Long ago, so it seems, I met Barry Moltz for lunch at Wishbone in Chicago. I was on my own hunt and seek mission to figure out who I wanted to be when I grew up. Having sold my businesses and trying to figure out which dragon I wanted to slay next, I asked to buy serial entrepreneur Barry Moltz lunch and found a new hero. Barry is an amazing camilion. He is a transformer with a cat like ability to have multiple lives. I am so inspired by his ability to reinvent himself and have learned so much from watching him grow on his own dragon sleighing journey…
By Barry Moltz
Even before breakfast, entrepreneurs prepare for battle almost every day. But who is the enemy? According to Steven Pressfield, author of “Do the Work” (and best-selling historical novels), “Our enemy . . . is not the difficulty of the project or the stay of the marketplace or the emptiness of our bank accounts. The enemy is resistance.” I recently interviewed Steve about how business owners can fight through it.
Barry Moltz: Why do you think people get stuck, and what’s the best way for them to get unstuck?
Mr. Pressfield: My word for it is resistance with an R, which is that same force that we all know only too well of self-sabotage that, if we join a gym, keeps us from going to the gym and if we have a great idea for a new business or a book or anything that we want to do, resistance rears its ugly head and undercuts us and produces that voice in our head that stops us. It puts out all these excuses, and it stops us from doing it. Every type of entrepreneur seems to be dealing with this negative force, and I know I am as a writer, that’s for sure.
Barry Moltz: You say that we’ve got to stay primitive. What do you mean by that?
Mr. Pressfield: I mean to trust our instincts when we’re trying to understand or figure out what we’re going to do. For instance, it’s my belief that rational thought is definitely the enemy when we’re thinking about starting a business or pursuing any kind of a dream because those dreams and those business ideas, they come from a really deep place. So I’m a big believer in the caveman approach to coming up with ideas and following through.
Barry Moltz: You also say the universe is not indifferent. It is outright hostile.
Mr. Pressfield: Well, it’s basically resistance with an R, but what is interesting to me is that there are lots of religious traditions that acknowledge this thing. This is the devil. That’s what it is. Whatever negative force stops us from fulfilling our dreams or sabotages us, and you don’t have to look very far into the news, I won’t mention any names, to see examples of this force where we say, ‘Why did somebody just destroy themselves?’ Well, the universe is actively hostile, and inside our heads is this voice that’s trying to bring us down.
Barry Moltz: But on the other hand, Steve, you also say the answer is always yes. And those two things, if the universe is hostile, why is the answer always yes?
Mr. Pressfield: Ah, that’s a great question, because this is my version of reality so take it with a grain of salt. Every force in nature has an equal and opposite force, and just as there is the negative force of self-sabotage out there, which I would call resistance, there also is assistance, which is what the Greeks would call the muse: the mysterious source of inspiration that just comes to us and picks us up like a following wind. And the more, of course, we focus and commit and dedicate ourselves to a project or a new business or whatever, we find the more this force, this positive force, will pick us up and carry us along in the sense of we will have more ideas come to us and more energy sort of collect around us.
Barry Moltz: You say that panic is good. I really want to hear why panic is good because a lot of us out there panic.
Mr. Pressfield: OK, I’ll tell you exactly why panic is good, and this comes from total personal experience from the school of hard knocks, not from any BS out of a book or anything like that. I think that when we’re progressing and we’re growing, that’s when panic kicks in and we never realize that’s the source of that. We just sort of freeze and think we are having anxiety attacks or whatever, but really what’s happening is we’re starting to grow, and nothing is scarier, of course, than success or moving to the next level. When our soul sort of feels that we’re elevating, we’re progressing, we’re getting better, that’s when these irrational terrors will seize upon us. So I always tell myself, and this is hard to do when you’re in the midst of terror, that when I do feel myself being seized with anxiety, I ask myself am I going to the next level? Am I going to a higher level? And is that the source of this terror?
Barry Moltz: Is that what you mean by “do the work” — really the only way out is through?
Mr. Pressfield: Yes, that is the answer. I mean, what’s the alternative? I think anytime anybody suggests something to you or tries to sell something to you that doesn’t involve work, they are full of crap. It just doesn’t work. The test is, am I going to have to pay a price for this in terms of sweat and blood? And if you are, then that’s a very good sign. And if the answer is no, this is going to be a piece of cake — I take a pill, I sign up for something and it’s a walk in the park — then that’s not real.
Barry Moltz: One of the great images I like in the book, you talk about there are seven principles of resistance, and you say in principle No. 5 that the real you must duel the resistance you. You are the knight, the resistance is the dragon.
Mr. Pressfield: If you’re training for a marathon or you’re going to open a new restaurant or something, one part of our brain will come up with all the reasons why we can’t do it, and that’s the dragon. That’s resistance. But the other part of our brain, the part that is actually in control and is connected to our willpower, that’s the part that has to say, ‘I can run this marathon. Here is how I’m going to do it. I’m going to train week one, week two, week three,’ etc., etc. So the real you has to duel the resistance you to accomplish anything. I haven’t found any other way.
Barry Moltz is a Chicago-based serial entrepreneur, business consultant, marketing expert, mediator, speaker and author of several books on small-business success. Look for his advice on Crain’s blog for entrepreneurs every Monday. Barry is also a regular contributor to the American Express Open Forum. Follow Barry on Twitter: @BarryMoltz.
Listen to podcasts of Barry’s “Business Insanity” radio show here.