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Reflections on Fear

Fear of failure. Fear of embarrassment. Fear of being vulnerable. Fear of success. Fear of responsibility. Fear of action. Fear of passivity. Fear of being let down. Fear of getting hurt. Fear of emotional pain. Fear of physical pain. Fear of being yourself. Fear of reputation. Fear of expectations.

Fear of … fear of … fear of …

Fear has many faces and everyone is afraid of something. Some fears are rational, others are irrational, many are debilitating, some are paralyzing and yet, all can be conquered, if you wish it so.

Fears are often based upon action. When we wish for a certain outcome to take place and so, we start to make plans of how we can turn that wish into reality but then, our minds automatically begin to think of scenarios where our actions will lead to a different event, a painful, embarrassing event, where failure can occur and hence, fear builds upon successive thoughts and we find ourselves at the mercy of fear. Unwilling to act because we are afraid of a possibility that may occur.

Should I still act? Or should I do something else?

She’s going to say no, so let’s do something else. Don’t bother, you won’t get the promotion, let’s go a different way. You’ll never be able to do that, it’ll be a waste of time.

In order to deal with such fears we often lower our gaze, set our sights to something smaller, something manageable which we can achieve with little risk and so, we settle due to fear.

Pain is another cause of fear. Most people don’t like to get hurt. They rather avoid pain, whether it is physical or psychological. We rather be comfortable and repeat pleasurable actions which have a small chance of hurting us. This is why when we think of taking action that will cause us to be uncomfortable and go beyond our perceived limitations, fear begins to kick in.

A marathon would be good to run but think of the last time you tried to run and the pain it caused your feet. To create a piece of art would be fulfilling but think about the pain of rejection. It’d be good to join a group but think about the awkwardness that could take place.

Once more, we bow to fear and do not attempt something great, something meaningful and we mistake our timid actions for actions but in reality, you are still living passively, not living life as it is meant to be lived for you allow fear to manipulate your wants and needs.

What to do then? What to do when you are afraid?

The answer is simple.

Act anyway.

Fear is imprisoning. If you allow it to dictate your life, your emotions, your actions then you will never be free. You will remain a mass of unfulfilled potential, inexperienced being, alive and yet not living.

We have to understand what Frank Herbert understood about fear. In his classic novel, Dune, Frank Herbert uses the analogy of death when he speaks of fear. When you allow fear to manage your actions, you have just experienced a little death and as time goes on and you make more decisions due to fear, you experience more little deaths and eventually, obliteration.

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

Fear lives in the future. Where something could happen. Or it may not. What you fear may come true or it could not. Perhaps if you still act in the face of fear, you’ll realize that even in failure, your perceived trauma greatly outweighed the real consequences. Understand that pain is temporary, that the discomfort will go away but the accomplishment of acting even though you were afraid will stick around, you will look back and think of what you achieved rather than the pain you felt.

That painful moment, that fearful moment becomes a fond memory. It can turn into a catalyst of the simple and powerful thought “what else can I do?”.

An additional thought begins to occur “What else am I afraid of?”.

When you act regardless of fear you begin to make changes in your habits, in the way you think, in your character. You stop your life from being led by something else and you begin to lead your own life.

Through fear you get freedom, otherwise, it’s obliteration.

What It Means To Be A Pro

The amateur and professional labels are often used to describe an individual and his/her work. We usually attach the term amateur to someone who may be classified as a hobbyist in their given craft. Such as an individual who plays organized basketball at their local YMCA. While a pro would be someone who plays basketball for a living. And so, perhaps the difference between an amateur and a professional could be explained with a paycheque. Or maybe it is how one dresses compared to the other. Or, how much success one has had in their respective field. Maybe even the kind of people you spend time with can help explain who is an amateur and who is a professional.

However, all of these explanations are based on the external aspect of life, on extrinsic criteria. For Steven Pressfield, the difference between an amateur and a professional is internal. The difference lies in the habits. In his book, Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life’s Work, Pressfield stresses the importance of becoming a pro, as he says:

What ails you and me has nothing to do with being sick or being wrong. What ails us is that we are living our lives as amateurs. So, the solution is to turn pro.

Turning pro comes with a sacrifice. In order to become a professional, we must sacrifice comfort, along with the self we identify with because these things are associated with being an amateur.

An amateur clings to comfort, fearing the uncomfortable, the unknown and so, he/she never grows. And in the realm of comfort, the amateur constantly seeks instant gratification, unable to put off pleasure for some future gain. Hence, becoming an obstacle to themselves, stunting their own growth.

Another sign of an amateur is procrastination. Someone who has millions of ideas which they will start tomorrow and as they procrastinate, they daydream, thinking of the past or some hopeful future, waiting, wasting their precision time and not using their present.

The pro, on the other hand, is straightforward in his/her aim and is willing to act towards it.

Pro plans his day to accomplish his aim. Amateur wastes his day in distractions and drama.

However, just because you act like a pro for one day does not mean that you are a pro. This is related to Pressfield’s concept of Resistance. In short, each day is a battle against our inner resistance, which tells you to act and embrace the amateur in you and each day we must recommit to being a pro.

What does it mean to be a pro?

The following are some key qualities as pro possess:

A pro shows up every day.

If committed for the long haul.

Gives his complete focus to his work.

Acts in the face of fear.

Accepts no excuses.

Doesn’t complain about circumstances.

Dedicates himself to mastering technique.

Is courageous in confronting one’s own doubts and demons.

Is not distracted (amateur tweets, pro works)

Holds himself to a higher standard.

Able to defer gratification.

Doesn’t wait for inspiration.

Gets a psychological reward through his work.

The pro works on habits of order, regularity, discipline and constant strive for excellence.

