The War Against Resistance

What it Means to be Human

Resistance is the invisible force which pushes against forward momentum. It comes in many shapes and sizes, and we've all faced resistance before.

We've all had days where...

  • Nothing gets done
  • Our mood is less than ideal
  • We feel as if the world is against us
  • We feel as if we're imposters
  • Our bodies are exhausted
  • Our minds are exhausted
  • We're forgetful
  • We underperform
  • We let others down
  • Time stands still

...And the list goes on.

Resistance is agnostic, which means it'll strike anyone, at any time. And if you're human, then facing resistance is a certainty of life.

In the 'War of Art', Steven Pressfield documents his experience with resistance, including the battle he faced in finding his calling and achieving his goals. For all of his life, Pressfield has waged war on resistance to accomplish his goals, and the same is true for anyone that's accomplished anything worthwhile.

Whether you're raising children, recovering from an illness, or you're a molecular biologist, you'll need to overcome resistance daily to achieve your goals.

The Wind of Resistance

Imagine that resistance is wind and you're pushing against it.

On some days resistance is a gentle breeze, on others, it's a hurricane. For you, resistance may be seasonal, and for others, it may be steady and pummelling. Wind is an excellent analogy because you can't see wind, you can only see the effects it has, and this is true for all resistance. You can't see the type of resistance someone is facing; all you're able to see is the impact that resistance has.

Since resistance comes in many shapes and sizes, there's no simple way to identify the resistance that we'll each face daily. What we can say, is that if you're doing any of the following, then you'll encounter resistance...

  • Following your dreams
  • Ignoring your dreams
  • Working on something you value dearly
  • Working on something you don't value
  • Going against the grain of society
  • Following the grain of society
  • Going against the wishes of loved one
  • Following the wishes of a loved one
  • Attaining mastery
  • Failing to attain mastery
  • Fighting against fear
  • Giving in to fear
  • Attempting to accomplish the impossible
  • Failing to accomplish the impossible
  • Pushing past a plateau
  • Sitting in a plateau
  • Fighting for what you believe in
  • Refusing to fight for what you believe in
  • Learning a complex skill
  • Learning a simple skill

...And the list goes on, but does it need to?

From the above, it's clear to see that resistance is everywhere. It's at both ends of the spectrum, and it's in the middle as well. Resistance will pummel you if you're pushing towards your goals, and it'll pummel you when you're not. After all, when there's something worth fighting for, you'll be most upset that you didn't fight.

While we can't control resistance, we can confront it. And at Byozo, we face resistance daily, never shying away from this confrontation.

As a small team, our workload is by no means modest. Even though our focus is on transforming time into impact, we still face resistance. Last week, after hours of creating and writing long-form content, we hit incredible resistance publishing a simple blog post. Suddenly our well of ideas had run dry and despite our best intentions, we were unable to produce anything which we'd be happy to publish under our name.

Resistance was in full force, and despite our best efforts, we couldn't reach a simple short-term goal. On this day, resistance won...or did it?

You wouldn't be reading this post today if it did. After all, resistance inspired this post, and now resistance is receiving full credit. What our dilemma taught us wasn't necessarily that we'd lost, as much as it'd taught us that the obstacle is the way.

Ryan Holiday writes in great detail about this phenomenon in his book 'The Obstacle is the Way' which is a testament to the stoic mindset of our ancestors. As we've identified above, resistance is present whether you're working towards your goals or not. Our stoic ancestors knew all along that resistance was the silent killer of progress.

Winning The War

The word war is a careful choice here because calling the battle against resistance anything less doesn't do it justice. Fighting resistance is not easy. Working towards your true calling in life is not easy. Being miserable because you're stuck in a rut is not easy.

Resistance does not make life easy. But if you know your enemy, then it becomes far easier to understand their motives and how to win the war.

And what resistance wants, is to keep you stagnant.

It does not want you to fail or succeed. It is agnostic to both of these options. It's happier for you to remain exactly where you are. If we sink, resistance will not push us, but it will be present when we decide to start once climbing once more.

Imagine learning a new skill. When you start, resistance will be at full force, like a gale force wind on a winters day. As you begin to learn and understand your new skill, you'll become stronger at braving and pushing beyond this wind. The wind may never truly die down, but you'll be more prepared to battle against it.

