Resistance is this negative force of self sabotage that will work against us any time we try to move from a lower level to a higher level, ethically, morally, creatively. If you have an idea for a book, if you have an idea for a podcast, if you have an idea for the studio or something that you want to do, a voice will come into your head immediately that will say, who are you to put this thing together? This has been done a million times.
It has been done better than you ever could do or ever would do. You're too old, you're too young, you're too fat, you're too skinny. You don't have enough education or too much education, et cetera, et cetera. And that negative force is universal. I can tell you from the thousands of e-mails I've got and not only is it universal, but it's the same voice in all of our heads. You know, it may be tailored a little bit to you or to me, but it's the same voice.
And when we hear this voice in our head that says you're not good enough, it's all been done, et cetera, et cetera, what makes that so powerful against us is we think it's our own thoughts. We think, oh, that's me assessing the situation objectively, but it's not. It's this other siren voice, this force that's just out there. That's a fact of nature. And once we can say, oh, that's not me, that kind of is the key to the whole thing.
I'm Steven Pressfield and this is the Rich Role podcast. The Rich Roll podcast. Hey, everybody, how are you guys doing? Welcome to the podcast. Good to be with you. To share this digital liminal space that is somehow real. But if you think about it doesn't actually exist in three dimensions. But hey, man, we are here. And this is exciting for me because Steven Pressfield is a bit of a personal hero of mine and a guy who, without knowing it, has had a profound impact on my life, my career and how I think about and pursue creative work for those unfamiliar.
Steven, as a writer with something like 20 bucks to his name, you might be familiar with his first novel, The Legend of Bagger Vance, which landed on the big screen with Matt Damon. Or maybe you read Gates of Fire, which is on the curriculum at West Point and Annapolis. Stephen is also a screenwriter, a former screenwriter, I should say. And of most importance to me, Stephen is the author of inarguably, some of the most important books I've ever read on Pursuing a Creative Life Landmark books that I recommend and talk about all the time on the podcast, like The War of Art, a book I've read and reread at least a dozen times, do the work and turning pro, which together are all about.
Overcoming resistance to self-expression and bringing a disciplined approach to birth, the work you were born to create, this is an absolute master class on all things creativity, served up with a healthy dose of perseverance, persistence, patience, and the heavy lifting required to eliminate distractions, slay resistance and make manifest the dormant, authentic voice within.
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OK, so one of the many things about this guy, Steven Pressfield, is that he wrote for twenty seven years before his first book was published, holding something like twenty one jobs along the way. It took him seventeen years before he even got his first paycheck for writing. So this is a guy who knows a thing or two about grit, perseverance, playing the long game, the process required to give birth to a dream, the war that we all waged with ourselves that he calls resistance.
And the thing is, creativity isn't about talent. It's not about being touched. It's about discipline. It's about showing up. It's about respect for the mystical, courting the muse, connecting with something beyond our conscious awareness, something that doesn't show up without putting in the work and then respecting that grind as something sacred. Anyway, Stephen's got a new book out, it's a historical novel about the Roman Empire, a reluctant hero, the rise of a new faith set in first century Jerusalem, it's called A Man at Arms, is quite the book, sweeping, cinematic and quite immersive.
So today we break it all down from finding your voice to falling in love with the process, the pernicious nature of resistance and how to overcome it and the common ground shared between warrior and artist. I hold this man and his work in the highest regard. I can't thank him enough for the gift that he has given me personally, and I'm super honored to have him on the show and share this conversation with you guys today. This final note, unfortunately, there was some construction going on next door during the podcast.
Apologies for that. There was nothing we could do about it, but hopefully it's not too distracting. All right, let's get it on. Stephen, I can't tell you how happy I am to meet you and to have you here. It's such a privilege and such an honor.
Before we get into it, there's a little bit of construction next door. They told us they were going to knock it off, but we'll see how that goes. So for people that are listening or watching, if you hear some sighing in the background, not much we could do about it.
We're just going to have to live with it. But in any event, this is a long time coming. And let me say the same thing to you.
While we're at it, I've been really looking forward to this for a long time. I've admired your stuff, your books, the work you do. And, you know, we only live a few miles apart. I know a over the. So this is a real it's a real thrill for me.
I'm a little nervous and I look, I'm nervous to you know, first of all, thank you. I'm I can't tell you how flattering that is to hear from somebody like yourself, because, you know, of all people in my life, like I don't know of anyone. Who's had a more profound impact on my life and on my career and how I think about what it is that I do than yourself, at least of people that I've never met before, like your work has been so tremendously influential and impactful on me personally.
And, you know, I just want to thank you for that, because I really believe that I would not have done any of the things that I've done in my life had I not come across. Wow. Really amazing work. Yeah. And that's that's just a fact. That's not I'm not embellishing. That's not an exaggeration in any regard. You know, I vividly remember.
I got out of rehab in 1998 and was really grappling with who I wanted to be and who I was and the decisions that I had made and the artist's way was introduced to me and I started working that program. And that was my first introduction to trying to connect with something deeper inside of myself. And the process of doing the morning pages really unlocks something in me.
I wasn't sure what that was yet, but I knew I had this instinct that I had a creative spark inside of me, that there was something there to be mined and to be paid attention to. But I was looking for how to kind of amplify that a little bit more or dig a little a little bit more deeply into what that might be. When I was introduced to the War of Art, and it was through my friend Sacha Gervasi, who's a screenwriter who's been on this podcast a couple of times.
Have you ever met Sasha? No, no. He's the biggest evangelist of your work. Now, what you ask as an entertainment lawyer.
I was a lawyer at the time. Yeah. And I was Sasha is one of my one of my better friends. And he was a big proponent of morning pages in the artist's way. And he's like, you got to read this book. He always had it in his hands. He always had it like next to his journal. And he was talking about it constantly and he gave it to me. And Sasha, this was around the time where Sasha was having his first real big success as a screenwriter.
He had written the screenplay for The Terminal, which Steven Spielberg directed with Tom Hanks. So it must have been maybe what it was around 2000. 2002 is when the work of art. Yeah, right. Maybe a little bit later than that. I can't remember exactly. He lent me his copy and it just it just it blew my mind. It blew my mind. And the idea that. You could put a face and place a shape on this idea of resistance and start to think about strategies and tactics for tackling, it was revelatory for me and it really just unlocked something inside of me that led me on this path and empowered me to write, finding all trying to start this podcast and to do all the things that I do today.
So thank you. All right. You're welcome.
It's got to be you know, I'm obviously I'm not the only one who's said something like that to you. This this this work has been profoundly impactful on so many people, which places you squarely in the seat of, you know, the kind of guru role. And so I'm interested in how that lands for you as somebody who's, you know, a practitioner, a writer. And, you know, that's that's your thing, right?
Yes. That's that's a really interesting question, which is like I wrote The War of Art and like, too much, you know, it just kind of came out of me like that. And it really is something that I sort of had done verbally, maybe 20 or 30 times with friends. Friends would come to me and say, I know I've got a book in me. Can you talk to me and help me out of that? And I'd sit up with him till 2:00 in the morning, kind of telling them, you know, there's this force out there, this negative force called resistance.
And the first thing you're going to have to do is overcome it before you can do anything else. So I would try to psych people up, you know, to do their thing. And of course, nobody ever did it right. But so I thought, let me just write this book. And then when someone comes to me like that, I'll just say, here, read this, you know, and I never at the time it took a while for it to kind of catch on.
And then, you know, people started writing to me and kind of asking and putting me in the role of a mentor or something like that, which I really am not comfortable with. And don't you know, and from time to time, people have said, you know, you could take this on the road, you could do you know, this could be your whole life. You could do this.
And I said, absolutely, I do not want to. I'm a writer. I'm writing fiction. This is what I want to do and what I've been trying to do my whole life. And so that I always feel uncomfortable with that. To me, the best way of communicating what's in that book is through a book, you know, and when I when I talk about it. I've never quite comfortable doing that. Yeah, I mean, I'm happy to do it with you, if you will, for your.
Yeah. And we're and we're definitely going to do that and to do that today. But I think what what you're keying into there is the fact that a core thesis of the book is this idea of self empowerment. Like you have to be a guru, you have to take agency and control over this path that you're blazing for yourself. And it's not about a guru or a teacher or when you become the locus of all that energy that's really antagonistic to the ideas that are set forth in the book itself.
And I'm sure you've got this too rich, like when somebody puts you in the role of a guru or a mentor or somebody that looking for advice. And I've done this myself on the other side, they're giving away their power, you know, and when I've done it from the other side, I can feel I'm giving away my power. Why am I asking this guy or this gal what what to do? You know, what do they know about me?
One of the things that I people sometimes write me long emails, you know, talking about their addiction or whatever it is, whatever their issues are. Right. And what I what I've finally kind of come to to say to people is sit down and get into a kind of a calm place and then read that note over yourself as if somebody else had written it to you. Because almost always within these kind of, you know, expressions of self-loathing or agony, the is right there.
It's just leaping right out of the page. You know, that some project that they want to do, some book they want to write or whatever it is. And of course, that's been my story, too, you know, and and, you know, the reason I wrote about resistance was because it was such a force in my life and, you know, wiped me out for so many years. Right. Right.
So we're going to we're going to get into that. That's pretty good. But let's let's let's define resistance kind of broadly in the context of how you came to think of it.
I call it resistance with a capital R and like if we had a typewriter or a keyboard in front of me now or you've got one there with a blank screen or a blank page in it, you would feel we would feel a force radiating off that page, a negative force trying to push you away from it. Right. And it would take that's what I call resistance. It would be the same thing as if we went out and bought an exercise bike or a treadmill and we brought it home to the house.
We're going to and suddenly we realize we're coming up with every excuse in the world not to get on that treadmill. So resistance is this negative force of self sabotage that will work against us any time we try to move from a lower level to a higher level, ethically, morally, creatively. If you have an idea for a book, if you have an idea for a podcast, if you have an idea for the studio or something that you want to do.
And I want to ask you about this, Rich, a voice will come into your head immediately that will say, who are you to do put this thing together? This has been done a million times and it's been done better than you ever could do or ever would do. You're too old, you're too young, you're too fat, you're too skinny, you don't have enough education of too much education, et cetera, et cetera. And that negative force is universal.
I can tell you from the thousands of emails I've got and not only is it universal, but it's the same voice in every in all of our heads. You know, it may be tailored a little bit to you or to me, but it's it's the same voice. And I was never aware of that. When I first started to write as a twenty four year old resistance just kicked my ass all over the place. And I, I, you know, I went through a lot of stuff before I finally kind of said to myself, you know what, there's a force out there that's working against me.
You know, it's not just it's not just something I'm inventing. There is a real force out there, just like gravity, just like, you know, the transit of Venus across the sky. And once I could sort of give a name to it, then then I could say, OK, now I have something I can deal with. How can I overcome this? Can I develop habits that will help me overcome it? Can I organize my day in such a way?
Can I change my mindset in such a way? And so anyway, that's kind of my definition of resistance.
Well, the first step seems to be disassociating your identity from the resistance itself, because I think what we all kind of do is self identify with that. That is part of a great way, but I've never heard that before. That's exactly it.
Well, you have talked about, you know, this idea that exists outside of yourself, right? If you're just thinking, well, I can't do it. This is me telling myself this, as opposed to this external force that we can define as this pernicious entity, we're. At odds with our effort to climb to that elevated place, but what was it that was like the light switch for you that allowed you to kind of come to that realization?
