The Voices In My Head Are Really Distracting: Find your Mute Button

Distractions are everywhere.  Usually we don’t see the distractions because we are too distracted to notice.  I recently read that the average person is bombarded with hundreds if not thousands of advertisements per day.  That’s astonishing.  I was trying to figure out why I couldn’t get my mind of toaster streusels the other day, I think I found my answer. A couple of weeks ago, I was leisurely laying in bed catching up on The Following on my DVR.  I don’t watch much TV, but I am hooked on The Following.  As Jamie began asking me a few questions from the other room, I realized that no matter how much I attempted, I could not focus on our conversation.  Unfortunately, the remote was on the other side of the room, so a quick “pause” was not an option.  Understanding, that much of this was happening subconsciously, I tried to “muscle through”, much to Jamie’s dismay.  It quickly became  obvious that I was not paying attention to her and she was rightfully upset.

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With all the noise being thrown at us, it is a wonder we can focus on anything.
Luckily, my life is not dictated by noise, and I am able to quiet the distractions.  I love podcasts, audiobooks, books, talk radio, and many other “consumption” media.  While these mediums don’t have as much advertisement as traditional media, they still contribute to the sound of a noisy world.  Turning off the sound on the drive home, or a run without my iPhone usually does the trick.  I clear my head and can get back to the work of thinking for myself.
As human beings, we were made to create.  The noise we consume is just the fuel to create.

The headline is that I am sometimes overwhelmed by the noise.  Sometimes the noise is  a loud radio, TV on, phone ringing, and kids fighting all at once.  Sometimes, it’s less subtle and builds up after a few days of content, commercials, billboards, and conversations.  I find myself unable to focus on a simple conversation with the most important person in the world to me. Does anyone believe that the growing noise in our world is going to begin to recede? Is there a chance that the world will realize that we are all reaching a saturation point?  Is there going to be a point were a quick run or an hour of mediation won’t quiet the noise.  I don’t think most of us are at risk of media induced schizophrenia, but I do sense Steven Pressefields infamous resistance finding new ways to attack the work the world needs from us.  Someday, the noise won’t stop.  It’s up to us to get ahead of that today.  As you seek your awesomeness, be intentional about the noise you let in.  The obvious stuff like TV is a starting point, but remember that the good stuff (this blog included), is noise when consumed  in abundance.  Don’t just be intentional about limiting the noise coming in, be intentional about welcoming the silence. Find the mute button on life and clear your head.  It has starting to work for me.  It will work for you.

Share how you quiet the noise.  I’m particularly interested in how busy commuters, and family people find time without sacrificing valuable family togetherness.
Rocco
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How Hating People Helped Me Change My Narrative

Recently my narrative, that little voice driving my view of the world, has had me thinking about people. Not in ways I’m proud of.  The narrative has become negative and aggressive.  Frankly, I’m starting to feel like I don’t like people.  This, of course is ridiculous, and completely detrimental to my mission.  This reminds me of  the resistance Steven Pressfield writes of.  In a nutshell, the resistance is the militant arm of mediocrity.  It is the distractions and self doubt that stop you and I from climbing out of the average. This is a new  and very affective attack from the resistance.

Attack on Hindenburg line

Attack on Hindenburg line (Photo credit: National Library of Scotland)

While out on a run yesterday, I decided to unplug and face this resistance head on.  Seth Godin writes that as the resistance gets more intense, we should celebrate.  I decided to leave the party hat behind and stick with my Brooks running cap.  I ran with a smile as I realized that my work and my art is getting better.  The resistance is threatened now more than ever.  This is evidenced by the hardened strike force of subtly (the slow increase of my negative narrative) rather than simple distractions is used to see.
The break in the armor of the resistance is found in facing it head on.  After all, the resistance uses elements of truth to strike at the core of our creative spirit.
 I realized it is not people who I hate. I hate what I see so many of them doing and not doing, and of course I see a reflection of this in myself. These “people” are fake, wasting time, and are bored and boring. They are awkward, uncomfortable in silence and never present.  They are all busy doing things, but busy doing the wrong things.  These are all things I see creeping up in myself.  If I am to succeed in my mission of helping people achieve awesomeness, I must be aware of my vulnerability to these attacks.  In fact, these “things” are all the things  this site is all about changing.
 Intentional living is not easy, but it is the way only way to succeed.  Success doe not happen by chance.
The resistance is much more savvy with me than simple Facebook pings or email interruptions.  I’ve built effective defenses to these and have created better work with the gained focus. This is a good thing.
I share this because we are all in this together.  I’m excited that my art is worth attacking.  My narrative is not that difficult to change.  The simple process of knowing my mission and being aware that I am in fact living and creating my own narrative on a daily basis gave me the wisdom to re write the current and dangerous direction it was going.
What is your narrative telling you that is pulling you toward mediocrity?  How are you fighting back?
Rocco
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Dancing with Fear

Fred & Adele Astaire. ca. 1906. The photograph...

