What it’s like to chase while the others are resting

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My post earlier in the week wasn’t exactly the most uplifting, so I thought I would continue that theme again and try and make sense of it.

There are times when you wake up and think that you are just utterly mediocre. And that–for many of us–is worse than feeling like a failure. Because failing, or fucking up, those are just the risks that come along with pushing forward. But to doubt for a second that perhaps you don’t have what it takes, that for all the hard work you just don’t have the talent to make it happen; that is terrifying.

It takes on many forms. It might be a stasis, a period of inactivity or slowing of progress. It might be an inkling that you just aren’t as good as the models you are emulating. Or it could be clues that the goal simply isn’t physically conceivable. Worse yet, maybe it’s beneath you. The competition might have shown itself and after comparison, your assets no longer seem so rare.

It’s weird to think that this is a good thing. It’s the resistance. It’s the point at which most people give in. They get depressed, they get doubtful, and then they quit. Often, these feelings are evidence that you’re onto something. When you start to think that you can’t handle it–then you’ve discovered something challenging. These are the extra reps that you just didn’t think you could handle But ultimately, it’s where you build the muscle. Conversely, it can be a hint that you’re traveling down the wrong path–that you need to stop. Here, it’s the warning before the injury.

I like to remind myself of two (conveniently delusional) things. One, most people don’t consider these things at all. They lack the self-awareness to be attuned to their emotions and then fall prey to them. The benefits of being self-conscious never reveal themselves, leaving them ignorant and oblivious to the finer details. Or in never pulling back, they get overextended. Two, many people overreact. They get down and quit. Someone says something derogatory and they just never recover. Perhaps they only reason they’ve entered the game at all is for validation and then they become beholden to it.

For me, the solutions to these feelings requires addresses both poles. I remind myself that I am on the right path and that I developed myself precisely for the pursuit. Yet I proceed with caution. I understand that this is where many others have go awry. And when you examine the bones of these fallen comrades, you can learn from their mistakes. Lastly, I use the doubts to reestablish my foundation. You could call it a preparatory splurge, where you make the fears irrelevant by addressing the root problems. Upon which you simply wait for the next wave and go through the entire process again.

Written by Ryan Holiday
Ryan Holiday is the bestselling author of Trust Me, I’m Lying, The Obstacle Is The Way, Ego Is The Enemy, and other books about marketing, culture, and the human condition. His work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared everywhere from the Columbia Journalism Review to Fast Company. His company, Brass Check, has advised companies such as Google, TASER, and Complex, as well as Grammy Award winning musicians and some of the biggest authors in the world. He lives in Austin, Texas.