Was it just pain?
You know, it was pain, I guess. But, you know, I can't actually remember. There was not like a moment right when I said that earlier, if there was to myself, oh, this is resistance. It just, you know, just over time, I guess. I mean, there was a moment that sort of where things turned around in that way for me, but I don't think I identified a voice as a resistance. But what you just said, which is exactly right, the of disassociating this concept of resistance as fact of resistance from your own identity, like when we hear this voice in our head that says you're not good enough, it's all been done, et cetera, et cetera.
What makes that so powerful against us is we think it's our own thoughts. We think, oh, that's me assessing the situation objectively, but it's not. It's this other siren voice, this this force that's just out there. That's a fact of nature. And once we can say, oh, that's not me. That kind of is the key to the whole thing, right? It's so interesting. You know, I think the other thing that happens, I should just share my own personal experience because I don't know what other people's experiences are.
But there's this sense that this is not something that other people have to deal with. There are there are the talented people out there, those that are touched or those for whom, you know, the muse seems to come easy, that are able to sidestep this issue of dealing with resistance.
And when you read the book and you realize, oh, this is a universality, this is a universal thing, this is something that everybody experiences, whether you're a writer, an entrepreneur, an athlete, and also that it never goes away, which is sort of disheartening, but also comforting in the sense that, you know, I'm not alone. Like, I tend to look at the world and think everybody, you know, is figuring things out in a way that I'm not able to, which leads to that voice of self defeatism and that cycle, then feeling bad about myself for feeling self defeated and, you know, the vicious cycle that ensues, that just takes you down the shame spiral where paralysis becomes impossible to overcome.
In fact, let me ask you this. You were saying before that when you read the War of Art, it had a you know, it made an impact on you. What was what was your what form did resistance take for you at that particular time? And what did you.
Well, I mean, when I was writing finding I mean, I'd never written a book before. So the idea that I could even write a book seemed daunting, to say the least.
What is it that that I could possibly share that hasn't been said before? I'm not an Olympic champion. I've never won a race. It's not like I'm the most amazing athlete in the world. And my story of addiction and recovery is pretty pedestrian. Like, you know, I would like to think, what?
Why, you know, why am I doing this? Who could possibly be interested in this?
And the more that read the book is fascinating and totally riveted me. Well, I appreciate the seminal book and I tried the book.
I don't you know, I don't know if you noticed, but I did. I dropped in Little War of art.
You know, reference is not explicitly, but this idea of, you know, when your heart is true, the universe will conspire to support you or the prize doesn't go to the fastest. It goes to the guy who slows down the leaves, like the fairy dust that gets sprinkled on top of the discipline and the patience and the persistence and all the things that you speak about that are required to achieve something excellence.
But it was really by dint of of relying on the principles in the book that allowed me to disassociate from those negative voices and just continue to plow through. But I will say this, and I've said this before, so I wrote Finding Alterra in 2012. I've done cookbooks and I have Voice of Change and all of that. And those are technically those are books, but they're not book books, right? Yes. Yes. And and and I would say that the resistance has never been stronger for me in terms of writing what would what would be considered a follow up to finding Alzira or another book book.
And in many ways.
This entire podcast venture is like the most colossal form of resistance that I've self erected to create an excuse for not having to write.
So I've driven into this thing and it's become very successful and gratifying. And I love it and it's amazing, but it's fairly all consuming. And now it makes it easier for me to tell myself, well, I don't have time to write another book or do I even really need to reach more people on this microphone every week than a book that's going to take me a year and a half to write.
So why do it so that resist, of course, that this is another thing that never goes away, basically fills whatever vacancy that you have in your life and adapts to whatever environment you're in to prevent you from accessing that next level of higher costs.
So you didn't have any resistance to the podcast to do the podcast. Right.
Because because that was like because that's like a procrastination. All right. You know, in certain respects. Yes, I know what you mean. Yeah. So I should be writing about to write about. Right. Yeah. Yeah.
But yeah. So the resistance takes many forms and to this point of, of the tactile and the mystical, another thing that I really love about it is that what you write about is so rooted in in in very practical takeaways like, look, you've got to create ritual, you've got to create habits, you've got to be your own self disciplinarian. You have to have these rules. And here's how you set up your calendar and erect healthy boundaries to protect that thing that's most precious to you.
But when you do those things, you provide the space for the muse to enter and for you to connect with the collective unconscious so that you are are not necessarily writing or whatever it is you're creating, but really acting as a channel for the best version of who you are to reveal itself to you.
Well, let's talk a little bit about that balance between the practical and the mystic.
Well, that's absolutely true. And this must be an ultra fitness events, too. I mean, when you write about this, that it's when you get to that point of, you know, the third day of running around OAI or whatever it is, you know, your third Ironman in Hawaii, that you start getting really deeply into yourself, that you're in a whole other level. But the way that you get there is through the mundane, through the training, through one foot in front of another, and all of the the discipline and the ritual that goes into that.
But it is the creative process to me is just my experience is that. It's it's a two sided thing, on the one hand, there is the the practical the blue collar aspect of the thing, and you have to show up every morning. You have to, you know, have have habits that reinforce what you're doing. You have to work every day just like a blue collar guy with a whistle on the factory, you know, and but at the same time, once you sort of get rolling in and it's really like yoga, right.
Where where the whole concept of yoga is that you use the body to get to the spirit. Right. To as you get deeper and deeper and deeper into a particular pose, things start to happen inside you. And the same thing certainly in writing and songwriting and things like that, that once the the mundane has been taken care of, you know, the floor has been swept, the table's been cleaned, and you're actually sitting down there an hour, one hour or two or three.
And you know this Reginette, pretty soon, you know, things start to happen. Ideas start coming to you. There is a muse, there is a higher level. And your intention and your integrity and your work, your labor, your sweat to go for that higher level gets rewarded and the higher level does come down to you. And, you know, it's a commonplace to say that the best pages I've ever written, I don't remember writing them at all, you know, and that's not completely true because you are you know, you are kind of there.
You're doing your thing. It isn't just a magical thing, but you get there through through the depth of of commitment and of of aspiration and of intensity. And another thing, you know, while I'm blathering on here about this stuff that I keep going at. One of the things that I hate about this era today, the Internet era, the social media era is it's so surface, it's so superficial, it rewards absolute superficiality. Right? We go from one click bait thing to another.
We never delve into anything. And if there is a secret to creativity or to ultra fitness or anything like that, it's it's depth. It's the opposite. It's kind of, you know, after hour one is different than after ten minutes and after hour two is different than after hour one and and so on. If you're as a writer, as you start getting into a scene or something that you're working on, you know, as you get level, level, level down, things start coming that you just it's and it's not even mystical.
It's just sort of like, well, gee, that guy that I had standing in the corner, that guy should come out here and say something, you know, and and then, oh, my God, that really makes it happen. Where you wouldn't have thought of that the first 10 minutes into the right into the operation.
Yeah. You got you got to blast out all the cobwebs and create that open space that allows for that to come in. And as a writer, that's what you live for. So the structure, the rigor that you put in and the discipline is solely to create that open space for those glimpses. Yeah. To enter. Right. That's true. Like, you know, when I first read the War of Art, we the culture was very different.
Now, the level to which we're enticed by distraction is a thousandfold what it was a decade ago, let alone two decades ago, which I think in some regard makes your work more urgent.
Right. If we can. Identify an optimistic vein in all of this, it's that we're becoming more aware of how distracted we are at the same time that we've become more powerless to defend against it.
Yeah, but we're having conversations about that and we're having conversations with our kids about that because we feel ourselves being pulled, you know, into our phones in a way that that, you know, we realize is alarming and it's become incumbent upon of all all of us to exert a little bit more a lot more self discipline around what's important to ourselves so that we can carve that out.
And for many. For most. And I found myself in this place, it's a losing battle. You're you're competing with, you know, computer engineers who studied psychology and know exactly what to dangle in front of you to keep you on that lower plane and prevent you from ascending to your potential. You know, I've always said, you know, if resistance is a real force and it is and it's out there, I always have said if you wanted to make a billion dollars, invent something that lets people yield to their resistance and the Internet and social media, that's it.
They invented it. That's, you know, everything that we want that the distraction that's put in front of us, the click bait that's put in front of us feeds into this existing force that's that's there already, that wants to distract us from our own, whatever our own calling is right inside here. And so I don't think there's any real way around it other than to sort of block it out somehow, you know, just turn it off, you know, go away from it somehow.
I don't think you can you can dally in that world and defeat it. It's too powerful. Right. But you've you know, you're on social media and you've got this website that's pretty robust and educational and it's got tons of content. And you did this video series on on, you know, the warrior ethos that's up there. So, you know, you're you're you're participating. But I suspect that you have pretty good rules around when you engage.
But I'm also a little bit like what you were saying about the podcast. You know, that's what that stuff is a little easier to do. And I actually need to crack the whip over myself. I've got a book that's waiting to go and that I'm tired of it, that I'm kind of avoiding at the moment, too. Yeah, I know another one that you're working on right now.
Yeah, another one I'm working on now. Yeah.
Well, I've heard you talk about this as well. Something that's unique to the culture at the moment that is new and different from our predecessors is this idea that everybody thinks has to now kind of think of themselves as a brand.
Like we're all like what? You know, what is my avatar? And I represent, you know, on the Internet and how am I communicating with other people?
And beneath that, I suppose, is is this idea of individualism.
Right, as opposed to collectivism? Yeah, yeah. The great generation, they weren't thinking about themselves as brands or what their identity was. They got on a career track and they held that job for, you know, their entire professional career. Whereas now we're switching between careers all the time. And it's really about like what's in my best interest. And there's a lot of not so great things about that. But one thing I think and I've heard you speak about this, that that is interesting and somewhat optimistic is that it does sort of compel you to ask these questions about who you are.
Like you're having this dialogue with the internal voice.
Yeah. About what it is that you're here to do, what it is that you're here to express.
Yeah. The whole concept now of everybody having to be a brand. And what is my I don't know exactly where that goes. You go.
But as you say, you know, it's a little bit like the Maslow pyramid, you know, where at the bottom you're just dealing with your basic needs of food, shelter, whatever. And by the time you get to the tippy top, you're into self realization and the concept of who am I, why am I here, that kind of thing. And we're we're lucky enough now in this world of as bad as things are. At least, you know, we don't have to go out and kill what we need to eat, you know?
Right. A lot of us are at the top or near the top of that pyramid or have the time to do that. And we start asking these questions of which is what the war of Art's all about is really who am I? What is my gift? The actors question, you know, the Spanish, who am I? Why am I here? What do I want? You know, and in a way, what's the point of human life if we don't ask that question?
Who you know, what is what is your particular gift? What is mine? What are your kids gift? Whatever. But I'm not sure where it goes in this world of hyper, can everybody be a brand? Everybody, you know, have some, you know, be trying to buy other people's books or movies, I, I don't know. But, you know, I sort of I was just talking about this yesterday, the concept of to go to the ancient world a little in Pericles funeral oration back in ancient Athens, where he talks about the idea of a citizen and that he says that I declare of our citizens of Athens that they are the what was the word he said, the rightful lord and owner of their own person, of his own person.
