Training = Self-training
We were talking last week about the writer or artist’s need for training.
You and I are no different from athletes or warriors. We do what we do in the face of an opposing force.
Call it Resistance, call it self-sabotage, call it demons of self-destruction. This force is as real as a headwind or a contrary current is to a triathlete or an armed foe on the battlefield is to a soldier.
The athlete or the soldier has an advantage over you and me, however. They can work with a coach. They have a sergeant or a lieutenant to hold their feet to the fire. They can literally be TRAINED by a professional. Some pro athletes have entire retinues of coaches and training professionals.
You and I are alone.
We can’t train. We have to self-train.
I break it down into three areas in my own work.
And I add another:
Self-preparation, meaning my interior rehearsals for various emergencies.
What form does this self-training take?
It’s talk. Self-talk. It’s interior conversations between me and myself.
An example: I’m in a situation right now where, for reasons I can’t talk about, I’m not able to publish stuff I’ve already written. I’ve got two books done and ready to go. But I can’t do anything with them.
Here’s my self-talk addressing this situation (which covers all four of the categories above):
Steve, an external event (just like an ambush in war or a setback in an athletic event) has broken your normal rhythm of production. The temptation now is to slack off. The voice of Resistance in your head will tell you to “take it easy” or “explore new possibilities.” You will feel like, “Hey, I’ve done my bit, let me back off for a minute until we can get back on track with our normal work rhythm.”
In other words, I’m saying to myself what a professional coach or trainer would say to me if I had one.
What you must do now, Steve, is the opposite of what Resistance wants you to do. You must raise your intensity. Pick the next project and plunge in with the same level of concentration and aspiration (or higher) as if there had been no external interruption. Block that out. The enemy now, as always, is Resistance..
Instead of slacking off, even a little, increase your level of exertion. Put your head down and work. Self-reinforce every day. Self-validate every day. Self-motivate every day.
Things now are NOT normal. They are harder. They are an insidious form of emergency. Treat this moment that way.
That’s training. That’s self-training.
The guv’nor is really addressing the question of what ‘training’ should look like for us, which is exactly what I was hoping for since last Wednesday. I should have realised that Steve’s self-training would be purposed to overcome Resistance. ‘Training’ in writing skills seems to my mind to be closely linked with more peripheral activities, like word exercises, haiku writing, study of Shawn Coyne’s Story Grid approach, and so forth. Mistake! Resistance is the killer. Of course. It was never otherwise.
At the end of the day, all training is self training.
I like this idea of writing down your thoughts and then rewriting them with a focus on how Resistance is affecting those same thoughts. This is a useful tool for those of us that struggle with stinkin’ thinkin’. This reminds me of Seligman’s Learned Helplessness experiments on dogs. We can escape the shocks and jump over the partitions if we reframe our thoughts. No more cowering in the corner wondering who is going to come save me from myself. I self-train. I save myself. Fall down 7 times, get up 8 mentality.
Last but certainly not least…Go Cincy Redlegs!
It feels like of all the mindsets involving “self” (be they preparation, training, motivation, or reinforcement), the foundational one seems to be “self-validation.” It’s totally internal, totally within one’s control regardless of circumstance. It’s freeing, not being a slave to the opinions and judgments of others. And doesn’t self-validation open the door to all the rest of it? Thinking about Marcus Aurelius in Meditations: “How much time he saves who does not look to see what his neighbor says or does or thinks?”
Hope you all have a good Thanksgiving. Lots to be grateful for.
I am grateful for this comment. I am thankful for those here and for Steve’s wisdom each week!
Amen to both of Joe’s points.
Thank you dear Steve,
indeed we are so alone… thank God we have people, like you, or I would personally had given up, because my urge to “explore new possibilities” is extremely strong, and if I didn’t know about the concept of Resistance I don’t know what would have happened. These days I read the War of Art again -you just can’t absorb those fundamentals often enough, especially if you are an artistic soul, meaning a soul vulnerable to the emotional and exciting qualities of life.
My way is to be mulish. Every thought of mine can be rationalized and fooled by the other “personalities” inside me that are both rigorous and clever. So what I do is just count hours of work, and thankfully, I can stop my thoughts from being created in my chaotic mind -I always considered that a weakness, but it’s a strength here. No happiness from my work too, no “I love it” moments, so I have to move on without waiting actual positive self-feedback. Like walking in the dark, but with a dream inside.
I’m like a robot. Just counting hours and feeling bad when they are not enough. So strange, to be so automated in order to (hopefully) be so resultfully creative…
My best to all friends here.
Quote of the week: Things now are Not normal. They are plain hard.
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Love the quote of the week above here and good post as usual Steven. Sharing this at tomorrows staff meeting.
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That’s great, I also train for my dribbling skills to improve. We have a team-basketball training and after that I train by myself and does dribbling routines and training. It was hard for me because I need to improve it to help the team. Every after practice I reward myself for a quick hook up using Bang Sexting.
Thank you so much for sharing this with us. I’ve been wanting to be a writer and this article came out at the right time.
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The guv’nor is really addressing the question of what ‘training’ should look like for us, which is exactly what I was hoping for since last Wednesday.
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I love these thoughts on self-training, especially the self-validation part. Thank you so much, Mr. Pressfield.
(Small Shoe Dog spoiler coming.)
I’m currently reading Phil Knight’s autobiography Shoe Dog, and reading that he was put-off by an overly-enthusiastic (always a great virtue in a budding business) and yet validation-needy (never a great virtue) employee who reminded me of myself at the job I will be leaving soon. I came in, rockets blaring, making dynamic changes to this company that no one had ever imagined. I transformed it, kept it alive during COVID, and haven’t had a raise in 3 years. When I asked the owners, they said no, and this supervisor did not vouch for me.
I’ve been wracking my brain as to why, and all I can come up with is that my need for validation must have been off-putting to my boss. She is stern-nosed, sharp and biting with her comments, and I didn’t read the room well enough.
What I should have done was ignored her snarky comments and went ahead with my plans, with a disregard for her bullshit treatment. I did not realize that the need for validation was making me look emotional, and–ew–needy. All I needed was to shut my mouth and continue to build.
Of course I can’t fully blame myself, for she was a full-on asshole. But, I could have dug deep, fed myself, and made myself invaluable.
Instead, I created my own company to free myself from having to manipulate my responses/reactions to cater to someone else’s whim and shitty personality. And as I build this new thing, I will pat myself on the back often, and tell myself all the things I wish she told me.
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I was doing a free rewrite a few years ago on the lot at Paramount when a producer friend spotted me on the bungalow’s porch and plopped down in the chair beside me. She asked me what I was working on beside this freebie.
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