Over a year ago, our project was taking a really rough beating, and I didn’t think I could continue.
I escaped and took a walk down the beach to try and sort things out.
As I looked across the horizon, I thought of the depths of the water, and how far away any other shore was. And when I put myself out to sea, sailing the merciless ocean, slowly an empowering metaphor began to form.
Committment is a wheel, it’s a circle. Once you are on the outside of that wheel, you are not committed. There is no halfway mark. To be committed, you must exist and thrive in the deep waters that are making a concentrated effort to suffocate your dream, to pull you to the outside of the wheel, and spin you out. Your will power has to be stronger than those forces, because the daily battle is not "how to do this" or "how to do that." The daily battle is keeping the bow steered towards the distant shore.
This is a battle against exhaustion, a battle against what Steven Pressfield elaborately identifies as the enemy named “Resistance.” It’s an enemy we each face if we ever want to become anything other than a pile of jelly.
It's easy to celebrate the journey when you are coasting with the wind in your favor, or when the water becomes shallow and your view is clear, with people cheering safely from the finish line. But that’s not commitment.
You only know what commitment looks like when the weather is crushing you, when you have a mutinous crew, when beautiful sirens summon you to leave your battered ship, when the sea is angry and full of vengeance. You only know if you are committed when you can no longer see the shore behind you, or the shore in front of you, and the sky is opaque without a star for guidance.
That's when you are in danger of spinning out. And once you are in that spiral, it's only a matter of time before you are flung out to drown in the sea of mediocrity, or get torn apart by it's indifference.
So what do you?
I think there is a trick. If you look at the center of the wheel, it is dead calm, dead focus.
And yet, the vessel keeps going.
At the time I wrote this, I concluded that perseverance is possible if you stay in the center of the wheel while everything else constantly spins to the outside.
But it seemed to have a flaw. Because, in fact, the center of a wheel does spin.
Luckily, in the past few weeks, my commitments were tested again, which gave me a chance to complete the metaphor.
The Circle Connects.
A few days ago, I had a conversation with Sylvain Despretz (check out his work: He’ll tell you he isn’t an artist, but his own apparent commitment speaks otherwise) about the importance of an artist being a self reliant warrior, to do things from the right place. Without any mention from me of the wheel of commitment, he suggested I was in the eye of the hurricane. I had not thought about it like that, and only later did the idea begin to fully form.
My social life is mostly absent, my financial life is at risk, I am working from 3 different time zones, and after 3 years of grinding, my already restless spirit is taxed beyond it's normal threshold, and most people I interact with don't consider the journey I am on. They can’t see it, they don't have time to hear it. I am strange to them.
But this indifference is understandable: Until the path is complete, a man carving his own way through a forest already filled with bike paths is either unnoticed, misunderstood, or just looks like a crazy person to everyone else. "Why is that crazy man chopping through the thicket when everything is right here and easy to take?" It's a lonely road, or else everyone would be on it. And if everyone else was on it, I would certainly complain about how crowded it is.
Everything comes with a price. Choose what you are willing to pay and then don't complain when you get the bill.
Same Image, New Name.
As our conversation ended, the earlier metaphor slowly changed shape, and I saw commitment from a new perspective.
I was wrong. The center of the wheel is still going to spin. There is no zen in the wheel.
But there is in the eye of a hurricane. There is dead calm in the eye of the hurricane. Like the wheel needs to spin to get anywhere, without the storm outside, there is no need to commit.
Because if nothing is risked, nothing is gained. Sailing calm waters is easy.
Ever feel the anxiety in your daily battles? The fear, the regret, the longing? You need that signal. That’s the madness out there, surrounding you on every side. It’s dangerous, it’s the voice of all the lost souls growing stronger with every new victim. Its howl is scornful and jealous of your center – and it viciously wants you to join.
Take a half step in any direction, and you will.
The tempestuous storm is there. You can hear it everyday. But so is the calm inside.
The Journey Continues