And as opposed to being a surf or a slave or somebody that's in a mass movement or is is an occult or is, you know, being you know, somebody else is guiding them. And I think that it is incumbent upon all of us to get to that point where we are the rightful lord and owner of our own person. And at that point, the next question is, how do we do that in a community for the good of the whole planet and for future generations and not just our own brand and what we could sell, how many T-shirts we could sell, whatever, you know?
So it's it's it's certainly not good to be blind to that, to be unaware of that. But we are sort of at a point now we're at that tippy top of the pyramid, right. Where we were maybe more obsessed with that than than is healthy and.
Yeah, at what cost? No longer are we facing a death sentence for laying down our shield. We have lost that connection with the collective being. Right. It's all about like what I need and what I want. You know, we see this being played out with the war is over, you know, wearing masks and not wearing masks. And I, I fear for the cohesion of the of the, you know, the greater comedy when that's the only question being asked.
Yeah. I mean, maybe it's good in a sense that we're like you say, we're having to deal with it. We're becoming aware of it now where we weren't aware of it before. I mean, I do think in America. If you could ask the average bear, they do want to come together, you know, I think people do want this country to to be unified one way or another, or at least to think of each other not as the devil or the enemy, but we just are not sure how we're so polarized and tribalist at the moment.
Yeah, well, I mean, that brings up I was going to get to this later, but it seems like a good time to talk about it now. As somebody who is so well versed and steeped in in all of these ancient cultures, you know, the warrior cultures, somebody who has written lots of military novels, you know, how do you take all of that tremendous research that you've done over the years that has seeped into all of your books?
How does that impact how you think about where we're at right now, culturally and politically?
Well, that's a that's a tough one. We've certainly see a lot of people now who, it seems to me, have abandoned the idea of honor or integrity, and I'm not sure how that happened. But if we think back like my my dad was a World War Two, that was the greatest generation, you know, and there there definitely was a concept that a man acts in a certain way and a woman to right. That there's certain levels that you won't you won't allow yourself to sink to.
You just won't go those places. But somehow in this culture today, we're plumbing new new depths of these depths. You know, shame is a great thing that the the ancient Spartans were a shame based culture. And the Japanese, the samurai or shame based culture where there were certain things that you just would not do. You would not go you would you die before that would happen, right. If you were, you know, a samurai, you would kill yourself before you would do that.
And I don't know, maybe you have an answer to this, which I don't know what happened to the idea of shame and where people are now so shameless that nothing is beneath them. I mean, we have we had a president that was plumbing new depths of shamelessness every day. And it seemed to be like his superpower in some way. And I don't know.
What do you what do you think about that? Yeah. Has certainly I don't know that I have any great insight into that. But I think shame has been trumped by the drive for attention. And what drives attention is, you know, drama and strife and protests and all sorts of things. Right. That come at the cost of comporting yourself in a more virtuous manner.
Yeah, I guess if you're willing to put a sex tape on Instagram or wherever or they put it that maybe you'll start getting attention, not you, but you and me, but you know, certain people out there. So I guess that's that's a big part of it, that if you discard shame, you can get more attention by just acting in more of a, you know, a shameless way doing things that nobody ever did before. And people will look at that, oh, my God, look at how they did that.
Right. But when I see that, what I think is that person is blind to living and examined life. Right. Which is really at the core of what your work is.
I mean, you say you say there is a war afoot, that war is between you and you. And, you know, you're the you're the enemy, right.
Like this the only war that exists is the war between you and you.
And it's your job to, you know, to raise your sword and go to battle with yourself for the purpose of reaching that higher state of consciousness or elevating yourself and and connecting with the more authentic, true self within so that you can bring expression to what it is that makes you uniquely you and and share those gifts with the world.
So talk talk a little bit about that, that war with the self, the it's the war of art for me. That's why the title of the book and. I believe that we're all born with a destiny, we're all born with an identity like Wordsworth's poem, you know, not trailing clouds of glory, do we come from God who is we come into this life with an already established identity, whether or not I'm a believer in previous lives, but I don't want to we want to go down that rabbit hole today but didn't go down it.
I do think that we you know, if you have kids from day one, one is different from another. Right. They've got an identity and and it's their right. Even kittens and puppies are that way. Right. So we have this identity. But then that that is kind of crying out like an acorn, trying to become an OK. Right.
And we have this identity, but we don't know what it is. It's sort of a trick that life plays on us. Right. We come in and we don't know we don't know who we are. And adolescence is like the excruciating moment of trauma, of not knowing what what we are. Right.
And then again, there is this force of resistance that when we try to ask that question of ourselves, you know, who am I, what do I love, what am I, what is my gift? This force of resistance will try to stop us from examining it. I'll try to distract us. It'll try to push us off in a shadow careers or shadow activities or something. That's not in that in that in that way. And so this is the war that we're fighting is against that negative force to find out who we are and what our gift is.
I mean, I always say that, you know, I think I've written like 20 books now, which is kind of amazing to me since my first book came out when I was fifty five. Right. And it's absolutely true that before I wrote any one of those books, I had no clue that I was going to write that book, you know, not like it wasn't like I was sitting, oh, I've got this whole magazine of books like Bullets in a in a magazine waiting to go.
I had no idea at all. So but the the the point of that is that we find out who we are by the works that we produce and you know, and so but yet those those works as they come along are mysteries to us. We don't know where is it coming from. I never would have thought if you would look at the list at the front of a book of mine of this title, that title the other time never would have thought, oh, that's coming next.
Or that's I you know, it's a mystery to me. So again, that is sort of the war of going forward into the unknown and and kind of following the muse, following whatever other whatever goddess, whatever else, whatever is coming from another dimension, that song that's playing in your head when you're on the freeway that nobody else has heard. That's that's the war going and fighting that. And you're fighting it against your own self, against your own self sabotage that's trying to stop you.
So that is to me, that's kind of the right, the coming into who you were already. You already were that, but you just didn't know it. And through these actions, you you realize that you go, wow, I had no idea I was going to do a podcast. I had no idea I was going to be talking to five hundred eighty seven people in writing, finding Alterra and finding also part two. You know, I had no or whatever else is out there.
Right. But it's but but it's in the doing. Right. The waging of the war is is is action based. Right. Whereas I think a lot of people are maybe they're they're pursuing some self enquiry, but it's an intellectual exercise and they're they're sort of awaiting the epiphany. You know, they're sort of descending idea of who they are before they actually do anything. And by your description and the books that you've written, it's the process that reveals.
Right. You have to engage with that process and wrestle with it. And it is in that that, you know, you have these discoveries. Exactly.
And I think for me, I can tell you that I spent many years in that in that world inside my head wasting my time. It's like therapy. It's like going there, you know? I mean, you know, and but until until you actually start to once you start to act like I'm sure it's the same in ultra fitness or anything like that, once you actually start, then then you start to discover things. Right.
That unfolds in front of it does slowly. Not easily. Yeah. The idea being that what what paralyzes Manny is they want to see what that path looks like or at least, you know, be able to forecast pretty far down the line before they take the first step. And it just doesn't work that way. You have to take those steps not knowing and trust that that, you know, the brick will get laid. Right. You know, one step in front of you as you go.
And it is scary. I mean, it is the. Known that we're going through, going into and it's scary, there's no doubt about it, right? And part of that war is the battle between that instinct, that seed that I think does live within all of us that's telling us there's something that you're here to do. I don't know what it is, but it's kind of like this little faint voice in the back of your mind and then the increasing self-loathing or toxicity that creeps up, the more that you ignore that voice.
Yes, right. Until it becomes more painful to not do right.
Until until it's like until those things cross.
And you really have what I think is akin to, you know, somebody who's who's hit their bottom with drugs and alcohol.
I think it's exactly the pain of the status quo exceeds the fear of that unknown path ahead.
Yes, I think it's exactly that. You know that. And I do think that we have to kind of hit bottom in some sense before we start on any kind of upward upward course, you know, because where resistance is so diabolical and it puts us in denial of whatever it is like this, this particular book that I'm working on right now that I'm starting on now, I had the exact same thing that you were talking about, about finding Ultra to whatever it is or even finding Ultra where I say to myself, who's going to care about this thing?
Oh, this is the dumbest idea. You know, you've established a certain, you know, reputation. You're going to destroy that reputation. If you write this thing. It's so dumb. Nobody's going to possibly, you know, et cetera, et cetera. And I know that I sort of have to hit some kind of bottom or I say, look, I just can't stand this shit anymore. You know, I I can't stand hearing this yammering in my head.
I just got to do this damn thing.
Right. And it's funny. It's I'm laughing because you're the guy who has all the self awareness around this, and yet you're still here.
And it's true for everybody.
Everybody, right. Everybody does it, you know. We'll be right back. But first, we're brought to you today by what's up, you might ask Adam, can you answer this? Yes. Is that thing on your wrist that people think is a second watch? But it's not a watchdog group.
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All right. Should we get back into it? Let's do it. Well, let's go back. You've led such an interesting, colorful life, I mean, did you as a young person, did you always know that you wanted to be a writer?
I mean, you have this period of your life of essentially being like this Blue-Collar Journey man with all these different crazy jobs?
Yeah, no, I never as a young person, never. And sort of the gist of the start of that thing. I think you may have heard the story before, but I was I was working it as a copywriter at an ad agency in New York. And I had a boss named Hannibal who quit and wrote a novel and a novel was a hit, you know, overnight. He was like a success and and went off. And I thought to myself, well, shit, why do I do that?
You know, no problem now. So that was the first time that I thought of, oh, I could write. Right. Or that aspiration seemed possible, you know, seemed possible to or never did even cross my mind before.
And did you immediately go home and start writing or how did that begin to play out in your life? Pretty much.
You know, I sort of I did quit my job and I was I was married. I was living in New York City and I kind of set out to write this thing. And I had no business whatsoever. I had no clue what writing was, no idea what resistance was, no concept of of any of the things, you know. And I worked on it for about two years, got this close to the end and resistance with a capital R.
. I just blew up my life. I couldn't face that that last one yard to get across the goal line and just act it out right now in ways we don't need to talk about. But that sort of blew that whole thing up and that kind of set me out in this kind of odyssey of traveling around the country and working these, you know, these crazy jobs that I work. Right.
So you blow you blow up your marriage, you blow, you blow up the book in this colossal act of self sabotage and and really fear. Right. Was it fear? Absolutely. Terror or fear of success? Fear of failure like these? These are all I kind of close cousins of their subsets of resistant. There's resistance. Self sabotage is an aspect of that. But why do self sabotage become so prominent? And what is the fear that that you think drives that at least self?
It's it's like I said, it's the fear of going from a lower level to a higher level fear of success. In other words, if I had finished that book, no matter how bad it was, I would have gone to a higher level. I would have been a guy who at least wrote a book, you know, at age twenty four, whatever I was at that time. And of course I was completely unconscious of all this. No clue what was going on.
All I knew was I was in a state of terror and I had to kind of get out of it one way or another. If I had been an alcoholic, I would have just drunk and wound up in the ditch somewhere. Right, right. Right.
So you just you employed your whole life because that's safer than what might happen if you actually finish. Yeah. And I think that speaks to just how powerful the resistance is.
Right? Yes. And how and what an unconscious driver. Yes. Can be. So then you you go off, you know, across America holding all these. You worked in a mental institution. You were worked on a farm. You did all kinds of stuff. Right. And writing along the way. Or what was the relationship to writing during that period?
