• The tragedy is that society (your school, your boss, your government, your family) keeps drumming the genius part out. The problem is that our culture has engaged in a Faustian bargain, in which we trade our genius and artistry for apparent stability.

  • The system we grew up with is a mess. It’s falling apart at the seams and a lot of people I care about are in pain because the things we thought would work don’t. Every day I meet people who have so much to give but have been bullied enough or frightened enough to hold it back. They have become victims, pawns in a senseless system that uses them up and undervalues them. It’s time to stop complying with the system and draw your own map.

Where Does Average Come From?

  • It comes from two places:

    1. You have been brainwashed by school and by the system into believing that your job is to do your job and follow instructions. It’s not, not anymore.

    2. Everyone has a little voice inside of their head that’s angry and afraid. That voice is the resistance—your lizard brain—and it wants you to be average (and safe).

    • If you’re not doing as well as you hoped, perhaps it’s because the rules of the game were changed, and no one told you.

    • The rules were written just over two hundred years ago; they worked for a long time, but no longer. It might take you more than a few minutes to learn the new rules, but it’s worth it.

Where Were You When the World Changed?

  • Now we live in a world where all the joy and profit have been squeezed out of following the rules. Outsourcing and automation and the new marketing punish anyone who is merely good, merely obedient, and merely reliable. It doesn’t matter if you’re a wedding photographer or an insurance broker; there’s no longer a clear path to satisfaction in working for the man.

  • The system we grew up with is based on a simple formula: Do your job. Show up. Work hard. Listen to the boss. Stick it out. Be part of the system. You’ll be rewarded.

  • That’s the scam. Strong words, but true. You’ve been scammed. You traded years of your life to be part of a giant con in which you are most definitely not the winner.

  • If you’ve been playing that game, it’s no wonder you’re frustrated. That game is over.

  • There are no longer any great jobs where someone else tells you precisely what to do.

  • In fact, history is now being written by the artists while the factory workers struggle. The future belongs to chefs, not to cooks or bottle washers. It’s easy to buy a cookbook (filled with instructions to follow) but really hard to find a chef book.

The Myth of the White-Collar Job

  • Most white-collar workers wear white collars, but they’re still working in the factory.

  • They push a pencil or process an application or type on a keyboard instead of operating a drill press. The only grease they have to get off their clothes at the end of the day is the grease from the take-out food at lunch.

  • It’s factory work because it’s planned, controlled, and measured. It’s factory work because you can optimize for productivity. These workers know what they’re going to do all day—and it’s still morning.

  • The white-collar job was supposed to save the middle class, because it was machineproof. A machine could replace a guy hauling widgets up a flight of stairs, but a machine could never replace someone answering the phone or running the fax machine.

  • Of course, machines have replaced those workers. Worse, much worse, is that competitive pressures (and greed) have encouraged most organizations to turn their workers into machines.

  • If we can measure it, we can do it faster.

  • If we can put it in a manual, we can outsource it.

  • If we can outsource it, we can get it cheaper.

  • The end results are legions of frustrated workers, wasted geniuses each and every one of them, working like automatons, racing against the clock to crank out another policy, get through another interaction, see another patient.

  • It starts with bloggers, musicians, writers and others who don’t need anyone’s support or permission to do their thing. So a blogger named Brian Clark makes a fortune launching a wonderful new theme for Wordpress. And Perez Hilton becomes rich and famous writing on his blog. Abbey Ryan makes almost a hundred thousand dollars a year painting a tiny oil painting each day and selling it on eBay. These individuals have all the technical, manufacturing, and distribution support they need, so they are both capitalists and workers.

  • It seems to me that your outlook is completely due to your worldview. If you believe that all programmers are fairly average, then the pie is limited. If you believe that your job is to do your job (follow the map) and go home, then of course it’s a zero-sum game.

  • The linchpin sees the world very differently. Exceptional insight, productivity, and generosity make markets bigger and more efficient. This situation leads to more opportunities and ultimately a payoff for everyone involved. The more you give, the more the market gives back.

  • Abundance is possible, but only if we can imagine it and then embrace it.

The Resistance: Your Lizard Brain

  • The lizard brain is hungry, scared, angry, and horny.

  • The lizard brain only wants to eat and be safe.

  • The lizard brain will fight (to the death) if it has to, but would rather run away. It likes a vendetta and has no trouble getting angry.

  • The lizard brain cares what everyone else thinks, because status in the tribe is essential to its survival.

  • A squirrel runs around looking for nuts, hiding from foxes, listening for predators, and watching for other squirrels. The squirrel does this because that’s all it can do. All the squirrel has is a lizard brain.

  • The only correct answer to “Why did the chicken cross the road?” is “Because its lizard brain told it to.” Wild animals are wild because the only brain they possess is a lizard brain.