Fred & Adele Astaire. ca. 1906. The photograph is a publicity photograph illustrating Fred Astaire and Adele Astaire in a vaudeville act entitled “A Rainy Saturday”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The hills above my town are filled with trails for running and hiking. Rolling green hills, creeks, and beautiful canyons invite the adventure seeker. By day, its beauty pops and inspires, by night, it is hidden in the mysterious shadows, barely visible in the moonlight. What made me decide to shake things up and run into the dark? Forty dollar headlamps and a desire to conquer my fear. Running this the first time, two years ago was scary. Today, it’s a walk in the park.

 

Fear comes in many shapes and forms. Physical fear of the dark, inner city gas stations, or rattle snakes is your body’s way of protecting itself from dangers. Seth Godin refers to the Lizard Brain, the amygdala. This is the survival portion of your brain that only cares about the NOW and protecting you from immediate dangers. In our civilized society, we don’t face the same dangers humans did a million years ago. Our brains, however, don’t know the difference. Stephen Pressfield wrote about the Lizard Brain in a his brilliant work “The War of Art”. He calls it the resistance. I have written extensively about this subject throughout this blog. The resistance lurks in the comfort zone of your psyche, trying to pull you away from greatness and into the safety of mediocrity. Your brain works much like a parent who in an effort to protect his child from embarrassment or disappointment tells him not to try out for the school play. Like a child, we tend to listen to our Lizard Brain/resistance. Sometimes, like a rebellious teenager, we push away the resistance and end up with something amazing. Pressfield has articulated one of the most fulfillment zapping phenomenon in modern history; writers’ block, procrastination, distraction, self-doubt etc. Whatever shape or form you may experience, you WILL see the resistance. Pressfield suggests a WAR; a fight. Perhaps he’s missing an opportunity to dance.
In his recent work, Seth Godin challenges the notion of a “war”, in which we challenge the resistance. He instead, suggests that we must dance with it. I nearly drove the car off the side of the road (listened on Audio) when I heard this. The WAR concept is etched in stone in the creative world. Godin, however, is becoming the William Wallace of creative battles. Perhaps, instead, he would rather be the Fred Astaire. A day of writing without distraction is typically considered a good day. Not anymore:
The resistance (in its many forms) doesn’t show up when we are busy average.
I have never procrastinated sleeping in. Never has my Facebook exploration been interrupted by the desire to pray, or write, or do something meaningful. The opposite, of course, is a daily occurrence. The resistance, like the oppressive government in The Hunger Games, only comes after threats to the status quo. All the other “things” are safely locked behind a fence, unable to affect change. If working toward your fulfillment does not yield any resistance, no “Peacekeepers” coming in the night to take you away, there is no threat to the status quo.

Unless your status quo is complete fulfillment and you’ve achieved everything you were designed for, “status quo” is “status NO”.

You must pose a threat to invite the resistance. Start making progress and you’ll see resistance in its many forms lurking. Mother Theresa faced almost an entire lifetime of spiritual dryness known as the Dark Night of the Soul. The warm and fuzzy we get when we go to church was replaced with numbness. Mother Teresa was a real threat to the status quo of the poor being poor, body and soul in Calcutta. She did not fight the resistance, she danced with it, and many souls are dancing toward heaven for it. Replace the warm and fuzzy, the desire to do something else, the urge to question your ability, with the new dance of fulfillment. It’s coming whether you like it or not. Give up now and be average or put on your dancing shoes! Embrace the desire to procrastinate. If you feel it, you’re on to something. Welcome the inner voice that says you’re not good enough. Laugh a giddy laugh at the desire to check Facebook while your halfway through marathon training. You are a threat to the status quo. That, my friends, is moving the needle toward awesomeness.
I overslept and almost didn’t write this article today thinking inspiration will be here tomorrow. I chose to dance instead of procrastinate. How will you dance today?
Rocco De Leo

