Friday, 20 January 2017

The War of Art

"Hitler wanted to be an artist.  Ever seen one of his paintings?  Neither have I.  Resistance beat him...It was easier for Hitler to start World War II than it was for him to face a blank square of canvas." (Steven Pressfield)

There is nothing more intimidating than a blank canvas to an artist or a blank sheet of paper to a writer.  Author Steven Pressfield, author of The War of Art, tells us how to overcome "creative block".  He maintains that everyone has a calling.  However, in pursuing your calling, you are often sabotaged by others, or more commonly, by yourself.  

Hitler wanted to be an artist.  He took his inheritance and moved to Vienna where he applied to The Academy of Fine Arts and later the School of Architecture.  Failing to get in to either school, he eventually gave up on his dream.  "Resistance beat him...It was easier for Hitler to start World War II than it was for him to face a blank square of canvas." (

"Resistance is the almost supernatural force which seeks to keep us from finding our true calling." (  The closer we are to finding our true calling, the fiercer the resistance becomes.  You could also define resistance as your "inner critic".  As a writer, you might be familiar with this mantra put forward by Matthew Webb:  "You're not really a writer.  You'll never finish this book.  You're not exceptional at anything."

The Resistance focusses on the enormity of the task that you have before you rather than dividing it up into manageable steps.  "Small victories over ourselves and over Resistance, have an accelerating effect."  For instance, after a few weeks, a 20 minute workout one day can form a daily habit.  Forming a good habit is a victory, but so too is breaking a bad habit.  Matthew Webber compares it to standing up to the classroom bully:  "the perception was far worse than the reality".  The more we conquer our bad habits, the more energy we have to tackle Resistance.

It is easy to be motivated about a new project.  However, it isn't always easy to stay motivated.  Before you know it, that list of chapters that you drafted for your new book is just collecting dust.  Matthew Webber suggests ways to get "re-motivated":

  • keep visual reminders near your desk (ex. family photos, religious art, reminders of past victories)
  • mark a wall calendar with your progress and milestones
  • build a YouTube playlist with motivational stories
  • start a visual log of your progress

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Obstacles Are Those Frightful Things You See When You Take Your Eyes Off Your Goal

"If you can find a path that has no obstacles, it probably doesn't lead anywhere." (Frank Clark)

Glenn Cunningham, the Kansas Flyer, courtesy

Glenn Cunningham used to light the pot-bellied stove in the one room schoolhouse every day.  One day the teacher arrived to find the schoolhouse engulfed in flames.  She managed to pull Glenn out but he was unconscious.  Glenn languished in a coma for weeks.  The doctor told his mother that he likely wouldn't survive.  She refused to believe the prognosis and talked to her son everyday to bring him out of the coma.  Slowly, he did wake up.  However, then the doctor said that, because of his scarred legs, he would likely never walk again, but Glenn's mother refused to believe him.  She massaged his legs daily.

Glenn eventually went home.  One day his mother took him outside for some fresh air.  Glenn decided to get out of his wheelchair, drag himself across the grass and up on to the picket fence, and "walk" along the fence.  Eventually, he mastered the fence and started walking on his own.  Next, he decided to walk the periphery of the yard.  Then, he decided to run.  Eventually, he ran all the way to school where he tried out for the track team.  In college, he earned the nickname the "Kansas Flyer".  Would you believe, the young man who was not expected to live ran the world's fastest indoor mile at Madison Square Gardens in February of 1934?  Dr. Glenn Cunningham lived until his 80th year.

"Inspiration kept [Glenn] going even when obstacles got in the way" (  It appeared as if everything was against him.  The doctor had given up hope.  But Glenn's mother hadn't, and neither had Glenn.  He learned form his adversity.  He refused to let the obstacles he faced deter him.  Glenn exhibited great patience on his journey to success.  He took it one hurdle at a time.  First, he conquered the wheelchair by standing, then the fence by walking, then the distance from home to school by running, then the clock by training.  Each time, he set a more difficult goal.  

Henry Ford said:  "Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal." Glenn Cunningham never took his eyes off his goal.

Note:  Read Everything I Know About Success I Learned From Napoleon Hill by Don M. Green (

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Self-Discipline: Not an Innate Characteristic But a Learned Skill

"Self-discipline begins with the mastery of your thoughts.  If you don't control what you think, you can't control what you do.  Simply, discipline enables you to think first and act afterward." 
(Napoleon Hill)

Brian Tracy defines self-discipline as "the ability to do what you know you should do when you don't feel like doing it." He explains that the two biggest enemies of self-discipline are taking the path of least resistance (ex. a get rich quick scheme) and instant gratification.  Don't always act on impulse but weigh the possibilities first.

According to Napoleon Hill, "Self-discipline begins with the mastery of your thoughts.  If you don't control what you think, you can't control what you do.  Simply, discipline enables you to think first and act afterward."  President Theodore Roosevelt had an incredible ability to master his thoughts.  While delivering a political speech in the early 1900's, he was shot in the chest by a would be assassin.  Bleeding through his shirt, he still insisted on speaking for a solid hour.  Finally, he let the Secret Service men take him to the hospital.  It turned out that his spectacles case and his speech, both inside his breast pocket, had slowed the bullet down enough to save his life.

It may appear that some people have self-discipline and others don't.  However, self-discipline is not an innate characteristic but a learned skill.  Anyone can learn it.  Forbes contributor Amy Morin suggests six ways to develop the habit (

1.  Acknowledge Your Weaknesses

Have you ever heard a smoker say "I could quit if I wanted to."  More likely they are simply not admitting that they can't quit.

