You, a Lion
You were born for adversity. It’s in your DNA as much as it’s in the DNA of a shark or an eagle or a lion.
You were made for hard times. The species of Homo sapiens has survived and prevailed not because we are faster or stronger than all the competing creatures. Every one of them is better equipped by nature with fangs and claws and wings and fur. Every one is better adapted to hunt, to kill, to survive drought and heat and cold.
Yeah, our race has a better brain. And yes, we figured out the advantages of hanging together into a hunting band. But that’s not what got us to the top of the food chain, and it’s not what undergirds you and me thirty-six months into a 1200-page epic when Con Ed cuts off our power in January in Bensonhurst.
The central tenet of the Professional Mindset is the willing embrace of adversity.
Most people spend their lives avoiding adversity. The pro sees things differently. She understands the inevitability of opposition, of tribulation, of Resistance.
She knows that the gold is always guarded by a dragon.
The pro accepts adversity the way she accepts gravity and the changing of the seasons.
Adversity, she understands, is not just part of life. It is life.
You are a lion.
You are an eagle.
Coded into your genes is that strand of orneriness and mulishness that refuses to quit, that keeps coming back for more. That’s your birthright, sent down to you from those wily hominids who hunted and trekked across the African savannah back when humankind was little more than an appetizer for the dominant predators.
We were hors d’oeuvres.
We were finger food.
How easy must it have been for a saber-tooth tiger to run down a three-foot-six, seventy-pound homunculus who had nothing to protect herself with except a stick and a stone?
Where are those saber-tooths now?
Are you a novelist? A screenwriter? Are you a long-form nonfiction writer, a blogger, a dancer, an actor, a painter, a filmmaker, a video game creator? Then give thanks to that runty, naked, slow little proto-human who bequeathed to us something more valuable that fangs or claws or cheetah-like speed.
She gave us guts.
Forget tribal cohesion or language or the capacity to cooperate.
Our stubby little ancestor left us not just the ability to endure adversity, but the capacity to thrive under conditions of adversity.
The famous Ernest Shackleton newspaper ad for the Antarctic expedition of 1913 has been cited a million times, I know. Still it stirs our grubby Neanderthal hearts:
Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in event of success.
To the professional, the field is adversity.
Inside and out, she looks and sees opposition. She sees difficulty, hardship, tribulation. She sees Resistance.
She accepts it.
Her mindset is not, How do I avoid adversity? Her mindset is, What is my plan to deal with adversity and overcome it? What’s my objective? What are my resources? What’s my attitude?
The professional faced with tribulation takes a deep breath and offers a prayer of thanks to her hairy, near-sighted, bow-legged foremother of the savanna for the gift of grit and tenacity and fortitude.
She is an artist.
She is a lion.