There are two things I’ve noticed which, in combination, doom dreams. Together, they are a predictor of failure at a level of certainty that is scary. Here are the two things:
- Inability to keep your word.
Now, the two are obviously connected. “Dishonesty” means not only lying to others, but lying to yourself. THESE are connected as well. We lie to others because we tell ourselves: “it is better to be dishonest about X. I will experience less pain and more pleasure if I do.” There are circumstances where this is true, of course. If a mugger asks you if you have any more money, and you have a thousand dollars in a money belt, you have zero responsibility to respond honestly. But in general circumstances, the habit of lying is based on self-deception, and that means a distortion of your reality map: you literally do not understand the world around you, aren’t learning from your mistakes, and can become lost in what my old friend Lee Taylor’s mom used to call a “crazy maze of lies.”
Not being able to keep your word to other people is connected to not being able to keep it to yourself. The power to DECIDE. To say “I will Y” and then be able to RELY on your capacity to do this, is critical as well. If you have a weakness here, one of the following may be true:
- You misjudge the situation or your capacities, making promises you cannot keep rather than being honest and saying “I cannot or will not accept that responsibility.”
- You are unclear on the negative consequences of past promise-breaking, such that you minimalize the pain, and hallucinate that it doesn’t mean anything.
- You are unclear on your own motivations and intentions, such that it is easy for you to lie to yourself and say it doesn’t matter, that NOT losing weight, changing a bad habit, writing, finishing and marketing 100 stories is a minor matter, and won’t impact your life. That avoidance of the temporary discomfort is more important than the accomplishment.
In combination, these two will destroy your dreams. We tell our children these things, but accept it when they creep into our adult lives. THIS IS THE DEATH OF DREAMS.
We make excuses for our failures
We hallucinate that we “tried everything” when we really tried two or three approaches, then quit.
We blame the environment: the “industry”, the “economy”, the “statistics” about this or that…without looking at the people who succeeded despite these things. Consider them anomalous, rather than looking at the fact that we have stumbled off the path.
How to correct these two core errors? The first is that we must DESTROY the illusion that it doesn’t matter. That there is more pleasure than pain in allowing them to erode our lives.
- Connect with your ultimate outcome. Writing that book, getting that movie made, publishing a story, supporting yourself as a writer…whatever it is. WRITE IT DOWN.
- Connect to the EMOTIONS that power the outcome. WHY do you want it? All of the joy you will experience if you do, all the pain and disappointment you will experience if you don’t. FEEL BOTH OF THEM.
- Study the lives of people who have accomplished your intention. NO path, NO system of action guarantees success. Great martial artists lose street fights. Parachutes fail to open. Expert mathematicians make mistakes. But it is foolishness to say that studying self-defense, using a parachute, or studying math are not paths to increased probability of success. That’s all we can do. Prepare, but also understand that there is no certainty.
- Choose a joyful path. One which has rewards in and of itself. ENJOY THE JOURNEY. The brotherhood of others on the path. The joy of discovery. The satisfaction of a healthful discipline. The knowledge that you are leading by example, that you are BEING the change you wish to see in the world, providing congruent leadership for your children and community.
And…love yourself. Believe in yourself. Know that the “dark night” will come, inevitably. This is why “the machine” concentrates on the individual steps, and suggests that you write, finish, and submit 100 stories before you question your process. That you write 1-4 per month, so that by the time one is rejected, you are on to the next, and you can feel BOTH the pain of rejection AND the satisfaction of knowing you are one of the few with the focus to keep going.
That by studying the lives of other writers you know that rejection is just a part of the process. That the greatest ball players in history miss the pitch 2/3 of the time. That’s just the way it is. If you know this ahead of time, BEFORE you begin, you get to ask yourself:
- Am I willing to handle this pain and rejection?
- Can I trust myself to keep going, to keep my promise to myself to write 1-4 stories a month UNTIL I’VE FINISHED 100 STORIES?
If you can speak the truth, and keep your promise to yourself…if you can see the path clearly, and prepare for the pain BEFORE it gets here…
You will be one of those the newbies look up to with wonder, with shining eyes, and say: “how did you do it?” roiling in their own fear and uncertainty, concealing their doubt with lies and false ego. And you will be able to tell them that yes, it is worth the pain. It is worth the discipline. That there is NOTHING in life as important as becoming who you are. Nothing.
And there never will be.