Killer Instinct, Part One
I’ve been doing a video series on social media called “The Warrior Archetype.” One of the points I’m trying to make is that exterior virtues that we often associate with soldiers and physical combatants can also be called upon by you and me as we fight the interior “war of art.”
One of these virtues is Killer Instinct.
I know, I know. Immediate pushback says, “Kill kill = bad bad.”
I tried to write my first book in New York when I was twenty-three. I spent two years and got 99.9% of the way through. I choked. I couldn’t finish. I wound up blowing up my marriage and what remained of my sane life, rather than cover that last few feet to the finish line.
No killer instinct.
One of the laws of Resistance is that
Resistance is always strongest at the finish.
The example I cited in The War of Art was of Odysseus at the end of his voyage home from the Trojan War.
Ithaca was in sight. The ship was so close to shore that Odysseus’ men could see the cookfires on the hillsides. Their skipper, alas, had chosen this moment to lie down for a snooze. The men knew he had a hide-covered sack that he would let no one touch. They decided to plunder it.
What the sailors didn’t know was that the sack contained the Adverse Winds, gifted to Odysseus by King Aeolus. When the men opened the bag, the winds rushed out in one furious blow, driving the ship back across every league she had traversed on her long voyage home.
It took me years to learn to finish a project.
In other words, to develop killer instinct.
Seth Godin prefers the verb “ship.” He means if we’ve spent the past eight years designing the latest iPhone and it’s now ready … don’t hesitate. Ship it!
That’s killer instinct.
Plunge a stake through the heart of that project you’ve got 99.9% done. Force yourself. Close your eyes and polish it off.
What are we “killing” anyway?
We’re killing Resistance.
We’re sinking our dagger into the insidious, pernicious, rotten, sneaky, evil force of our own self-sabotage. Our own hesitation. Our own fear of success (or failure).
Another story I told in The War of Art was of a friend who had written his magnum opus. It was done. He had the typed pages in their shipping box, ready to be sent to his agent.
But my friend couldn’t make himself pull the trigger.
That horrible, strongest-at-the-finish-line Resistance got to him.
The tragic ending to this story is my friend died.
His book never got sent off.
Killer instinct is not negative when we use it to finish off a book, a screenplay, any creative project that is fighting us and resisting us to the bitter end.
Steel yourself and put that sucker out of its misery.
Kill kill = good good.