  • The lizard brain is not merely a concept. It’s real, and it’s living on the top of your spine, fighting for your survival. But, of course, survival and success are not the same thing.

  • The lizard brain is the reason you’re afraid, the reason you don’t do all the art you can, the reason you don’t ship when you can. The lizard brain is the source of the resistance.

  • The daemon is the source of great ideas, groundbreaking insights, generosity, love, connection, and kindness.

  • The resistance spends all its time insulating the world from our daemon. The resistance lives inside the lizard brain.

  • Elizabeth warns us that the life of the writer is a life that could end up on “the scrap heap of broken dreams with your mouth filled with the bitter ash of failure.” Why do creative ventures threaten our mental health, she wonders. Why is there writer’s block but no chemical engineering block? Artistry, it seems, always leads to anguish. This anguish is caused by the clash between the daemon and the resistance. Society pushes artists to be geniuses, as opposed to encouraging artists to allow the genius within to flourish. Different tasks.

  • Pressfield says that the daemon’s enemy is the resistance. Your lizard brain, the part that the daemon has no control over, is working overtime to get you to shut up, sit down, and do your (day) job. It will invent stories, illnesses, emergencies, and distractions in order to keep the genius bottled up. The resistance is afraid. Afraid of what will happen to you (and to it) if the ideas get out, if your gifts are received, if the magic happens.

  • This is part metaphor, part biology. The lizard brain is here to keep you alive; the rest of your brain merely makes you a happy, successful, connected member of society.

  • So the two parts duke it out. And when put on alert, the lizard brain wins, every time, unless you’ve established new habits and better patterns—patterns that keep the lizard at bay.

Where Is the Fear?

  • If there is no sale, look for the fear.

  • If a marketing meeting ends in a stalemate, look for the fear.

  • If someone has a tantrum, breaks a promise, or won’t cooperate, there’s fear involved.

  • Fear is the most important emotion we have. It kept our ancestors alive, after all. Fear dominates the other emotions, because without our ability to avoid death, the other ones don’t matter very much.

  • Our sanitized, corporatized society hasn’t figured out how to get rid of the fear, so instead we channel it into bizarre corners of our life. We check Twitter because of our fear of being left out. We buy expensive handbags for the same reason. We take a mundane follow-the-manual job because of our fear of failing as a map maker, and we make bad financial decisions because of our fear of taking responsibility for our money.

  • It turns out that we’re even afraid to talk about fear, as if that somehow makes it more real.

  • Fear of living without a map is the main reason people are so insistent that we tell them what to do.

  • The reasons are pretty obvious: If it’s someone else’s map, it’s not your fault if it doesn’t work out. If you’ve memorized the sales script I gave you and you don’t make the sale, who’s in trouble now? Not only does the map insulate us from responsibility, but it’s also a social talisman. We can tell our friends and family that we’ve found a good map, a safe map, a map worthy of respect.

The Internet Is Crack Cocaine for the Resistance

  • If you sat at work all day watching Hawaii Five 0 reruns, you’d probably lose your job. But it’s apparently fine to tweak and update your Facebook account for an hour. That’s “connecting to your social graph.”

  • There’s a big part of our psyche that wants to touch and be touched. We want to be connected, valued, and missed. We want people to know we exist and we don’t want to get bored.

  • Waiting for the daemon can be boring or even frightening. So the resistance encourages us to flee, and where better to go than to the Internet? On a day when the resistance is in charge, I check my e-mail forty five times. Why? Can’t it wait? Of course it can, but it’s fun. Fun to hear from people I like, fun to answer questions, fun to connect. If I had to be truthful, it’s about resistance. E-mailing is fun, but it rarely changes the world.

  • Don’t even get me started on Twitter. There are certainly people who are using it effectively and productively. Some people (a few) are finding that it helps them do the work. But the rest? It’s perfect resistance, because it’s never done. There’s always another tweet to be read and responded to. Which, of course, keeps you from doing the work.

  • I’m not a workaholic. There’s no fear because I’ve ingrained the habit of shipping. The lizard brain has no chance, so it shuts up and finds something else to worry about.

  • By forcing myself to do absolutely no busywork tasks in between bouts with the work, I remove the best excuse the resistance has. I can’t avoid the work because I am not distracting myself with anything but the work. This is the hallmark of a productive artist. I don’t go to meetings. I don’t write memos. I don’t have a staff. I don’t commute. The goal is to strip away anything that looks productive but doesn’t involve shipping.

  • Leo Babauta’s brilliant little book Zen Habits helps you think your way through this problem. His program is simple: Attempt to create only one significant work a year. Break that into smaller projects, and every day, find three tasks to accomplish that will help you complete a project. And do only that during your working hours. I’m talking about an hour a day to complete a mammoth work of art, whatever sort of art you have in mind. That hour a day might not be fun, but it’s probably a lot more productive than the ten hours you spend now.