by @kelsocks

Tag Archives: steven pressfield

Number 40 (or 40 Lessons In 40 Posts)

In celebration of my 40th disjointed post, here’s a disjointed list of 40 things I’ve learned since starting this blog (the author recommends enjoying while drinking a 40):

40- I’m going to die sooner or later so I need to hurry up and do all the awesome stuff I’ve ever wanted to do. 

39- Being physically fit will make you happier, and the inverse is just as true.   Luckily, exercise is an antidepressant that will fix part of the problem instead of just treating the symptoms.

38- Quinoa is as delicious as it is difficult to pronounce: Very.

37- Humankind is inherently good.  At least based on how everyone rushes to make way for ambulances.

36- Humankind is inherently evil.  I forgot it’s against the law to obstruct emergency vehicles, so people have to move whether they want to or not.

35- Humankind is hard to figure out.  Fuck it.

34- Making memories is widely underrated. Did making two costumes and driving 8 hours to a music fest for Halloween weekend substantially complicate my life and require a great deal of time, energy, and money to execute? Yes. Was it fun as fuck? Definitely. Studies have shown that the happiest people are those who purchase experiences instead of things, so go do stuff.

33- Those Sally Hansen stick-on nail polish strips are awesome.  They should invent a way to create custom designs. Maybe sell blank sheets of polish that people can decorate and peel off..? I don’t know, I’m just spitballing here but someone should get on this.

32- I’ll miss being forced to read books I wouldn’t normally encounter. Por ejemplo, Joseph Conrad is a pain in the ass to read but brilliant when it comes to using language and exploring existential crises and moral dilemmas.

31-  Cities are beautiful, dazzlingly complex embodiments of the best and worst of man’s accomplishments. And living in them is fun.

30- Find people you can be yourself around.  It makes everything easier.

29- Weird kids turn into awesome adults. They also have hilarious weird kid anecdotes.

28- You can gain a lot from spending time with people different than you. Like, for realz.

27- Skydiving is awesome. Do it.

26-Institutions of higher education just want your money, but you can still have a valuable learning experience if you take advantage of the opportunity.

25- Almost everyone is lonely.  Some are better at hiding it than others, and some don’t think about it because they’ve filled their time with enough people and things to distract, but everyone wants to feel connected.

24- My joints are feeble as shit, and dealing with athletic injuries is really annoying so use good form, y’all.

23- Throwing ice cream is fun. Fact.

22- Everyone deludes themselves from reality in some capacity. Whether it’s justifying past decisions, rationalizing present circumstances, only seeing what you want to see in others, self-medicating, or self-theologizing, most people prefer their own version of things to the truth.

21- Consistently generating content is hard. 

20- I need to find a reasonable income if I’m ever going to afford that great white shark cage diving trip.

19- It is important to know when to hold and/or fold ’em.  A few little risks here and there in the name of fun is one thing, but actual danger is not worth the consequences. Shark dives don’t count, they’re mostly safe, although honestly if I’m going to die I wouldn’t mind getting eaten by a shark.

18-Lachrymose is a good word.  It means tear-inducing/weepy, FYI.

17-If everyone is cool, no one is cool.  Being hip is a mass produced cultural trend, so basically everyone is average. Which is redundant.

16- There are artificial estrogen-mimicking chemicals in air fresheners.  [source] Probably to keep women in constant nesting mode buying products like more air fresheners…

15-Routines are incredibly efficient. Not having a routine is the opposite of that.

14- Nobody’s business is anybody’s business. 

13- Our generation didn’t create the fucked up world we’re inheriting, but it’s still our responsibility to make it better.

12- If hell exists, it’s probably run by towing companies.

11- Dancing is undervalued. 

10- A lot of people seem okay floating from one societal threshold to the next without worrying about why they’re doing what they’re doing.  You can get a lot out of self-reflection and evaluating your motivations.

9- Balance is the key to just about everything.  Yin and Yang had that shit down.

8- Thinking up 40 things I’ve learned recently is harder than I expected. And most of this shit sounds like clichés. But clichés are clichés for a reason so…

7- Water your friendship plants regularly.  Some are delicate violets and others are durable cacti, but it’s important to take care of them.