No, I mean, it was really a state of running away from it. And so I kept I had my I lived in my van. I had a 65 Chevy van that I went back and forth across the country 13 times in. And I always had my typewriter with me, but I never touched it. It was like under you know, I don't know what a shirt was wrapped in something or other, but I was just absolutely running running away from that.
But I didn't know it. You know, if you would ask me, I wouldn't have said I'd have come up with some some excuse, some bogus rationalization. But on some deep level, I knew I knew that, you know, I sort of said to myself, this was a terrible mistake I made trying to write in the first place. I never should have done it was really stupid. But on some other level, I knew this is what I got to come back to this.
Somehow I've got this. I got to slay this dragon somehow or it's going to kill me. Right?
Well, otherwise, you would have just gone back and worked at the ad agency, right? Yeah. Why or why did you just, you know, light off onto the terrain, you know, in this sort of Mark Twain kind of way?
Well, we're getting into some deep rich. But I what happened was maybe you can relate to this from your own experiences. I remember I I had an interview. I did try to go back to an ad age. I had an interview with a guy that I had worked with before who would become a boss, blah, blah, blah.
And when I went into that interview. I must have stunk with such loser, dumb or whatever it was that I was like toxic, and I could see in people's eyes that they saw this on me and it was like, get this guy out of here, you know, whatever it is. And I had a couple of more things like that didn't take me. Many did to do that. And I just realized somehow I had fallen out of the bottom of the middle class.
You know how if you've been to college and you can speak with polysyllabic words, you will go into a room and people, oh, this is what one of us, etc. for whatever reason, I had kind of fallen through the bottom of it. And the reason that I worked a bunch of blue collar jobs is not like it was any plan of mine. It was like those were the only jobs I could get, you know. Interesting. So so, yeah, I just.
Kind of fell through the floor on the floor right up, and I went through the trapdoor, through the bottom and and so you're kind of going from gig to gig, got the typewriter, refused to get rid of it, even though you're not using it. So. So walk me up to the point where the pain of this reality that you were experiencing just became too much and you kind of have this tipping point.
Actually, I write about this in the book of art. But let me I'll tell you one other little story before we get to that. After I don't know how many years it was. You know, it was only maybe three or four years. It wasn't like an endless amount of time of going around the country. I finally I just kind of gave up on that whole life. I just part of my job going on did not go. One of the concepts I had in my mind came from Jack Kerouac's book On the Road and from the whole this was kind of the 60s and early 70s.
And I felt like if I could get myself to this mystical place, you know, I could be someone that could walk in anywhere to any situation. I could relate to it. I could find work. I could make friends that I had if I could just get to that place instead of being so stuck in my own head and so afraid and all that sort of stuff. And that was kind of my ideal. And at some point I was actually in San Francisco and and I got to I was down to getting a job as a driving instructor.
And for me that was like the lowest because, you know, I had driven trucks. I had done, you know, somehow driving was my thing for whatever it was. And I just gave up. I said, I can't do this. I'm not Jack Kerouac. I can't live this life on the road. I'm just I give up. I'm going home. I'm going back to New York. I'm going to take the shittiest job I can find.
And I'm going to try a little by little kind of work my way back into the middle class however I could. And I was I was driving across the country and back to New York, taking the southern route. And I met this couple, a cowboy and his wife, who had just gotten married, and they had all their possessions in a paper bag between them. And the short version of the story was we kind of became friends over a couple of days and he said, I'm going to be a work on my uncle's ranch.
Why don't you come with me? And I said, I can't ride a horse. I don't want anything about that. I'll teach you no problem. And I thought to myself, I'm a cowboy. I've never been a cowboy. Maybe I should. And I just said to myself, I can't do this anymore. I can't I can't do this anymore. I've just got to go. I've got to go home. So so I did go home.
And to keep blathering along here, Rick, there's a there's a chapter in the war of art where I talk about this. I got back to New York. I got a job driving a cab, and I was in a job tending bar and I had a little sublet apartment. And one night I was just I was just sitting there and I went into that sort of what I imagined and an alcoholic goes into when they really need a drink. And I just thought.
I thought, who could I call? Three women I could call and I could kind of go over to their place, or is there somebody I could, you know, I've just and I said to myself, I just can't do this anymore. And I pulled out that typewriter and like I say, this is in the war of art. And I sat down for like two hours just typing some store. I don't know what it was. Whatever it was, I threw it away.
It was terrible. And I went in to wash. There were some dishes in the sink and I started washing the dishes. I realized that I was whistling. And I sort of had this sense that, like, I was OK and I thought, oh, I can sit down at the typewriter, I'm like a million miles from doing anything good. But finally, I can actually sit and try and like this great weight went off my shoulders at that point.
And I thought, you know, it may take me another 30 years, which it did to do anything decent, but at least I can do it now. And I don't know why I could when I couldn't before, maybe just because I'd tried everything else under the sun. Right, right, right. And I just knew I couldn't try that anymore. Right.
What was your self-awareness around that moment at the time?
Nothing more than what I just told you. I just felt like. I now can sit at a typewriter and try to work and and I'm going to be OK, I'm not going to fall off the end of the Earth, I'm not going to go insane. I'm going to be OK. Right.
To extend the the alcoholic analogy. I mean, there's so many similarities. It's sort of like the alcoholic trying everything before finally just giving up and raising their hand and saying, I need help. Right. I'm going to drink only after five o'clock. I'm going to drink beer. You know, you have to you have to do all of that and exhaust all of it before you're so depleted and ready for something new like that change. And in your situation, taking all of these different jobs, it would be one thing if you were a truck driver, a cowboy, whatever, if that was part of the plan of collecting amazing experiences to write about.
But that wasn't what you were doing.
These were just you were just absolutely running away from your life, especially now you must look back and think, oh, I've got all these rich experiences that I can tap into.
I do think those experiences were important, even though I haven't actually ever tapped into those specific ones. But if I look, you know, I'm a believer in the muse. I believe there's a God is up there. And if I think of the muse like watching over me at this time, right, she would say, oh, look at him, go to this blind alley, you're going to go down that blind alley. And then finally, when I come back and I sit down at the typewriter, I think she finally picks up and goes, ah, the son of a bitch is finally sitting down doing what I've been waiting for him to do for all this time, you know, and now from the goddess's point of view, she would say, OK, I'm going to give him something and I give him an idea.
You know, I have I've been holding back now. I'm going to I'm going to help him a little bit. Right.
I mean, there is a divinity in being that broken and definitely and something to be revered about hitting bottom. And it's something I think about a lot because I'm involved in the recovery community. It's like, do you step in and try to divert somebody from meeting that kind of predicament? Or is that exactly what they need? I mean, I know in my own case, I've had a couple of bottoms and they were transformational. And I look back on them with great gratitude.
There was so much pain that I don't want to ever experience that again. But they were the catalyst for the greatest growth experiences that I've that I've ever had.
So there is something to be said for standing back and being the observer as a letting somebody hit bottom.
Yeah, which is one of the things I really loved about finding Ultra that that really came through. You know, that was absolutely, you know, you know, that's for real. That's the real thing.
I, I still wish it hadn't happened, but but yeah. I mean you can't shortcut somebodies growth trajectory and that applies to the pursuit, you know, of art and creativity as well. Right. Like something I really appreciate about what you talk about and write about is the fact that there is no hack here. Right. Like we're in this culture where everybody's looking for the short. Yeah. And how can I eradicate all the pain and just get right to the good stuff.
And it just doesn't work that way.
And rather than fighting that, just embrace that, because that's part of the toil and the joy that contributes to what it is that you're trying to express.
It's hard. It's so hard to do, though, to keep doing that stuff. But I remember one moment I was working in the oil fields in Louisiana and I had this friend that, you know, we lived in the bunkhouse together and his brother, he had an older brother who had also gone through one of these Odyssey's. Right. And he was telling me that my friend was telling me one day that his brother had finally, like, gotten out of it.
He got married, everything was good. And I said, you know, how old is he now? And I forgot what the age was, but it was like eighteen years old. All right. Oh, shit. We got to go through this for another eighteen years. But, you know, I mean, as an entertainment lawyer and being in the movie business and knowing all that, you know, about the all is lost moment, which is the like in any story, you always got to sort of take that your character, the protagonist, you've got to get to the bottom when it hits bottom.
Right. And at that point, then they can then they can start to come up. And, you know, it's a it's a cliche of movies and of stories, but it's it's life. It's real life. Right. The hero's journey. Yeah. That archetype is so powerful. It obviously is, you know, front and center in everything that you do and think about.
But what is it like that why does that blueprint resonate so deeply in such a in an unconscious way, like we're we we understand it. We gravitate towards it. We know it works in terms of storytelling, whether you're writing a novel or a screenplay or a short story, but. It's interesting to try to ponder from whence does that come, like, is it just bred into our DNA? As you know, we evolved, you know, over the millennia.
That's what I think. I think it is I think over the millennia from going from hominids to, you know, cavemen and tribal things, that life just sort of works in a certain way. Right. And and I do think it's software that we're born with, you know, that that model, the hero's journey is encoded in whatever in our DNA like along with the archetypes and it exerts. A an irresistible impulse on us, I think, to live it out one form or another, I think we all have to have a hero's journey or many hero's journey.
You know, one after another. And I think a lot of maybe what is going wrong today in this country is people aren't living out there their hero's journey because they somehow they don't they don't have to. It's not life doesn't life is it's it's easy enough now people can get by that they don't have to do that. And also, obviously, the force of resistance is trying to stop them from doing that. But I, I would you know, there's a Walker Percy is a great kind of writing hero of mine, and he wrote a book.
I'm blanking on the name of it now. But in the book, it's not the moviegoer. He's he's a character, is a doctor. And he has a a a couple who come to him and they're they're they're a married couple and they're having struggles and they live like 14 miles away on the other side of a swamp. And he says tonight, when you leave here, go home through the swamp, you know, don't drive home, leave your car here, you know, and he sort of compels them onto a hero's journey, a little mini hero's journey through the swamp.
And, of course, they get home and have the greatest sex they ever had.
But, you know, but there's something to that, that it's it's easier for us these days to kind of go around the swamp.
And we don't even have a kind of an aspiration or an ethic to go through the swamp. You know, it's not like that's all you should do that that you should avoid that.
Right. Of course, all the all the kind of cultural machinations point us towards aspiring to a life of comfort, ease and luxury.
And, you know, to go back to the Maslow's hierarchy of needs, if your needs are essentially met, then it's just too simple to go to your job and to lease the car and get the takeout food and watch Netflix and never step outside of that and challenge yourself.
And I think to many people, you know, to echo, throw like end up leading these lives of quiet desperation because they're not consciously engaging with that thing that I do believe is inside all of us that's yearning to be expressed.
Let me ask you this, which isn't kind of ultra endurance sports. Isn't that sort of about that, where you kind of you don't have to do that.
You deliberately choose this adversity, this real extreme adversity, and you deliberately choose to put yourself through that. Isn't that kind of what it's about? It's kind of a guess.
We're not living Thielemans life, right? We we are in this situation where you have to craft that for yourself. Yeah, it's artificially Spartan races and yeah. Iron Mans and all of these things, because there is something deeply embedded inside of us that seeks out that challenge, that is not presenting itself in our life because our lives are too easy. And I just you know, I don't know that when I first got involved in ultra endurance, I had conscious self awareness around that, but something was driving me in that direction.
