us from doing our work.
But I don’t think that’s true. In fact, I know it isn’t. You always have time. In fact, you’ve got the same amount of time as every other person in this world who’s ever done something great: 24 hours.
It’s quite simply, with not a complication more, a matter of how you choose to spend it.
The thing is, even when we have free time in which we could be doing our work, our mind tends to want to run away from applying ourselves to it.
It’s like trying to get that little bit of egg shell out of the bowl. Every time you almost trap it against the side, it slips right out from between your fingertip and the side of the bowl.
Putting yourself in your chair and sitting down to work– now this will sound absurd but I find it to be absolutely true– is an act of courage. A daily act of courage.
It is not easy to overcome your adult-onset ADD and do something that matters, for a change.
For one, there’s not any risk of failure when you throw on Netflix. (I mean, in that case, there is no “risk” because your failure is certain, if that’s all you ever do. 😉 )
But really, there’s not really any risk associated with consuming what other people have created. Turns out that good old quote, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained*” is a good notion by which to live.
*Basically, everything worth saying has already been said– it’s simply a matter of remembering it… and applying.
Putting your ass on the line, even if it’s simply in front of your own critical self, takes some balls.
It’s so much easier to post on Facebook or make yourself multiple cups of tea each day, and mull around the house like it actually matters if you do the laundry today or next week, as opposed to putting your talent, creativity, and focus (or lack thereof) out there for all to see.
It is like walking on stage at an award show naked. It is really, really scary. (Unless you’re Giselle.)
The scariest parts of my day, of my entire life, consist of showing up for myself, to myself, and stripping myself bare [yes, in front of myself.] That nagging voice in your own head can be the worst of all. And sometimes, it takes sitting down and doing my work to silence that voice (or voices).
We are our own harshest critics.
Many times in life, in fact, perhaps most, I have been like that eggshell that simply refuses to get caught. I slip away from my own best interest in a never-ending game of tag. The irony is, the thing I’m trying to catch is simply the lack of everything else.
And yet, there are always those moments… Those moments where I simply sit and let myself be. Where I just do whatever is asked of me by my intuition at that time. When I put myself down on the page, or apply my voice, my hand, or my mind, to something which truly matters… Those are the moments real life is made of.
Sometimes it’s like hell getting there. After all, the path I seek to walk is just full of resistance.
But there’s nothing quite like it, when I finally find my step.