Service or Self?
This week on Ask Me Anything we take a question from Sheri Kleintop. She asks …
In your book, The War of Art, the focus is recognizing and facing Resistance head on. Throughout the ages, women such as Gorgo, Jackie Kennedy and women in every household across the globe have (had) an obligation to nurture, serve and protect their children and spouses. While in the midst of our life of details, how can one go about honoring our obligations while also fighting to maintain our own identity and long term dreams? As a divorced mother, teacher and advocate for our military, service above self has always been my creed.
Steve: I think that’s another great question. This is sort of the ethos of women: ‘service above self’ and nurturing others and taking care of others. Obviously that’s true, and there’s a lot of satisfaction from that, but if you’re going to be an artist, if you have a dream to write a book or to make a movie or a web series or whatever it is, you’ve got to be selfish at some point. You have to carve out, like you were saying Shawn, an hour or whatever it is and just be an asshole. Say ‘no’ to everybody, including the kids, unless your daughter falls off the top of the roof and crashed her head open. It’s like your teenage daughter will put up a sign on her door ‘No Entry – Keep Out – No Visitors’. Right? That’s what you have to do too. I think a lot of times women are so into the nurturing mom and the giving, loving concept of what a woman should be that, they don’t . . . It’s very hard to make the leap and say “I’m worth taking time for my own stuff,” but you are. If we were to try to talk to LeBron James. We just want to have a cup of coffee with LeBron James or Mick Jagger or Jay-Z or something like that. Do you think we would have a prayer in the world of getting into them? No chance. Right? They have 30 people whose job it is just to keep people like us away from them. Right? I don’t care if you’re a single mom that’s just trying to write a novel for the first time or stories about your family or whatever it is, your time is just as legitimate as LeBron James or Mick Jagger’s or Jay-Z’s and you have absolutely the same right to put up a wall of steel and do your work behind that wall for that period of time. I know it’s hard to do that, but I give you permission to do that. I wish I had the name of the lady that wrote this because it sounds great.
Shawn: Here’s a little story to follow up on that Steve, which is really kind of funny. A couple of years ago, Steve and I met Seth Godin at an event, at a book signing event. And, I don’t know, about three months later, I emailed Seth and I said, “Hey, I’ve got this idea. Can I come up and talk to you about it?” And, probably because he liked you so much Steve, he said “Yea, okay. Come on up.” But, he said specifically, “I can give you from 11:15 until 11:45. If you come at 11:30, that means we only have 15 minutes. If you come at 11, you’re going to wait 15 minutes.” So it’s just like “Oh boy, is this guy a blow hard.” But then I got there and he had so much going on, that he stopped at 11:15 and he walked out, he shook my hand and he rushed me into another room, he sat down and he said, “What can I help you with?” We talked for a half an hour, and when the half an hour was over, he said, “It was great to see you. I’ve got to go now,” and he left.
Steve: That’s a great story. I never heard that from you.
Shawn: And I took so much, I got more out of just watching him behave than anything that we really talked about. So that is really, really a very important thing, and especially and I think you’re so right Steve about moms and women who are doing a million different things for other people. There’s a tendency sometimes, I wouldn’t say that they martyr themselves, but they may go over and say “Oh, I do, I do, I do and I never get what I want.” So you owe it to yourself and you owe it to your family to say “Hey, you know what? I’m closing my door. I need an hour. Good-bye. If you’ve got a problem, go find dad.” And, that is so important and legitimate. That’s really good advice.