If you choose to give up the skill and vow never to practice again, then resistance will not only have won, but it will fight you when you aim to return to your previous level of competence.

Once upon a time, you may have decided to pursue your dreams and to fight the good fight. But when you went to war, resistance was there to meet you on the battlefield. Perhaps on that day resistance won the battle, but we're not concerned with the battle, what we're concerned with is the war.

And to win the war, you must become more persistent than the force of resistance itself. Anything that's worth having will come with resistance. It doesn't matter how smart you are, or how well you plan. To make progress, you must move forward, and you must understand that forward momentum will encounter the wind of resistance.

But in the face of adversity, persistence will always triumph.

Persistence to Defeat Resistance

Persistence leads to growth. The most substantial separation between those who've accomplished incredible feats and those who haven't is persistence.

Grit is another name for persistence, and Angela Duckworth describes several types of grit in her book (aptly named 'Grit'). Duckworth describes particular types of Grit as healthy and unhealthy, but this granularity is not needed when we view persistence as growth.

When you're working towards your goals and fighting to overcome the impossible, it's foolish to assume there will be no learning. Even if you are stubborn and headstrong in your approach, the journey is always the most excellent teacher. Those who have failed the most, are often the most successful. Those who have lost the most, are often the most grateful. The journey and the mistakes you make will shape who you are, but without persistence, regardless of your resources, the journey will come to an end thanks to resistance.

Picture this, if two individuals from various income related backgrounds are learning to play the piano, they will both face resistance. The virtuoso will not be the one that has access to more significant resources (e.g. money). It will be the one who can overcome and continue fighting against resistance. Of course, Anders Ericsson's model of deliberate practice will be invaluable to the virtuoso, but without persistence against the resistance they face, the model is useless.

Examples of Overcoming Resistance

Walking is an innately complex skill which most of us were lucky enough to learn at a young age. When we first learnt to walk, resistance was there to trip us up. It was there to help us fall and make us cry. Through sheer determination, we overcame resistance and learnt an incredible new skill. Now walking is of no concern for most of us, and we take it for granted daily.

Despite having learnt to walk, most of us would struggle to run a marathon. There is an apparent gap between our ability to walk and to run long distances. If we decide to pursue this goal, then resistance will be waiting for us. Resistance will make us hurt, it will make us sore, and it may derail us from the journey. But to overcome resistance we must push, and we must be persistent.

Someone who is a competent runner may face less resistance reaching the distance of a marathon than someone who has never run before, but they will still meet the force of resistance. Attempting to run a marathon with little training will encounter enormous resistance. You'll be in the heart of the storm, and you'll be battling a dangerous force of resistance. If you bite off more than you're able to chew, you may lose the battle.

But the battle is irrelevant, to win the war, you must be willing to become persistent, incremental and progressive.

Incremental impact will help you become strong enough to fight the resistance a marathon brings. Of course, training will have its challenges, but the question becomes, how much will you fight to brave the storm? How much does running the marathon mean to you?

When writers embark on writing a novel, they may be beginning on one of the most difficult challenges of their lives. Resistance is waiting around every corner, manifesting itself as doubt, as writer's block and as imposter syndrome. But the writer knows resistances game. The writer accepts that even if they turn up to write (and resistance is thundering in front of them) that they have a mission they must accomplish. Whether it's 1000 words per day of utter drivel or 1000 words of poetic beauty is of no concern to the writer. The writer shows up. The writer fights. The writer continues the next day. The writer is persistent.

Sometimes the writer is stuck, and sometimes the writer needs to think and re-evaluate their objectives. But the writer does not stop fighting, even when choosing to rest and recuperate from the battles. Rest is a conscious choice and a necessity to remain persistence. It is not defeat.

And the writer's story is one we relate to closely, and one that is dear to our hearts. It is a battle we faced and lost less than a week ago (as of writing), but the war is not over. Through persistence we triumphed, this post is a testament to that (albeit, a small one).

But overcoming resistance is just that. It's the small, incremental wins which will create monumental impact in the future. When the author launches their first book, when the runner achieves their first marathon, and when you accomplish your most challenging goals, it will be thanks to your persistence against resistance.

The war is yours to fight, and it's one we believe you were destined to win.