But. And I write about this and finding Altro, I mean, it was really a spiritual journey, not a physical environment, the physicality of it or it was a mental challenge, but it was really a spiritual challenge. And when I think of your work, like I think of I think of Bagger Vance and I think of the Bhagavad Gita and I think of Krishna and Arjuna and that relationship and Bagas relationship and in in the book. And you know how the Cadi is trying to get the master to connect with that deepest part of who he is.
And that comes about only through the the the crucible of challenge and the stripping away of all the artifice that stands in between you and who you really are. And in my context, it wasn't golf. It was ultra endurance, which is a you know, I didn't have a bagger, you know, telling me what to do. But the sheer process of undergoing such a difficult physical journey was my means of stripping away all of that so I could communicate with a different part of who I was.
And it worked and work was transformational. It was work. And like I said, I didn't I didn't I didn't consciously know that I was doing that at the time. In the same way that you weren't sure what you were doing when you finally sat down at the typewriter and banged out a few pages.
Yeah, I would say that the hero's journey embedded, encoded in your DNA demanded to be lived out. At least I'm sure you'd had many others before that. But in this particular case, you were sort of drawn to ultra endurance and maybe you didn't know why. Just like I've been drawn to things. I don't know why, but it's that I think it's that imperative that's inside us, that instinct. Why does a salmon swim upstream, you know, or why do birds migrate across whatever it is?
I think it was something like that. It was really the best part of you, the best part of your soul, I think, you know, calling to you and saving your life, you know, and leading you on this transformational journey that worked, that actually created change. It did work, but it was catalyzed by a bottom and a tremendous amount of pain. Right.
And short of short of somebody meeting their version of that for themselves, they're otherwise faced with this choice of living life out in this matrix, esq, you know, pre-programmed way or choosing to bring adversity in their lives. And that's difficult to do if you're not in pain. Yes. Yeah, right. Right.
So when somebody comes to you and says, you know, I know I'm not I'm not I'm just not quite as fulfilled as I'd like to be. But they haven't really sunk to any kind of, you know, traumatic depths. Making that leap is more difficult than the person who's really, you know, up against it.
Yeah, I think it's impossible, you know, like you kill us and it's like the choice is always there.
That choice is available. It is possible.
But for some reason, we're just not going to grab that until the pain reaches, you know, unendurable levels. Does it have to be that I don't know why the world would be better.
Everybody could, you know, you know, grab onto that rope a little bit sooner?
Yeah, I don't know. Yeah. This plays into the warrior ethos. So how do these two things like cohere for you, like the artist's life, the pursuit of of creativity, the grappling with the resistance, you know, the walking through the difficult things. How does that match up with how you think about the warrior, the warrior path and how that plays out in your novels? And you recently did this like series on your website and on YouTube of talking about this?
Well, when my second book was Gasifier, which is about the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae, not the book that the movie 300 came for a better version of that which is taught at Annapolis. It's taught at various point places like that. Right. Because it's an expression of the warrior ethos. But when that book, like I said to you before, which I had no idea that book was coming, no idea that I wanted to write it, it just sort of appeared, you know, and I was seized by it and had to do it.
And I found myself writing like the next four books were really sort of warrior books, you know, about Alexander the Great, about the Amazons, about, you know, various other things. And and it was a very of the warrior cultures. And it was a surprise to me. It's like I say to myself, well, why am I why am I writing about this? It's not like, you know you know, I'm not a Navy SEAL.
I why did I write about this? And I think that it's the inner war, the writers war, the artists war that we were talking about that. In a way. You to face the blank page, to write a book, to write a movie, to write whatever it is or ultra endurance, things like that, you have to be a warrior one way or another. You've got to take the warrior virtues, which I would name as courage, patience, camaraderie, love for one's brothers and sisters, selflessness and very important, the willing embracing of adversity.
And there are a lot of other virtues. But those virtues that a warrior, a Spartan warrior or Alexander the Great would use for enemies out there, the the artist or the endurance athlete uses those virtues to get against the enemies in here. Right. When you're on your fourth Ironman in a row and every fiber of your being is screaming out, stop, stop. You know, this is insane. You're having to call upon something. Right? And I think it's that sort of that that warrior mentality, the same thing that the you know, the Spartans called on when the day three at Thermopylae, whatever.
So I guess, again, I was sort of drawn to write these books and I didn't even know why. But I think I was kind of reinforcing for myself in a way, that kind of code, that code of honor, that sense of shame and that ability to kind of endure and to and to and to keep going forward into into the unknown.
Yeah. The idea of being regimented, of having a core code of ethics to which you organize your life is what's required to express yourself as an artist, which I think is anathema for somebody who's unfamiliar because they think all artists are just they're free thinking and they just they just create. And it's all very flowery. Yeah. Whereas you've imposed almost a military, you know, discipline and structure upon this process to demystify it so that you can allow for the mystical to enter.
And how that plays into what it means to be a warrior. It's like the Warriors obstacles are external, the artists obstacles are internal. But the warrior on the battlefield has to have mastery over that sense of self that that like interconnectedness in order to combat those external forces of resistance. Yes.
And the other thing is that I think in a military context, usually that discipline or that mastery is imposed from without. Right. You've got sergeants or lieutenants or whatever that are teaching you where that and you're in a structure that is shaming you and making you go forward right from outside externally. Whereas and I think this is one of the reasons why a lot of guys and gals who leave the military have a hard time is when you make the switch to being an artist or an entrepreneur or a fitness athlete, that now becomes self-discipline.
Right. Nobody gave you the orders, reinforcement, self validation, you know, and that's a big, hard change to make. You know, that's a whole other dimension of reality, right?
You're not accountable to the lieutenant or the general or whatever, but only to yourself.
The other thing, and I'm sure this is true in indoor sports, too, is there's an element of drudgery in this. Right. And being able to embrace the drudgery, you know, to train and you got to go out on the trail. You got another day. I got to get up, you know. Right. Right. Same thing in writing or any creative enterprise. There are times when it's just a slog, you know. Right.
But again, that's a kind of a warrior virtue, too, you know, where you learn to you know, the soldier learns to just keep shoveling, keep digging the ditch. No, it's no fun. There's no glamour.
But was that's what it is, gang. Yeah. Yeah. But that's that's how anything is created, right. Is it not. Yeah.
I mean, you have to show up day in and day out and most days aren't so great and every once in a while you get that spark and it's awesome and you live for that. But but really it's about it is about falling in love with the process.
It's not about the accolades or the destination or the, you know, the end point or the goal or crossing any finish line. It is truly just about the showing up.
Now, did you always feel that way, Rich, or was that something that you learnt when you were doing, you know, all of those Iron Mans and stuff? Were did you have that attitude or was that something that evolved through the.
No, I mean, I didn't I didn't get into it to, like, beat people or win races. I really I did have enough self-awareness around it to know that I was getting into it as a as a process of self discovery.
I'm competitive for you and myself, not with anyone else.
But I learn, you know, I love the suffering and the the.
The mental and physical challenge of the whole thing, and I learned that as a young person, as a swimmer, so I had that kind of language for myself before I got into ultra endurance and and understood deeply that it's about process and the slog.
Like, that's how I got to where I got as a swimmer. That's how I, you know, achieved academically.
Like anything good that I've ever done has been about that. So that wasn't a lesson that needed to be taught to me. I've always gotten that, and that's how I've approached the podcast and everything else that I've done. Like I'm good at grinding. Like if I have a talent, it's not athletic. It's just I'm willing to suffer and work harder than the next guy and put in the grind when no one's looking. And I think that's the secret sauce.
And I've said this many times before, but most people really wildly overestimate what they can do in a year or so and and overestimate what they could do in a year and wildly underestimate what they can do in a decade.
And as somebody who didn't publish their first book until they were in their 50s and now has 20 books, you're a living testament to that sentiment.
Yeah, I'm with you. I'm a writer. I feel like if that's a talent, if I have any talent, it's that. But I am willing to work at the at the grindstone and hammer. When I think of a younger version of you, I think I think of Ryan Holladay who actually introduced us. Thank you, Farai. Yes. For making the introduction. But that's a guy who shows up for the page every day is very clear that this is what he's here to do.
He's there to write books and he doesn't get caught up in all the stuff that swirls around it. Like as soon as the book's done, he's onto the next book and the guy's cranking out a book, a book a year. And I see the same discipline and approach to craft that you have.
Yeah, I'm amazed that Ryan does that at such a young age. You know, it's unbelievable, really. How did he how did he do that?
I don't know the level that it's discipline. You know, he has a structure and a system and he's transparent about he's like, I get these cards and I have these and this is how I do it. And then when it's done, I put it in this box and I think there's something magical and important.
And you talk about this in the work of art, about ritual and respect for ritual, like those little things that seemingly don't mean anything actually might be the most important things.
Definitely. I'm definitely a believer in that. Inhabits you know, I say that an amateur as I am at your habits and a pro has professional habits. That's all the difference in the world. Did you ever see that documentary History of the Eagles about the band The Eagles? Well, I'm going to tell you a little story from that. This is Glen Frye was telling this story that when he was like a young guy just starting out, he roomed with J.D. Salinger, who is another.
They were like together and they had an apartment right above Jackson Browne's apartment. This is before any of them had had any any success at all. And he could hear from his apartment above Jackson Browns. He would hear Jackson Browne going through the play in the piano, and he would play like he was working on a song. And he would play at one time, play it again, play it again. And he would stop occasionally to make tea.
And he like a whistling tip. Jackson Browne would. And this was a kind of a punctuation point for Glenn Frey listening to this, you know, oh, there he goes to make another pot of tea. And then he would go back and play that same thing again and just 20 times, 30 times. And what Glenn Frey said was that was I learned. That's how you write a song. You know, it doesn't just come out of the air, right, you know that he worked Jackson Browne worked it over and over until he had it exactly the way he wanted.
And that it was it was it was a grind. Yeah, it was, you know, the daily one step in front of another. And I just thought that was a great story. So he wasn't struck by lightning and this perfect song, just maybe he was struck by lightning when he first got the flash of what that that melody was. But then it took forever to get it down exactly where he wanted it.
Right. So let's talk a little bit more about that transition between amateur or dilatant and turning pro.
Right, which is the great follow up to the to the to the war of art like this. This difference in it's really a mindset shift, right? Like, am I doing this as a side thing or is this who I am? And if so, what is my relationship to the work I want to create? I mean, for me. Having defined resistance as this negative force, then the next question becomes, well, how do you get around it?
You know, how do you how do you overcome it? And for me, it was the idea of turning pro, by which I mean that not that you only will work for money from now on, because usually if you're an artist or a writer or whatever, nobody's giving you any money anyway. Right. But it's the concept of thinking. If I'm an amateur and I run into adversity, I'm going to fold, right, because I'm not really in and I'm just doing it for fun.
Right. Or if I don't if I'm not in the mood, I'm not going to work today or if I've got problems, you know, with the family or whatever money I'm not I'm going to blow off today's work or today's workout or whatever. But a professional, if you think about Kobe Bryant, you think about Tom Brady, you think about Michael Jordan. I mean, there a professional shows up every day, does his work every day, doesn't plays hurt, doesn't let anything stop him.