Turn your Anxiety into Ambition

A stack of books on my nightstand, twenty five blog ideas, ten podcast ideas, miles to run, and many more to-dos. Success starts first from an idea where you want to go and a plan on how to get there. The little voice in my head “the resistance” as Steven Pressfield coined, tells me that it’s just too much. I’m cranky, frustrated and finding it hard to focus on getting one thing done, let alone getting all these things done. This is my inner self sore from several weeks of a new driven ambition. Much like taking on a new physical routine, my body, or my inner voice is sore. Anxiety, in this sense is ambition in disguise. Anxiety, left alone, will ruin my plans and turn up the volume on my resistance. Anxiety re focused into ambition will be one of the best natural drivers to success and a “mute” button to the inner voice of resistance.Here is a step by step guide to ensure anxiety morphs into ambition.

1. Organize and write down my goals. Include time lines to let me know what I must do and what I can be comfortable NOT doing until later. If it is planned to be on hold, it is not procrastination, it is strategy.

2. Align a strategic plan with my goals. Once I know my target, now I am ready to aim. Starting with the end in mind, I work backward on how to achieve my goals. I will be publishing my goals on this blog soon using this methodology.

3. Align daily tactics with reality. What is it going to take on a daily basis to chip away toward my strategic plan? Planning time to work towards these goals with daily tactics (simply stated: tasks) is key to achieving my plan. This is where the rubber meets the road. Knowing that I have done the proverbial math and discovered that reading blogs 1 hour per day from 6-7 am will ultimately work toward achieving my goal tells my inner voice that enough is enough; no need to read 2 hours per day. Even if I hear Guy Kawasaki reads blogs 3 hours per day, my plan tells me I am not Guy Kawasaki and never plan on being him.

4. Take multiple second looks at the plan. First and foremost, having a plan makes me feel better and makes me actually work better. This is nothing new or profound. It is common sense. Re evaluating my plan periodically (the time frame will depend on the user) will help correct for un forseable situations and over-under ambitious planning.

5. Trust my plan. Be confident in my plan. I am smart and know what I am doing. I trust my plan to get me there. Re routing mid flight without careful analysis will assure failure to reach my ultimate destination. Turbulence in flight as well as in life is expected. Hunkering down and pushing through takes trust in the plan.

What is your voice of resistance telling you today?

Rocco De Leo

Don’t Just Sit There, DO IT!

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You want to write a book, run a marathon, change your job, or publish a blog. What ever your dream is, you just can’t seem to make it happen. I am not any different, although I’m finally doing a few of these things. You know someone, or perhaps it’s yourself, who has a bunch of ideas or “plans” but nothing tangible to show for those plans. When did you first start having this “plan”? Ten years ago? Steven Pressfield writes in his book The War of Art: http://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/722104-the-war-of-art-break-through-the-blocks-and-win-your-inner-creative-bat

“We fear discovering that we are more than we think we are. More than our parents/children/teachers think we are. We fear that we actually possess the talent that our still, small voice tells us. That we actually have the guts, the perseverance, the capacity. We fear that we truly can steer our ship, plant our flag, reach our Promised Land. We fear this because, if it’s true, then we become estranged from all we know. We pass through a membrane. We become monsters and monstrous.”

Pressfield speaks to that “inner voice” telling us to sleep in put off creative work today and do it tomorow. This voice is the voice of procrastination. It will only give us a life of “shouldA-couldA”.
I recently heard an author give his secret to writing. He said to write everyday. Don’t wait for inspiration, don’t wait for the perfect time, just start writing. Best selling author Seth Godon talks about “ship it”. Deliver a product, NOW! Most people learn by doing. Write your book, run your marathon (one step at a time), start your job hunt now. You’ll learn what fits, and what doesn’t out there on the journey of life. You have an inner passion within you just waiting for an adventure. Sure, you’ll trip and fall a few times, but who cares. You’ll plan your first training run for that marathon and get a cold. Your computer will crash and loose your first thousand words of your book, you’ll have a good week at work and wonder if that big job promotions is really neccessary. The difference between the winners in life who have there name on a book, or an office, or have a marathon medal, is that they kept pushing….relentless forward movement.
Now go out there and take some steps. I haven’t told you anything profound here, I just told you what my voice tells me everyday…and sometimes I actually listen.

Rocco