2.  Develop a Plan

Outline the steps to reach your goal.

3.  Remove the Temptations

If you can't resist spending, leave the credit card at home when you go to the mall.

4.  Practice Tolerating Emotional Discomfort

We all have to experience emotional discomfort at some point.  Learn to tolerate boredom, frustration, loneliness and sadness.  

5.  Visualize the Long Term Rewards

Jack Canfield, while he was writing Chicken Soup for the Soul, visualized the title at the top of the bestseller list.  Despite 144 rejections by publishers, he persevered.

6.  Recover from Mistakes Effectively

Acknowledge your mistakes and move on with resolve to do better next time.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Affirmations: Our Mental Vitamins

"Affirmations are our mental vitamins providing the supplementary positive thoughts we need to balance the barrage of negative events we experience daily." (Tia Walker)

Edwene Gaines, author of Four Spiritual Laws of Prosperity, recommends that if you want to conquer your goals, you take the 21-Day Affirmation Challenge ( Make a list of goals, then make a list of positive, life-affirming statements to support each goal.  (If you are a Christian, you can make a list of 21 Bible verses.) Write them down on index cards.  For example, "I am happily vacationing two months of the year in a tropical paradise and working just four days a week on my own business." (  After 21 days, the aim is for the statements to have passed from your conscious into your subconscious mind.

As Jack Canfield says, "Visualization and affirmations allow you to change your beliefs, assumptions and opinions about the most important person in your life -- YOU!"  If you set aside a day to add up how much self-talk you do, you would be amazed at how much time you spend in the process.  It is too easy to get bogged down in negative self-talk, to beat yourself up about what has gone wrong in your life.  Unlearn the habit of negative self-talk; it will uplift your spirit.

As a writer, I appreciate stories of authors who overcome rejection and go on to publish their books..  Jack Canfield, co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul, was rejected 144 times for his manuscript "Anthologies don't sell," was the standard response he received.  Jack Canfield employed visualization and affirmation to overcome the repeated rejections.

"When we were writing the very first Chicken Soup for the Soul book, we took a copy of the New York Times bestseller list, scanned it into our computer, and using the same font as the newspaper, typed Chicken Soup for the Soul into the number one position in the "Paperback Advice, How To and Miscellaneous" category.  We printed several copies and hung them around the office.  Less than two years later, our book was the number one book in that category and stayed there for over a year!"(

Sunday, 15 January 2017

The Pursuit of Lifelong Knowledge

"Successful men, in all callings, never stop acquiring specialized knowledge related to their major purpose, business or profession. Those who are not successful usually make the mistake of believing that the knowledge acquiring period ends when one finishes high school." (Napoleon Hill)

Steve Siebold, author of How Rich People Think, studied 1200 of the world's wealthiest people and discovered that most have "a crazy appetite for reading".  Atlanta businessman J. B. Fuqua, while he did not have much of a formal education, borrowed books from Duke University regularly.  He was so grateful for how the institution had helped him that he became its biggest benefactor.  The Starbucks CEO wakes up at 5 am every morning and reads the Seattle Times, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.  Oprah Winfrey credits reading with helping her move from childhood poverty to affluence.  "Books were my path to personal freedom.  I learned to read at age 3 and soon discovered there was a whole world to conquer that went beyond our farm in Mississippi."(

Successful people don't always have a lot of formal education, but they do believe in educating themselves.  They read books and magazines and newspapers to acquire specialized knowledge in their subject area.  "Walk into a wealthy person's home and one of the first things you'll see is an extensive library of books they've used to educate themselves on how to become more successful."(

1.  Always have a book.

2.  We all have a to-do list.  Keep a "to-learn" list as well.

3.  Surround yourself with Intellectual Friends.

4.  Practice Guided (Critical) Thinking

5.  Put your knowledge into practice.  Don't simply study painting, pick up a brush.

6.  Teach others.  Mentor someone or start a blog.

7.  Clean Input 

8.  Learn in groups (workshops, etc)

9.  Unlearn assumptions.  Challenge your worldview.

10.  Find jobs that encourage learning.

11.  Start a project.

12.  Follow your intuition.

13.  Morning Fifteen.  Devote the first fifteen minutes of the day to education.

14.  Reap the rewards

15.  Mark learning a priority.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Gandhi's First Act of Civil Disobedience Sparks Vision

"Where there is no vision, the people perish." (Proverbs 29:18)

Mahatma Ghandi was raised by a middle class family in India.  He suffered from low self-esteem as a child. One day, he was riding on a train in South Africa.  The porter told him that because of his dark skin, he would have to move to a freight car.  Ghandi refused and was ejected from the train. (  From that day on he had a purpose:  to help others overcome discrimination.  His self-esteem blossomed and he went on to be one of the most beloved leaders of the 20th Century (  

Dorothea Lange grew up in a poor family.  Her father deserted the family when she was 12.  A bout with polio left her one leg permanently damaged.  Embarrassed, she just wanted to disappear.  During the Great Depression, she picked up a camera, and started photographing the homeless, the jobless, the hungry:  she had found her purpose.  In 1940, her photograph collection was displayed at the Modern Museum of Art.  The following year she received a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship.  Her most famous photograph, Migrant Mother, opened the eyes of the public and government to the plight of Americans during the Great Depression.  As a result the government sent 100,000 pounds of food to the camp where the "migrant mother" was living (

Dorothy Lange doing what she loved best courtesy

Unlock your potential.  Discover your vision or purpose.  It will change your life.

Note:  Read Brian Tracy's Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life:  How to Unlock Your Full Potential for Success and Achievement (