And not that a profession doesn't take a day off every now and then. But a professional loves it so much that they are willing to commit wholeheartedly to it and to give themselves, oh, totally over to whatever their aspiration is.
Yeah. And it's the relationship to those obstacles that's different. Right? The obstacle is the way or the obstacle becomes the way as opposed to the impediment that's going to get. Yeah. To away. And that's the big difference. And again, it's what you were talking about process. It's a it's a it's a practice. It's a today, tomorrow. The next day. The next day. What we can do in a year, what we can do in ten years.
It's not just getting to some particular imagined goal, oh, I'm going to win the Oscar. My life is going to change. You know, you're it's a it's a lifetime commitment, things that we're talking about.
And and I think what you did brilliantly is also give the reverence to these creative pursuits that that they deserve in terms of what's required to do them. Well, right. We all understand that, you know, if you're Tom Brady or you're Michael Jordan, like you're showing up no matter what you're putting in crazy amounts of work, like your level of dedication is insane. But for some reason, we don't think about writing or stand up comedy or even entrepreneur like all these other endeavors don't demand.
That same level of respect, we all think, well, I can you saw it, your boss wrote a book, you well, how hard can it be to write a book or you see a guy get up on stage and tell a joke. You think it's easy. And so we don't have the respect for the craft that we would for, you know, what a great athlete does.
Yeah, I mean, everybody thinks they can write. Everybody thinks they could tell a joke, you know, everybody, but nobody thinks that they could be a brain surgeon or they could be a concert pianist. You know, they get that, but they don't get the other thing. But and of course, I was that way at the start to like I say, I thought, how hard could it be?
It's hard when you have to live it out so that you could write the book and tell all of us so we could save a little bit of time.
Right. How does how does the resistance show up for you now? Well, you showed that one example, but with your level of self-awareness, you must be able to see it coming a mile away compared to most people.
And yet still it's still so diabolical. Resistance is so diabolical and so nuanced that. You know, like I was saying before this one book that I'm working on, I'm hearing that voice in my head, that's what you're writing is really dumb. Nobody is going to care about it.
I don't know. But I do have a rule that I have learned and that I believe and that is that the stronger the resistance that you feel, the more important it is that you do that, you do that, whatever it is, you talk about that more, because that's that's really powerful.
Another mantra that I say is that resistance comes second.
Now, if this is if we imagine that we were taking if this is our dream, our novel or our startup or whatever it is, and we set it out in the sunshine on a on a on a field or flat thing like this, immediately a shadow is going to fall from this thing. This is the dream and resistance is the shadow. So the the shadow is exactly proportionate to the dream, so that if it's a big dream, it's going to be a big shadow.
So in other words, the more if you're feeling and I say this to myself as I'm talking about this thing, the more resistance I feel to something, the more certain I can be that there's a big dream there and that that I've got to do it if it's a little dream, you know, to have any resistance at all, you know. So in other words, when you're feeling that horrible resistance, it's a good sign, right? It shows there's something there, but it makes it all the harder.
Right. The bigger the bigger the dream, the more the fear around it.
Yeah, that's true. That's true. But that's life. And the larger the resistance, the more difficult it is to tackle and then the more toxicity you experience by ignoring it, like everything gets ratcheted up.
Yes. It's like the universe is knocking on your door saying you got to wake up and pay attention to this.
Yes, but what again, what is what is the dream? The dream is some sort of unfolding of who you are, if it's if it's a company that you want to start, if it's a non-profit, it's a, you know, podcast. If it's an ultra endurance thing, that's. Your soul unfolding yourself, unfolding and revealing in a good way, revealing like a flower blooming, revealing what's what's there, and that's what we're here to do.
I think so. Whatever the pain is, you know that that's life to get to there, right?
Well, how do you how do you communicate that to somebody who who you know, to go back to the example of somebody who's not in a tremendous amount of pain to tell that person you're here to express who you uniquely are?
He's like, you know, I'm banking a good paycheck. You know, I get to at least a nice car.
Like, what do you really don't like to answer that question? And it bothers me when people ask me that question and there is no answer to it. You know, it's it's when when they hit bottom, you know, when they're when they're really ready, then they'll do it and they won't do it before that.
Right. So another reason to get out of the way and allow them their own.
Yeah, exactly. I think it's one of the most thankless things in the world to try to help someone in a state like that. Because like when they're ready. When I'm ready. When you're ready to.
Well, the the mentor will present himself or herself. Yeah.
So walk me through a day in your life in terms of how you you structure things so that it's conducive to to your art.
Well, let me let me take you back pre covid because it's a little it's a little different that now I'm slacking off a little more than I should. Oh wow. I would have thought I would have been the opposite. No, no. But covid and when we get back to us, I'm like a gym person. I would get up really, really early going to Golds and Venice and, you know, and and workout hard. Not as hard as you, but hard for me.
Harder these. And then I'd go to breakfast every morning, you know, with a bunch of guys my age, a bunch of geezers that I hang out with. And then I'd go home now maybe eight, 30, something like that, take care of whatever correspondance there is, you know, whatever emails as little as possible. And then I'll and I'll sit down and really do the work, whatever it is, and turn everything off and. You know, lock the door and I used to be able to work for four hours now, I can maybe work for three and then I'll when I'm done with that, I'll clean up whatever needs to be done.
And then I'm from the school of the office is closed. After that, you know, I turn off my brain. I don't dwell on it. I don't think I leave it up to the muse and, you know, just do whatever, you know, we can in the evening, go to dinner or something like that, and and start again the next day. You start thinking of it over over a year at a time. You still use the paper calendar.
Oh yeah, I do that.
And you mark down your credit cards for how many hours you wrote that day, which is important, I think, you know, to to record what you what you did that day, you know, not in great detail or anything, but just it's a little bit like journaling only I just do it really simple. I just say, you know, I worked on this. I work this many hours enough. I did it somehow that nails it down.
I kind of say and I do that with workouts, too, I'll kind of say, well, what did I do today? I mean, you probably do that to write when you're you write it down because it sinks in.
Yeah. It also if you're working towards a goal like so so the equivalent would be there's a race on the calendar or is when you have to turn the manuscript on. Right. And you kind of backpedal from there and fill in the calendar going backwards, knowing what you need to do. But like there's something about the tactile experience of writing it down as opposed to just knowing it or having it in a digital calendar that not only makes it more real, but also it enhances your emotional attachment and engagement to the whole process.
I think I mean, I for me, it's self reinforcement. You know, I don't have any boss or sergeant at the end of the day that says to me, good job, Steve, you did that, you know, so I got to do that myself, right in the same way. And for me, when I write it down that I did this work out or I did this, that's kind of if I can look at a calendar, I got a month there and I can see check my check.
I can see like thirty check marks. I go, that's pretty good. You know, when if I have big gaps I go, oh man, I'm yeah. I better, you know, crank it up a little bit here. But I think we need all the reinforcement we can get. Yeah.
How much of that regimented mentality I mean you were in the Marines, right. Does it, does it come from military experience?
Not really, no. I think it just comes from from doing the work in the real world.
Right. And you just figured out your own way for it. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I've got it in my closet. I've got calenders going back to like nineteen. You keep wherever. Yeah, I keep them. Yeah.
Well, let's talk about the new book. A Man at Arms is coming out in March. This is quite the adventure. It's your it's your return to the ancient world after. Yeah. After a spell. And this great character that shows up in many of your books, Delamont, who's this, you know, archetypal silent warrior figure. And I'm about I'm about a hundred pages into it. I'm really enjoying it.
And what's amazing to me, reading this is just the level of detail. Like I really feel like I am in, you know, first century Judaea and you're your command over what that would feel like, what it would smell like. The experience of being in that place is unbelievable. Like the amount of research I can't imagine that you would have had to put into being able to fully grok, like what that world was like at that time.
Well, of course, a lot of it is fiction. You know, a lot of it, you know, you're trying to just kind of create a world like if you were creating the world of Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones. Right. You're creating a world. But I spent a bunch of time in Israel researching another book. And so that kind of gave me and in Jerusalem. So that kind of gave me a feel for what it's actually like there, what it feels like and towards Sinai, the Sinai desert, where the story takes place.
And but, you know, actually, I'm reading right now, I'm reading The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway's book from it, just like the tenth time I've read. And he is an absolute master of detail and stuff like that. And like if he's talking about, you know, they're going fishing and he talks about how they walk over this hill and there was a church on the side and then the the water went over the styles and the dam like that.
And we had the fish and we got the ferns. We lay the ferns down and the layers of fish on top of them. And then we dug up the water. And as you're reading it, you know, layer and layer, a layer of detail, you really get immersed in it. And particularly when our visual details so that you say, wow, I feel like, you know, I'm there, I'm fishing with the guy. I know exactly what it feels like.
Yeah. So I definitely very much try to do that. It's like it's like a movie. Right. If if Ridley Scott is. Is blocking out a scene? I mean, there's nothing in that scene that's an accident, right? Every prop, every ray of light, everything is, you know, the smoke, whatever it is, is is there to immerse you, the reader, and create or the viewer and create the illusion that you're, you know, you're actually there.
And so when you are in Israel, did you sort of drive south and track this route a little bit to get a sense of the idea because you couldn't cross into Egypt? But I did as far as you could go in Israel. Yeah, but I actually I wasn't thinking about this. This book came like four years after the other one. But, you know, everything is grist for the mill. And what I learned in Israel, sort of, you know.
It's all in in the summer, right? Yeah, right, and I love the kind of structural set up of the mute little girl and the warrior, and you just you know that this relationship is going to flower. You wrote a blog post about this. It's all about like, how do you get to I love you. And you could see that coming and how it feels to me. I mean, it's very cinematic. It's sort of like it's like Gladiator meets the road or something like that, you know, as they say, good.
I like traipse across this landscape, you know, on this crazy adventure that has a lot to do with, you know, the early years of Christianity in the Roman Empire.
And it's beautifully rendered.
I mean, one of the you were talking about get to I love you. Let me just talk about that just because it's sort of a I mean, your entertainment background. I'm sure you've heard this or thought about this, but a lot of stories. A lot of movies. Are basically about get to I love you, by which I mean the final moment that we're building to. Let me go back a minute, you start with two characters that are as far apart as you can possibly make them, right?
They hate each other or for whatever reason, they're there opposite. It's a cop. It's a criminal. It's a if it's a love story, it's the guy and the gal, whatever it is. And the whole point of the story is to get them to the point where they can, if not literally say, I love you, they can there's a gesture or something like that at the end.
And we when we're watching this or reading it, like you say, you could see it coming. You know, that's sort of what kind of pulls us, pulls us through the story, because we know we know it's going to it's going to happen and you know it.
And yet you can't look away. It's like this tractor. You want it, you know? And again, our life is like that, right? It's it's, you know, where we meet somebody and we're trying to whether we want to or not, come to some understanding, come to some bond. And that's kind of what what keeps it going. And I think that if you look at it at the deepest, deepest level, if you want to look at it, a level of faith or spirituality, you know, it's it's God.
It's getting to the belief in a in a loving divinity, or if you want to stay at a lower level of just human to human, that's getting to the point where love is greater than fear or greater than anger. And if we want to be in politics today, we're in the United States as far away from that as we could possibly be. And I think we all want that in, but we don't know how to get there.
Well, does it not change into politics?