6- Putting creative work on display is an embarrassing but necessary evil.  I hate rereading old posts but fear of embarrassment is a too common roadblock to creation. Everybody sucks at first, you just have to keep going.

5- The War of Art is an incredibly useful book. Everyone, especially creative types, should read it.

4- Laughing is the best. More, please.

3- We naturally gravitate toward the things and people we need in order to grow. Just like plants!

2-Better to look like an idiot trying something new than to never try anything.

1- Settling is for suckers. Don’t do it!


Fear, Comfort, Conrad

For better or worse I took a semester long course on author Joseph Conrad.  Anyone who has encountered his writing knows how difficult he can be, but it was worth it because I was exposed to stunningly poignant literature.  I figure there aren’t a lot of people reading Conrad in their free time, so I wanted to share a significant passage.

In one essay, Conrad praised author Henry James’s dismissal of conventional methods of plot resolution.  Said Conrad:

“Why the reading public, which, as a body, has never laid upon a story-teller the command to be an artist, should demand from him this sham of Divine Omnipotence, is utterly incomprehensible.  But so it is; and these solutions are legitimate inasmuch as they satisfy the desire for finality, for which our hearts yearn, which a longing greater than the longing for the loaves and fishes of this earth.  Perhaps the only true desire of mankind, coming thus to light in its hours of leisure, is to be set at rest.

He basically says that people want cliché happy endings in stories, even if they’re unrealistic, because they appeal to our desire for finality.

This last line struck a cord with me for several reasons.  A few months ago I read a book called The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.  The point of the book is to help people distinguish and overcome the fears that hinder them from achieving their full potential.  This fear, called “Resistance” in Pressfield’s book, fills us with doubts, rationalizations, procrastinations, and anything else that becomes an obstacle between us and our goals.  Pressfield shows how resistance can be a barometer of how much we care about something– the more fear we have, the more rewarding it will be to overcome.

Conrad’s observation about mankind’s quest for rest corresponds to Pressfield’s concept of resistance.  A longing for comfort necessarily means avoiding the discomforting fear of change and the unknown.  Man would rather endure less-than-ideal circumstances, simply because they’re familiar, instead of venturing for something better.  Though Pressfield discusses this in terms of people achieving creative potential, Conrad extends this idea to all facets of life.  Man so deeply yearns for rest that in his journey to satisfy his ambitions, aspirations, and desires he will quickly settle for the bare minimum because it’s the easiest way to resolve the discomforting instability of life.  It’s lazy and cowardly.

How many people do you know that you would describe as “comfortable,” “stagnant” or “in a rut”?  Are you one of those people?  Is that how you want to live your life– in the name of comfort?

I see it all around us.  It’s as if there’s an unwritten checklist of things to accomplish in order to “succeed” at life (including but not limited to graduate from college, marry, have kids, fight in suburban war, etc) and everyone’s goal is to meet these requirements because they think it will make them happy.  They think that will get them closer to the kind of resting place Conrad wrote about.  But more and more we see the disappointing truth: people who raced towards these goals without thinking WHY they should want them wake up later wondering what the point was.  Their list is checked off but now they don’t know what to do.

Something I’ve been working on in my own life that I would encourage in others is disappointingly cliché: face your fears.  As simple (and annoying) as that sounds, really ask yourself whether you want to be the kind of person who wakes up 10, 20, 40 years down the road struggling to suppress all the regrets of things you’d wish you’d done differently.  Don’t be fooled thinking you’ll somehow stop caring down the line. The rationalizations that keep us comfortable feel okay now but they can never fully dissolve our true hopes, desires, and ambitions.  Is that the life you want?  One that’s “good enough” or “not too bad”?  No thanks.  This applies to all areas of life, from career and relationship choices to stuff as benign as recreation.

I would much rather attempt to have the best life I can, and maybe accumulate some scar tissue and embarrassing stories along the way, than be paralyzed by the fear of discomfort.  Isn’t the point of life to experience it and not just make it to the end unharmed?  After all, we don’t grow when we’re comfortable (hence the term “growing pains”).  Comfort zones are like base in a game of capture the flag.  You’re safe from harm, but you will never achieve anything, not even the fun of playing, if you stay inside it the whole time.  So be brave!  As the great Steve Guttenberg once said, “No risk, no reward.”