Steven Pressfield, The Resistance – and I am not yet old

Please check out this podcast for context:

https://open.spotify.com/embed-podcast/episode/3DoraojWu3hVKgCXQrZajk

We all want to achieve great things. Fulfilling things which are beautiful, helpful, artistic and good. Paradoxically, I believe it is always tempting to find the easiest path to quitting. Quitting is a lot easier than shipping new work to the world. Quitting means we won’t fall under scrutiny.

This psychological trick we play on ourselves is what Steven Pressfield terms as “The Resistance” with a capital ‘R’. The Resistance is strong, sneaky and constantly trying to stop you doing your best work. The Resistance knows you inside and out, and so it can always find the best way to bring you to a standstill when you are wanting to start something new.

In my case, The Resistance regularly stops me from doing my best work by telling me I am old and it is too late. It tells me that I am already nearly 40 years old, and if I haven’t become “insert whatever achievement I am dreaming of” by now, then there is no point because it’s too dam late. Be happy with what you achieved so far and don’t dream of anything more, old man. Go eat a burger and watch TV.

The thing is, when The Resistance barks at you, you only have to scratch the surface a little bit to see how it’s all lies. Take the below definitions of old age as an example:

  • The World Health Organisation believes that most developed world countries characterise old age starting at 60 years and above.
  • However, this definition isn’t adaptable to a place like Africa, where the more traditional definition of an elder, or elderly person, starts between 50 to 65 years of age.
  • The World Economic Forum (WEF) has recently defined old age through a new measure called “prospective age” which looks at the average number of years people have left to live. So according to WEF, being old doesn’t start at age 65, rather when people have an average of 15 more years left to live.
  • Most of Europe have similar views of old age to the World Health Organisation, believing old age starts at 65 years of age.
  • In America, one researcher found that you are considered old at 70 to 71 years of age for men and 73 to 73 for women.
  • Just under a decade ago in Britain, people believed old age started at 59. However, research undertaken in 2018 found that British people believed you were considered old at 70.
  • A decade ago, Turkey considered 55 the beginning of old age, because the country’s average life expectancy at the time was 72. Now, however, with an unexpected boom in people over the age of 65, you are considered old when you reach the age of 70.
  • In developing countries, the age you are considered old is around when you can start receiving some form of pension.
  • In China, the retirement age is 60 for men and 50 for female workers, or for female civil servants, 55. China’s retirement age is considered one of the bigger gaps in retirement age.
  • Whereas, India has one of the lowest retirement ages in Asia, with 58 considered the age to retire.
  • In Libya, the retirement age was raised from 65 to 70 years.
  • In many cases, it seems that the common idea of what is old has either raised or lowered to a similar mark, around 65-70 years of age.
  • In Australia, the current retirement age is 67, however, that is expected to rise over the next few years. The Government is also pushing for older people to remain working for longer, so there has been a shift in what the Government believes is old.

So, by any real world measure I am not yet old. Take That, Resistance.

EVEN IF I WAS OLD – I could and should still work on something because humans are incredible and we can create beautiful art until we die. We can’t all be in NBA because of genetics, but we can share good work and art forever.

Fuck the Resistance. It is real and it stops us from trying. Which is tragic beyond belief.

Start of a blog streak – Change agents

Seth Godin has (again) made something clear to me (see his blog post here). It is clear that as human beings it is worth focusing on change agents. Especially if you want to make a difference.

These change agents can come in many forms: A birth, a death, a graduation, a promotion…..even something as mundane as a shower – change agents are all around us. Change agents in the words of Seth Godin: “give us an understanding of our options and the need to respond, not to react”

Responding to something instead of reacting carries with it a sense of intentionality, of work, and of effort.

To be intentional about everything we do is the goal. Pulling us from that goal are a million different forces. The world turns and entropy bites us in the bum despite our intentions.

To my mind, small breakthroughs can come from recognising a change agent. In a corporate, industrial setting, the agent may be a step in a long-winded process where a box must be ticked, a report generated. A need must be met and this requires something to change. In the artist’s world, the change agent is the muse, inspiration, and practice that creates the work.

What is your change agent?

Covering songs – Struggling vs Story-telling

Good singing is about story-telling. It’s pretty easy to hear when a singer is struggling with a tune. The voice doesn’t quite convince the listener. Perhaps the timing is slightly off. Most importantly, it doesn’t sound authentic. There is no sense of a story being told.