Yeah, well well, it begins with a willingness to try to grapple with, you know, that that Dormont higher self within. Right. And one of the one of the ways that you've kind of got gotten at that subject is, is by analogizing it to golf like this, the authentic swing, like no matter who you are, like everybody has their own swing. You can never master anybody else's swing. If you try to change your swing, you can't do it.
Everybody has their their default swing. Right. And that is that's sort of a metaphor for our unique blueprint that we all come into the Earth with and are on this path to expressing that. Yeah. Our authentic self. Right. And in this story, A Man at Arms, the book that you have in front of you there, it's really the the hero Telemann, who is like this one man killing machine of the world, like the Clint Eastwood man with no name.
You can tell at the start of the story he's this ultra hardcore kind of solitary warrior that he's looking for. It's not he isn't complete. His philosophy is too dark. It's too selfish. It's too ego driven. And so the point of kind of get to I love you through that story is I won't spoil anything for you or but that's kind of what the evolution that you can feel is inside him. He's trying to get to his authentic self, whatever it is.
And he's not there yet. Right. And, yeah, he's got all these laws are about that.
He's got all these layers, protective layers around him. He's a man without a country. He's he's there for the dollar and he's a survivor. Right. He's able to make his way in the world in accordance with his warrior code. But he's an outcast. And so there's something missing. Right. And this girl, you know, is going to complete that for him, which is really sort of a classic character.
It's like a classic Raymond Chandler private eye is sort of that because like it is a Western. It is a Western. It absolutely is a Western. Or the Clint Eastwood character in a Western or a John Wick character and a contemporary thing is, you know, it's a similar sort of thing. It's like in movies, you know, you'll you know, we've seen this character, we've seen that story. But it's always fresh and it's always new. Well, you're a big you're a big proponent of stealing what works and using those as templates.
Yes. I need structure for your work with the bog of al-Qaeda and Bagger Vance. Was there something that you relied upon for a man at arms? Definitely. I mean, I'm definitely not going to say well, I'll say a little, at least a little.
I certainly thought of it absolutely as a Western, even though it said in the first century A.D. And the reason that I wanted it to be kind of a journey across the Sinai desert was I thought, that's kind of like the road warrior, the postapocalyptic or a Clint Eastwood or a John Wayne movie, where there there's always the wide open to the cruel, lawless wasteland, right where where a foot upon marauders and all kinds of crazy obstacles, which is, again, sort of like the hero's journey that you or I go through.
Right. Or it all even comes back to to being a writer or being, you know, an endurance athlete. It's a it's a kind of a wasteland that the. A visual sort of enters for his own reason and undergoes ordeals towards some form of transformation at the end, and that's so I definitely thought of this absolutely as a Western and and even watched Westerns, you know, like you do when you're writing movies, you know, you're trying. What can I steal from The Wild Bunch?
What can I steal from the searchers? So, yeah. So I definitely thought of it that way. And why.
Why do you keep going back to Telemann as this character recurs and in your work time and time again, like what is it about this guy that that you just feel so connected to that you have to keep writing about?
It's a great question and I don't know the answer to it because. In some way, this is the character of all the characters that I've written about that I feel the closest kinship to in some way. And I also never plan this character. You know, when he appeared and he's been in like three other books and he just sort of appeared on the page and he appeared in fully formed like he had a philosophy, you know, when he would start to talk.
And I wasn't even I wasn't in charge of that. He had a philosophy and I sort of thought to myself, I wonder what I wish I could talk to him. What's what does he think below that? Why did he think that? Why does he believe this? And so, I don't know. There must be something in me that relates. It's a metaphor. Somehow, I'm not sure what it is. Telemann appears not to go too deep into this, but he appears he can't seem to die.
He appears in one century and he comes back in another century. He hasn't aged and he's in a whole different place. So he's sort of like somebody that's stuck in in an in an archetype like the universal soldier that's condemned to come back and fight war after war after all. Right. And I mean, in a way that's like young fu. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. I hadn't even thought about that, but that's that's it. Or a lot of these Western heroes are sort of timeless archetypes.
Right. A Clint Eastwood character or something like that. They they it seems like they fought in war after war after war, and they're going to do it again. So somehow, again, I don't know the answer to this question, which I don't know why he's fascinating to me. But just like you were talking about doing another book of finding Ultra, I know you have to do another book with this guy, Roman, and I'm dreading having to actually get to that deep level.
Well, you know, what I see in the character is a guy whose experiences in the world have maybe not embittered him, but calcified him. Right. And out of self-preservation has created these protective walls around him. He's not going to allow his emotions to be impacted by anything external. So he's effective in surviving and has these aspirational warrior abilities. And yet he's he's broken and in pain. Right. And so there's an opportunity to heal that somehow.
And that can take shape in any number of journeys that this person goes on.
Yeah, I mean, there's a moment where, you know, he takes on an apprentice, a young boy. Right. And they have a couple of mules as they're crossing this desert. And at some point, Telemann says something kind to the young boy about the mules. And the boy says, shall we name them? Should we give them names, these mules? And he says, no, it's just I'm sorry.
I even know you're doing it right. And but the kid was so excited that that Telemann was even talking to him, because this is the silence, you know, strong, silent guy who's clearly the mentor, who's going to teach this young person his ways of the world. But he's going to do it sparingly and only when he feels like doing it.
Yeah, cool. So the book comes out late March. Right. Or March 2nd of March 2nd. Yeah, that's exciting. So should you be doing some other podcast and talking about it? It's very cinematic too. Has there been any interest from.
Not yet. The movie business. I don't know if anybody even knows it exists yet. You do.
You still keep a toe in that world. Are now not really by subscription to The Hollywood Reporter. Laughs When like five years went by and I never saw my.
David, do you still have, like a talent agent in Hollywood or anywhere?
That's I don't I have I have a books, two movies agent in New York, Jodie Hotchkiss, but I don't have you know, how it is when your hair turns gray, your career is over. And Hollywood has a screen look at Ridley Scott.
You just talked about him. He's got two massive movies that he's shooting, like back to back coming up. Oh, is that right?
How old is Ridley now? I definitely wanna see. He's definitely in his 80s adolescence. Right. I bless him.
Well, I do want to can we tell the story about Frank Wallaga? And baggier is so good. And I think how do you know Frank's name? And I told you I was in entertainment.
Some roots back in that, because I think it's it's really it's inspiring and instructive about what it means to honor that voice within you and and dial out the, you know, the external voices that are perhaps leading you astray.
Well, Frank Williger was my agent and he's a wonderful guy. And we were friends. And the way that we used to work is when I because I was basically a spec screenwriter, you know, I'd write it supplements back and if I'd had two or three ideas, I'd go into Frank's office and he would give me like two hours and I'd pitch him the ideas and he would tell me he. No, no, you can't do that. Fox is doing a movie like that now, you know, or it kind of give me the marketplace take on things.
So anyway, I went into him one day. The idea for the legend of Bagger Vance came to me just out of nowhere. I was seized by it, you know, my first book. And I said to him, Frank, I've got good news and bad news. And the good news is I've got a new idea. I'm really hot to do it. And and the bad news is it's a book. It's not a movie. And so Frank had been really working hard on my behalf to kind of get me out there into the town.
And people knew who I was. So he was completely pissed off at me, you know, because he said, I've done all this work. If you take a year off to write a book, all that work is down the tubes, you know? And so I asked him, can you help me get an agent in New York, a literary agent? And basically, you know, he basically fired me. You know, he just he just wouldn't do it, you know?
And so I just said, you know, screw this. I'm writing it. I don't care. You know, I'm just seized by it. And so we sort of we parted ways at that point. And and I went, right.
The idea of being like a what do you mean you're going to write a book? Like, I just put all this work into, you know, cultivating your these writers. Right. Screenwriting business. And it's going to be about golf. Yeah, but that's not going to work.
And you walk away from all of those opportunities when, you know, you were getting some success and on the precipice of, you know, really breaking through in a big way to go off on this crazy tangent to write this book. And everybody told you you were insane. And I told myself that I was like, what was that like, what was going on inside of you that that that felt so compelled to make that decision?
I was just seized by this story, which, you know, I just and when I look back on on that, you know, today I would really block out a story and figure out, you know, with that book, I just kind of just let it go, you know? And even when I look at it now, it's structured in a really kind of crazy way. But I think it works. At least the book works on the movie worked, but I was just seized by it.
I had no choice.
I just had to do it in the authentic swing you talk about. It's sort of a behind the scenes look at how the book came about and ultimately the movie came about. What is it about? Can you speak to how golf works for you as this analogy for these and these other ideas? Because it does like it's it's counterintuitive and yet it completely makes sense when you explain it.
First of all, I know that people who are not into golf, it seems like a dopiest sport. I'm not I'm I'm like I have I'm not into golf at all. Like, I have a hard time, although I watch the Tiger documentary and I was riveted by that.
Well, they say about golf and it's really, really true that with almost any other sport, if you don't play it and you see it like, say, motor racing or or surfing or mountain climbing, even if you don't play it, you can look at and go, oh, that looks kind of cool.
You know, look at Laird Hamilton going down that, you know. But golf is an exception. You look at golf, you go, it's a bunch of white guys, you know, wearing plaid pants. It seems like the fat guys is Donald Trump. It's like the most boring. But trust me, it's a great sport. And to prove it, Michael Jordan loves it. John Elway loves Tom Brady. So, anyway, um, the one thing about golf you were talking about the authentic swing before is I had two friends when I was a kid, identical twins who played golf.
And the amazing thing to me was they had a completely different golf swing. So and I thought, shouldn't they have the exact same swing? They're the same DNA. And it is true that in some crazy way we're born with a swing before we ever pick up a club. You have a swing. I have a swing. Everybody around here has a swing. And you cannot change that swing. If you think about golfers like Fred Couples or Jim Furyk that have these crazy loopy swings, they didn't they didn't evolve that through study.
Or so to me, the idea of the authentic swing and finding your authentic swing is the equivalent of your authentic self. It's what we were talking about before, about being born. And as with a gift and and that's and that's it. And so a lot of us, like in golf, people will try to mold themselves into some perfect kind of a swing and it never works. And the real answer is, if you can, to find your own authentic swing and then, you know, fine, tune it so that you don't have bad habits in there.
And so I think that's the same thing in writing, in art or anything in life is finding who who we are. We already are that thing. And if we can just find it and be it. But that's the hardest thing in the world. That's why they say know thyself is like the hardest thing in the world to do. Right. But that's what we're here to do. Yeah. And to extend the golf metaphor, there is this truth in that it's not about anyone other than yourself and your relationship with yourself like you're.
Yes, it is the ultimate individual sport. Right. And this idea that you talk about of of I forget how you phrase it exactly. But most most athletes are reacting without a forethought in the moment, whether they're, you know, hitting a backhand or, you know, blocking a jump shot. But in golf, there's stillness which forces you to, you know, engage with your thinking mind, which moves you away from the ability to execute on what you're there to do.
And it's all about the process of getting out of your own way. Right. And that goes back to the stripping away thing in bagger with, you know, the the the you know, who are you question to eradicate all the noise so you can be fully present.
Yes. And like if you're saying golf is one of the few sports, maybe shooting a free throw or kicking a field goal is a parallel where you do it from a standing start, like you say in basketball, you know, you're reacting to somebody or tennis. The ball's coming. You react to it and it's easier to do that in motion. It's more it's easier to do it. But from a standing start where your brain starts working, but then there's a whole other aspect of golf that was in this book, The Authentic Swing.
