Feeling Discouraged? Do NOT Entertain Thoughts of Quitting
“It’s okay to be discouraged. It’s not okay to quit.”
~ Ryan Holiday, “The Obstacle is the Way”
Well, it was Munro’s the magic bookstore to the rescue again.
I cannot tell you the number of times I have gone into my favourite bookstore, Munro’s (in Victoria, British Columbia), and come across a book I had never heard of before but knew, without a doubt, it was exactly what I needed to read. I have learned to listen to my gut on this…if I am holding a book at Munro’s and pondering whether or not to read it, if my intuitive voice whispers, “Buy it!” I will do so.
Case in point was a few weeks ago when I came across a book entitled, “The Obstacle is the Way; The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph,” by Ryan Holiday.
Truth be told, I suspect this book was the Universe’s way of throwing me a life preserver when I didn’t even realize I was close to drowning. I knew I had been struggling with doubt—but I don’t think I fully grasped the dangerous waters I had entered by starting to entertain the possibility of giving up…throwing in the towel on my Big Writing Dreams.
Because let’s face it: from the outside looking in on my work life, after twenty-two years of steady writing, I don’t have a heck of a lot of external material (published books, produced plays and films, etc) to show for my extensive efforts.
Thankfully, “The Obstacle is the Way” reminded me of a very important fact: it doesn’t matter what Other People Think of my writing progress. All that matters is what I think of my writing progress. Because I am the one on the inside, looking out. I know what my vision is. I know what I am trying to achieve. And I can see—with increasing clarity—the bigger picture of my vision and how my many projects are all interconnected.
Reading “The Obstacle is the Way” book reminded me that I DO know what I am doing…and that I am in very good company of a long line of highly successful people who failed enough times to knock a cow over backwards in the pursuit of their seemingly impossible (to everyone else but them) goals.
However, even though I know what I am trying to achieve—and have (finally) developed the skills to do so—the how, when, and who all just seem to be one insurmountable obstacle after another. If one more door closes in my face (or worse but far more frequent: doesn’t even open after repeated knocking), I’m gonna scream.
Screaming is okay. Giving up, however, is not.
Because apparently, all this is perfectly normal. As Ryan Holiday’s book title states: the obstacle is the way. And I gotta admit, the further I go on my writing journey, the more I realize that the obstacles I am facing now are going to work in my favour in the long run because: a) they are teaching me what I need to learn before moving to the next stage and b) they have stopped me from proceeding too soon in a certain direction.
In other words…Obstacles are in the way for a reason. It’s our job to figure out what that reason/s is. Click To Tweet
Although I have gleaned many gems from Ryan Holiday’s book thus far, it was the chapter on persistence that bonked me on the head. But I think that’s the way it goes sometimes: when a life preserver is tossed our way, it has to hit us on the forehead before we even realize we need it.
Here are some sage words about persistence from “The Obstacle is the Way”:
“Working at it works,” says Holiday. “It’s that simple. (But again, not easy.)”
“For most of what we attempt in life, chops are not the issue,” he says. “We’re usually skilled and knowledgeable and capable enough. But do we have the patience to refine our idea? The energy to beat on enough doors until we find investors or supporters? The persistence to slog through the politics and drama of working with a group?”
“Once you start attacking an obstacle, quitting is not an option,” he says. “It cannot enter your head.”
“Once you can envision yourself quitting altogether, you might as well ring the bell. It’s done.”
Ack! About a month ago, I had started fantasizing about quitting My Big Writing Dream. I envisioned what my life would look like if I just gave up on writing the big projects and trying to get them produced. Then I envisioned what it would feel like to give up. And the scary thing is, it actually felt okay.
That’s probably why the Universe practically threw Holiday’s book at my head.
“Remember and remind yourself of a phrase favoured by Epictetus: “persist and resist.” Persist in your efforts,” explains Holiday. “Resist giving in to distraction, discouragement, or disorder.”
And disillusionment, I would add.
“There’s no need to sweat this or feel rushed,” he says. “No need to get upset or despair. You’re not going anywhere—you’re not going to be counted out. You’re in this for the long haul.”
Thank you, Ryan Holiday. I needed that reminder.
“Because when you play all the way to the whistle, there’s no reason to worry about the clock,” he says. “You know you won’t stop until it’s over—that every second available is yours to use.”
“It’s okay to be discouraged,” he says. “It’s not okay to quit. To know you want to quit but to plant your feet and keep inching closer until you take the impenetrable fortress you’ve decided to lay siege to in your own life—that’s persistence.”
“It’s supposed to be hard,” he reminds us. “Your first attempts aren’t going to work. It’s going to take a lot out of you—but energy is an asset we can always find more of. It’s a renewable resource. Stop looking for an epiphany and start looking for weak points. Stop looking for angels and start looking for angles. There are options. Settle in for the long haul and then try each and every possibility, and you’ll get there.”
I cannot believe how much I needed to hear that.
“When people ask where we are, what we’re doing, how that “situation” is coming along, the answer should be clear: We’re working on it. We’re getting closer.”
So the next time someone asks me how my writing is going, or when I am going to finish a project (or makes a snide comment about how nice it must be to travel so much, when what I’m trying to do is carve out the necessary time, space, and solitude to get my damn work done), that’s gonna be my answer: “I’m working on it. I’m getting closer.”
But, of course, it doesn’t really matter what answer I give to someone else. All that matters is the answer I give myself…and then get back to work, day in and day out. Because every hour of writing takes me one step closer to My Big Writing Dream. Thankfully, I love the process of writing. Dealing with all the career-related obstacles? Well, I am learning to love those…or trying to 😊
How about you?Are you struggling with doubts about a goal or dream that you have been working towards for an awfully long time? Click To Tweet
Are you feeling discouraged or disillusioned? Do the obstacles you face seem insurmountable?
If so, please persist…and resist giving in to distraction, discouragement, disorder, or disillusionment.
Whatever you do, do NOT give up. Don’t even entertain the idea.
Do what you need to do to achieve what you are here to do. Big, small, or in-between…doesn’t matter what it is. All that matters is that you never give up on what matters to you.
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Maryanne Pope is the author of “A Widow’s Awakening.” She also writes screenplays, playscripts and blogs. She is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and a co-founder of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. To receive Maryanne’s blog, “Weekly Words of Wisdom,” please subscribe here.