It is through a conscious effort that one becomes a pro. The good news is that anyone can achieve this status because we have control over our attitudes and behaviors through which we can mold our habits. The bad news is that it requires one to be uncomfortable and to sacrifice that easy path that is associated with amateurism.

The choice is clear but it resides in you and whether or not you are willing to go through with it, every day.

Poem: Don’t deprive me of death

Age of science views death as a disease,

no longer an inevitable fact of life,

treatable,

like a broken arm,

curable,

like a bad hangover,

just need the right remedy and one will stop,

dying.

 

They will deprive me of death,

and with it,

take away my life,

hollow living shell,

I will become,

for the soul is only alive in the dying,

it needs the inevitable to be present,

without one,

you cannot have the other.

 

The Taoist understood,

yin and yang,

in order for there to be life,

there must be death,

pain and pleasure,

happiness and heartache,

but once humanity leaps forward,

what was in balance, will be undone,

the chaotic notion of ever living beings,

and with death no longer a concern,

painful act having been cured,

death treated,

we are given a death sentence,

for then; passivity, passionless, pointless,

lives will be lead,

for there will be nothing following us anymore,

reminding us to speak now,

or else, forever hold your peace.

Poem: Such is my will

Such is my will,

that I wish too much,

and do too little,

wishing to be this or that,

doing nothing,

hoping I’ll wake up one day,

whole and complete.

 

Dreaming of different realities,

different lives in which I was good,

perhaps those are glimpses into different dimensions,

were I actually did what I know I needed to do,

instead of simply wishing,

and became what I could be,

unlimited potential, limitedly explored.

 

Perhaps those daydreams of mine are what I could have been now,

in this life, presently,

but no longer possible,

not for you,

passive being,

& so,

cursed to dream of what I could have been.

 

Is that not hell?

if it is and that I am in hell, at least I’m not alone,

seems like there are billions of others.

Reflections On Mastery Through Resistance Practice

Recently I read Robert Greene’s book, Mastery. The book puts forth the argument that everyone can master a skill which they love if you follow the outline that has been present throughout history. Greene draws from famous figures and links them to his principles and steps in order to showcase that no matter the discipline, whether it be sciences or art or sports, the underlying facts are the same. Simply put, in order to become a master at your craft, one needs to practice, with intent and focus, for hours on end coupled with discipline, self-control, and emotional stability.

Hence, there are no magic tricks. No short cuts. No Genie granting your wishes.

The reality is that in order to mastery something it will take years if not decades to get good at so you have to be in it for the long haul.

Now in the book, there are many different practices and principles one needs to understand in order to fully grasp the idea Greene has put forth. However, I will just be concentrating on one particular practice.

Robert Greene refers to it as Resistance practice. I previously discussed Steven Pressfield‘s notion of Resistance and Greene’s beliefs are similar to Pressfield. In whatever you do, there will be resistance, whether that comes in the form of external obstacles or whether it manifests itself through self-doubt or other psychological barriers. Knowing this, one must essentially strengthen their will and focus towards resistance through practice.

So, instead of waiting for some barrier or obstacle to come your way and then seeing if you can withstand it, you must create your own. That is just one part of it, the other being the constant practice of actually overcoming those barriers or obstacles. In this way, you build up your ability to combat resistance which allows you to achieve a higher level of proficiency in your craft.

An example of resistance practice would be to give yourself deadlines. Such self-imposed difficulty was what the great poet John Keats often practiced as Robert Greene mentioned in his book. Keats would give himself goals to write 50 lines each day and would commit to finishing long poems, up to 4,000 words, within 7  months. Through such deadlines, he would have to force himself to overcome laziness and self-doubt, to become more time efficient, to be more disciplined and essentially, to improve his character in order to meet his demands.

And so, we need to change our mindset when it comes to resistance.

Resistance is an ally. We need it to get to the next level in our craft. The lack of resistance or the lack of intensity allows us to remain comfortable and safe. Growth comes when you are uncomfortable. Resistance is uncomfortable which is why we must practice it in order to grow. The pressure of resistance aids us in creating what we dream of, making that dream a reality.

Poem: All the same

The same,

each with the same fears,

of mortality, of losing, of pain,

pleasure brings only temporary happiness,

true happiness achieved through love,

the same love in everyone,

a helping hand, loving embrace, thoughtful words,

each needing the same,

love.

 

The same,

disgusted by disgusting acts,

terrified by terrifying moments,

saddened by exploit and unfairness,

enlightened by the unknown,

the same,

for everyone.

 

The same,

for my heart, can beat in your chest,

your blood can save someone’s daughter,

a son’s liver, for your wife,

see the world through a stranger’s eyes,

interchangeable,

we are,

for you and I,

are the same,

 

The same,

in our beliefs,

in our misunderstandings,

judgemental opinions,

akin in similar thoughts,

our purpose alike,

craving for needs that are shared,

the similarity of our being,

unquestionable.

 

What’s different then?

the skin, the nose, the weight, the height,

the label, the land, the meaning of words,

and yet, still alike in close-mindedness.

 

But the same at the core,

the spirit, the heart, the mind, the soul,

oneness felt in all,

if ones mind was open or eyes not covered or,

if one was not deaf to the obvious,

open to the true feelings,

the understanding,

that we are all the same.

 

 

 

 

Poem: What to say

What to say,

when you don’t know yourself,

as you embrace the image others have made for you,

puppet,

repeating what you were told,

or heard,

opinions,

so false that these falsities make you elicit false emotions,

get angry over other’s beliefs,

fake tears for the sadness that isn’t yours,

thinking that these feelings are yours,

and so,

in order to feel right,

to bring some structure to oneself,

to one’s identity,

you come to believe that perhaps this is you,

no foundation,

molded by others,

you become them,

and then say what they say,

muted by the words that are fed to you,

so, what can you say?