And this is kind of a crazy thing. And it gets spiritual is that there's really no other sport where you have a caddy. We have another person standing at your shoulder that technically is your servant. Right? You're paying them to carry the bag. But as we all know, the bond between the caddy and the golfers and and in in the Bhagavad Gita, where you have the great warrior, Arjuna, his charioteer is Krishna, i.e. God in human form.
And that was the parallel that I drew like. So God appears as a servant at your side and a kind of an adviser. And I think that a lot of of Christians who believe in a personal savior related to the character of Bagger Vance that way. But I also do think if you think about I know we're getting into deep waters.
This is this is this is the stuff I love the most, if you think about.
The Odyssey and Odysseus, as he's on his journey, we people forget about this, he's accompanied by the goddess Athena and he talks to her all the time and she intercedes for him. And anybody that, you know, Martin Luther King or somebody would talk to Jesus all the time like it was at his shoulder. And so the same thing with Arjuna, the great warrior, and Christian is at his side as an instructor and as a divine archetype. And I do think this is why I say I believe in the muse.
And although resistance is the negative side of it, the goddess is the positive side of it, that, you know, when I said I was seized by the story of Bagger Vance and had to write it, that's what that was. It was coming from. And so that was the equivalent of of Christian at your shoulder or Athena or Jesus or whatever. Some entity from another dimension of reality, from a dimension of potentiality, where the songs come from, where the ideas come from, where the books come from.
I think there's a lot of reality to go back to golf. The idea in golf that you have this person at your shoulder that guides you and you can see if you watch a golf tournament, you watch Phil Mickelson or Tiger or whatever, you know, they're taught. They turn to the caddy all the time. A caddy saves them. You know, in other sports, you don't have Michael Jordan can't stop and confer with you or anything like that.
Right. So I do think that there's. There's a real spiritual aspect to that, or at least a metaphor for something spiritual, right? Right. Yeah. And that's one of the reasons why the Tiger documentary was so interesting, hearing the perspective of his caddie. Have you seen the document? I did, yeah. Yeah. When when Tiger fires him and the guy's like, I, you know, I mean, it's such a sacred relationship.
Yeah. That seemed to be a real turning point in terms of how Tiger was approaching the world at that point in his life. I think so, yeah.
And like, you know, Dustin Johnson, I don't know if he's like number one or whatever he is now. His brother is his caddy and they've been like and he's a real good player to his brother, Austin. And somehow that's in a way, a secret to his success that you can see these two brothers are, you know, really in it together. It's not a one man fight. It's a tumor. Right. Right.
So what happened with the movie Bagger Vance?
It kind of went sideways and went sideways. I don't know. I mean, it's such an amazing cast. Redford directing. You got Matt Damon, Will Smith, Charlize Theron.
Yeah, sometimes. Sometimes these things just don't ask, don't work. Right. One thing I'll say is I think golf is an impossible story to film. It's only been one good golf movie that was Caddyshack. You know, just a total farce. It's it's a hard thing to do. I don't want to say anything negative about anybody. Did you ever get made into a film?
I think it did. But it was a very small movie that I actually had the disc. I've never been able to put it in.
When I was a lawyer, I was involved in I can't remember who I was representing. I think a producer who was trying to acquire the rights or something like that, but I never knew that it got made.
Yeah, I mean, that's another impossible movie to make because it's so internal.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. How do you how do you profess that cinematically.
Right. All right. Well we got to we got to win this down. But I want to I want to end on or maybe two, three can't stay here all day.
But can I have to talk to you. I want to be conscious of your time. Where does talent fall into all of this?
That's a great question. I'm really not a believer in talent, I mean, I think that, you know, now I've said this before, people tell me, oh, I'm a talent.
But for 30 years, they told me I was a bum and I was Abha because I hadn't I hadn't learned I didn't know what I was doing. I think, obviously, you have to have some sort of a gift, right? If you're going to be a runner, you have to have a certain amount of speed. Right. But I certainly think in in like you and I are grinder's, right? Yeah. And I'm definitely I believe that that work is for me, 80 percent of it, maybe more, 85 percent of it.
On the other hand, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, they got talent. Yeah. Of being there are people that there are people who do have incredible talent. But there's also a lot of I mean, you've been in this town a long time. There's a lot of incredibly talented people here who aren't fully expressed or recognized for what they do for other reasons.
Yeah. So it's always a function of the works against them.
Right, right. Right, right. We certainly see it in athletics. Right. You have a lot of players that come out or they're drafted in the first round for whatever it is and and they fizzle. And then Tom Brady, who was drafted, whatever he was, I forget what he was way, way, way at the back. Right. Turns out to be the greatest player of all time. Yeah. So talent can be a negative if you can if you're relying on it too much.
If you're a basketball player, football player, you got speed, you got size. You don't maybe you don't have to do the work. Sure. But I think we over index for talent and we underappreciated the grinders. And I think I think I think, you know, in so many pursuits, whether it's writing or anything else, often the prize goes to the guy who just refuses to walk off the field and just keep showing up and keep showing up.
Look how long it took you to get your first book published.
I see that time and time again. And it's not sexy.
Like, that's not the Growth Act that everybody's looking for. Yeah. It's the hardest way to do it.
But you learn along the way so that when your persistence meets with some sliver of opportunity, you're more prepared than you would have been ordinarily.
Yeah. And but again, and there's no substitute for that flash from above, you know. Yeah. When it comes in. But then it's when that's when the grinding pays off, because you're ready, you know, you've you've built the tools for it. And when the inspiration comes, you know, you're capable of handling it.
Yeah, well, it's it's a good news. Bad news thing, is it not like bad news. Maybe you're not that talented. Good news. You can learn to grind like this is a skill set that that you can develop that's accessible to you. Yeah, right. Absolutely.
And if you can master that, then you're putting yourself way ahead of 99 percent of people out there who just aren't willing to put in the work. So it's really a function of like, how badly do you want it exactly. And that goes back to the pain thing. Right? Are you in pain? Yeah, I hope you are. This is going to be a long road.
Yeah. So what is that? If somebody is watching or listening to this, you probably hate this question.
But, you know, if they're if they're if they're sitting there thinking, I got this thing I want to write or I have this idea that I want to execute on and I've just been unable to get out of my own way. But it's like right there for the taking. Like, how do you get people off the dime?
Again, I say, as I said, it's the most thankless thing in the world, because if somebody is not ready to do it, you know, like I wasn't ready forever and forever and forever. Nobody anything someone said to me, would I just I would roll right off me. But when I was ready and you don't have any clue when that's going to be, I think then it happened. So the one thing I would say to people, and it's usually younger people, is that, you know, this is what a friend of mine once said to me.
People always tell you that life is short, but actually life is long. And if you're 24 years old or thirty four years old, I mean, when I was thirty four years old, I was still 21 years away from having a book published, even though I've been busting my ass for all that. So I would say to a younger person, take some pressure off yourself. You know, you don't have to. It's all this bullshit in the social media that there's a hack and you can do it tomorrow.
It's, you know, enjoy the trip, you know, pay attention, keep your eyes open on the journey. It'll when it's ready to happen, it'll happen. That's really powerful advice.
I think. You know, I think it also.
Is about rebutting all these cultural and social influences on people outside of the hack's, it's just like here's the path that's laid out in front of you. And if you want to be successful, you do. You go to the school or you get this job and you work hard and, you know, success looks like X, right? Where in truth, only, you know, in your heart of hearts, you know, underneath all of these layers, you know what that's going to look like for you.
And that might take time, but there is something to be said and a lack of appreciation for, you know, doing a walk about like which is essentially what you did, which was your own, you know, sort of Telemann soul journey of discovery. Yes. In order to return and come back to engage with your personal truth. But it took time and it took you trying lots of different things and giving yourself permission to do that. And I think that's something that more people perhaps did in earlier ages, which is really frowned upon now.
And in truth, when you look at life and say it is long, why are you in such a hurry? Like there's this idea that if you're you know, if you have to take one year of school over, you're going to take a gap year that suddenly you've missed out in the world, is going to pass you by is fucking bullshit.
And it's not in people's best interest or and service to, you know, really trying to self actualize by telling people that, yeah, there's so much pressure on everybody today to I'm glad I'm not I don't want to say I don't want to be young, but it's a tough if you're a young person today, you're the pressure that's put on you and the just the you know, what's out there in the in the you know, the zeitgeist is it's really it's it's it's artificial.
It's false. It doesn't coincide with our inner reality, with our our social reality. And we have to somehow disabuse ourselves, free ourself, break out of the spell that's been cast on us.
Yeah, it's very it's very limiting. And it's and it's fear based, too. Right. It's betting on you being too afraid to do and like it like the the cost of breaking outside of of like this norm is too high. Yeah. And most people aren't willing to pay that because of the social consequences. And of course and my feeling about myself, it wasn't like I decided to do that and it just, you know, I screwed up and it happened to me.
So and I think people are there's this expectation that when you're 18, you're supposed to know what it is that you want to do. It's just like, preposterous. Yeah, right.
And if you haven't figured that out. Yeah. Like what's the matter with you.
Takes a look at twenty eight. Thirty eight. You know, keep going. Yeah. All right. Well cool. How do you feel about the job. I got to say thanks to you for being so prepared and you know, making me think here and I, you know, I, you know, it's, I was really looking forward to meeting you and doing you having this experience. And it's been, you know, everything that I hoped it would be.
And I hope that we can, you know, keep something going here. And, you know, if I haven't totally exhausted, we are totally wrong at. No, no, no. Lemon squeezed a lot.
I'm I'm just still trying to calm my nerves over just having the opportunity to meet you like you being here today is incredibly meaningful to me.
And I mean that with with all of my heart, like like like it's really it's been great.
It's really special for me. And I appreciate you. And I hope that we can become friends. And I'd love to have you back on whenever you want to come back on and talk, consider it done.
I mean, any time if there's any juice left in the lemon, there's a couple of ways it gets you.
Yeah, I could I could try to extract lemon juice from you for the rest of my life and we'd never get to the bottom of it.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Real pleasure. I was great.
Steve's new book is called A Man at Arms, available March 2nd. Out everywhere you find. Yeah, pretty much everywhere. Check it out. It's really a great read. Thank you for. Thank you. In that book out there. And if you're interested in all of the things that we're talking about today, pick up the war of our turning pro. Nobody wants to read your shit.
You got to do the work. You know, all these great books, regardless of how it feels to shoulder that this moniker, you are a guru of creative expression and you've helped millions of people, myself included, and I can't thank you enough. So come on back and talk to me. All right.
That's great. Thanks very much. It's a real pleasure to meet you and to be here. And I hope we can do it again. Absolutely.
Also, if you want to connect with Steve, Steven Pressfield, Dotcom. Yeah. And on all the you're on Twitter and all those places, right.
Yeah. Yeah. I think on Instagram and Steven Underscore Pressfield, but. And on Twitter, Steven Pressfield, I don't even know. Cool, thank you. All right. Thank you. It's. Thanks for listening, everybody, for links in resources related to everything discussed today, visit the show notes on the episode page at risk all dotcom. If you'd like to support the podcast, the easiest and most impactful thing you can do is to subscribe to the show on Apple podcasts, on Spotify and on YouTube.
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