There’s this thing that happens once you know a song really well. Once you have played and played and played the song, the technical stuff moves out the way and you can focus on telling the story – imbuing the song with emotional labour and making a connection with the listener. This applies to much more than music, of course.

The thing that is interesting is that this authenticity (or lack of it) doesn’t really reflect technique, ability or skill. Even great technical singers can make a song sound empty. Instead, it’s about how well you know the song from every different angle. How convinced you are as the singer that the story needs to be told. By classical opera standards, Bob Dylan has a technically terrible voice but he is utterly compelling.

Rambling post – but I am convinced that the old adage that ‘practice makes perfect’ means that practice opens up a singer to perfectly tell a story the way they want to in order to connect to the audience.

Happy Thursday chimps.

Guests

In my early adventures in podcasting, I’ve learned something important: Guests need to be considered.

Guests are very important (obviously), but they don’t automatically know what you want from them. Already I have had guests who thought there would be videos of the chat posted on the internet (only audio btw), and who felt very uncomfortable with the whole idea of being recorded, right up to the point that I bullied them into a room to sit in front of a mic. I was oblivious to this. I thought they all wanted what I wanted and intrinsically knew my intentions – but why would they?

If you are going to interview people, you also need to work hard to line up a roster of interesting people. I have decided to start with a series of 4 interviews – one a week for a month. As a little teaser, let’s play have you ever.

Have you ever:

  • Devoted your life to art and wildlife?
  • Moved from Africa to Scandinavia?
  • Built a cabin in the wilderness?
  • Drawn cartoons for a living?

4 guests, 4 stories. Coming up on chimpwithcans.com

Embedding a track

Continuing with the podcast preparations, I am going to try and embed a Soundcloud track on this blog post.

This blog will be the primary place to go to hear my podcast. Therefore I want to be able to embed tracks so that they are playable without having to leave this site. This involves getting HTML code and pasting it into WordPress. I’ve never done this before, so here it goes with an old track I digitised from an LP a while ago:

Cute song. Radical embedding of audio!

One step closer to my podcast.

Types of podcast

Free form conversations. Structured research pieces. Reviews of products. Scientific discussions. Interviews. Creative stories. I want to create a podcast, but what sort of podcast should it be? I thought about this yesterday – I came up with a quick list of desirable characteristics:

  • I want it to be a long form conversation rather than a formal interview
  • I want it to be a weekly show if possible
  • I want to discuss in depth some ideas and stories that guests can bring with them
  • Topics of interest are as follows:
    • Philosophy
    • Psychology
    • Stories and narratives that affect our lives

After thinking about it for another day – I would stick with what i said, and I would focus on the stories as much as possible. Everyone has a story to tell, and humans relate to each other primarily through stories. Narratives. Archetypes.

I am going pretty well in lining up some guests. There are a few stories to tell already so we’re looking good. It’s an interesting exercise trying to find people to join you in a creative project like this. It forces you to look at your network of people around you, and to think of who might be interesting to listen to. It is the work that you have to go through to produce a series of podcasts. It is more intensive than i thought it would be.

I am already buzzing with my creative pursuit. It is happening alongside my office job career which is going just fine too. But the creativity is food for the soul.

Gimme fuel, gimme fire, gimme that which I desire.

Podcast Plans

One of my goals is to be more creative – specifically I want to create a podcast. So far I have gotten all the equipment, I have created a proof of concept and then a first pilot episode with my friends. These can be found here: https://soundcloud.com/chimpwithcans (you’ll also see some early soundcloud recordings I uploaded as a favour to my mum 🙂 )

All of this was done with the creative process in mind rather than the end goal (ie. wanting to just create SOMETHING, rather than knowing what sort of thing do I want to create). It has been fun. There is a long way to go, though.

Now I am trying to line up some guests for the more formal Chimpwithcans podcast. It is not an easy process and it is making me think more about what the goal of the podcast is. I thought to write down here what exactly I want to achieve from the podcast.

  • I want it to be a long form conversation rather than a formal interview
  • I want it to be a weekly show if possible
  • I want to discuss in depth some ideas and stories that guests can bring with them
  • Topics of interest are as follows:
    • Philosophy
    • Psychology
    • Stories and narratives that affect our lives

It’s broad and will be whittled down. I’m really looking forward to being more creative. I’ll keep updates here as they happen.