This post is a follow up of sorts to this post, so you should go read that post.
You want to stay safe professionally, relationally, politically, religiously, creatively?
Simple. Just do the same thing mostly the same way all the time. That’s safe. It’s manageable and tame. Like a declawed, defanged cat. It still won’t love you.
Safe also keeps the critics at bay. Do what you’re expected to do and not much more. You can actually do less and still be looked on with favor. And the best part–you can still criticize others without being criticized yourself!! What is this sorcery magic? How is that possible?
Allow me to allow Seth Godin to explain.
If your work has never been critcized, it’s unlikely you have any work. Creating work is the point, though, which means that in order to do something that matters, you’re going to be criticized.
If your goal is to be universally liked and respected an understood, then, it must mean your goals is to not do something that matters. Which requires hiding. Hiding, of course, isn’t the point.
Hence, the paradox. You don’t want to be criticized and you do want to matter.
The solution: Create work that gets criticized. AND, have the discernment to tell the difference between useful criticism (rare and precious) and the stuff worth ignoring (everything else).
Rising before the sun knows I’m up, with a beard burlier than the night before, efforts aimed at capturing a deer I’m chasing up a Russian mountainside in four feet of snow, while simultaneously processing the emotional devastation of what this all means for my wife, kids, and the sequel…and then eating said deer, raw. The metaphor broke down somewhere, but the deer I’m eating is my ability to criticize.
There’s a lot of time for criticizing, especially if you have a poor work ethic, which I’ve had for much of my life.
I feel better saying it. Confession really is good for the soul.
It’s true. My dad tried to get me to work hard. To clean with great detail, build manly things out of wooden materials, “fix” broken stuff.
One attempt on his part to teach me responsibility and work ethic I remember like it was 30 years ago. He pushed our vintage Snapper riding mower out of the garage and onto the driveway.
After driving it down to the field in the rear of our house, the lesson began. Here’s how to start it. Here’s the blade engage. This pedal makes you go. (I nodded, probably overconfidently so as to compensate for my obviously not understanding.) You also want to look back every now and then to make sure the engine isn’t on fire.
Fire? Like the hot kind?
No, dad. I don’t want to do that. The prospect of burning to death for the sake of a neatly manicured 3/4 of an acre didn’t rouse the manual labor muse within.
I didn’t find my work stride until more recently. Part of it is the job. Part of it is the community of folks I’m around. Part of it is my wife–let’s be honest…a huge part. If I have any parts left, another one is what I’m reading now. Not theology. It’s more practical theology–like the be doers of what you’re reading, not just hearers, part.
Steven Pressfield has written novels, screenplays, and non-fiction kicks in the rear. The latter is what I’ve been devouring the last month.
The War of Art
Do the Work
These are gold mines for me. The principles therein are such that I can superimpose them on the last decade of my life and then wish Uncle Rico’s time machine really worked so I could go back and do a lot of things very differently.
At least I found them at 36 and not 46. Those of you who are 46 know what I’m saying, right?
Here I am now. Learning and growing. Growing and learning. The learning usually has to do with some deficiency deep on my withinside.
In The War of Art, I appreciated Pressfield adding this biographical portion about me –
If you find yourself criticizing other people, you’re probably doing it out of Resistance. When we see others beginning to live their authentic selves, it drives us crazy if we have not lived our own.
The War of Art, p. 38
Thanks, Steve. May I call you Steve?
Translation: We criticize others who are moving closer to becoming who they really are.
They’ve pushed through resistance and done the hard work of doing the work. And when I, you, we see someone do that, we can’t help but be envious. So we find something not to like.
Ah, but what (who) we really don’t like is ourselves. In that way, rather than scratching the itch to criticize, let it serve as a built-in reality check. What am I not doing that I want to be doing? What have I not accomplished? What have I given up on? What resistance am I permitting to keep me from becoming who I really am?
Who knows. Maybe you and I will be criticized one day.
In the yesteryear of 2011, I wrote a blog about writing a book. You probably remember it if you were one of the 22 blessed people who read viewed it. Viewed is ambiguous.
Wouldn’t it be exciting to learn that I finished the book!?! What I Didn’t Learn in Seminary: 9 Courses I Never Took but Would Have Failed, is the working title…for the book that I haven’t worked on in, ohhh, five years.
So. Yeah. It’s not done. Not. Even. Close.
I’m not surprised. Mainly because I haven’t written. I should say, I haven’t made a habit of writing.
The finished product is great, in my brains. That’s where the book lives and where it’s gone to die. #Condolences
But I’ve been inspired of late, which I just read has nothing to do with actually finishing a creative work. So that’s a bummer.
Inspiration is cute, like a kitten. Just before you get too close to the kitten’s face while hard whispering “Aren’t you cute? Yesh you are, yesh you are” and then the cat swats you across your puckered lips just to remind you he’s heartless and has no true need of you.
Photo by burak kostak from Pexels
Clearly what I’m saying is that inspiration is a great excuse to get nothing done.
“I’m not feeling inspired,” you quip to your supervisor. “Oh, by all means, don’t come back to work until your inspiration is replenished, valued worker.”
Nope. You just go to work.
And I just have to write.
So I started again today. Lucky you.
Since legion of you have asked, yes, I’ll finish the seminary bad pastor book. At least I’m smart enough now to know it won’t happen in one super unrealistic inspired weekend.