Your Anti-Story: Combating the Resistance

Running in LA has provided a new means of laziness and escape. I’ve never run in a city before, only the suburbs, so the concept of being inhibited by streetlights and cross walks is rather foreign. The real struggle in a run is not so much your physical limitations but your mental ones. “I was going to do five miles but I think I’ll turn back here and do three.” On the track and in the suburbs you’re undermined by fewer temptations, fewer excuses to break the rhythm. The city is totally different–an uninterrupted mile is a rarity and a course without shortcuts, rarer still. Which, by the way, I have found to be very similar to office work. You can cut out early, drag your feet. And this too is contrasted by a running impulse–to add distance and duration regardless of the yield or return, to go slow and long instead of efficiently. But I’ll address this more later on.

So I have found myself confronted by the path of least resistance on a more regular basis than usual. If you need to cross two streets in a four-way intersection (think an L) it is very easy to “arrange” waiting for an extra light. As I approach the end of a course, the desire to slow down to miss a flashing “Don’t Walk” signal mounts. Even more so, crossing redundant streets or shortcuts leads to an almost siren-like call to end it early.

This is how life works. This is how opportunities present themselves. The world, our instincts, they often conspire against us. Think about it evolutionarily–if the qualities of greatness are rare then in many cases it means they are not best for genetic survival. The drive to head far from home, to push onward towards an arbitrary benchmark, has probably killed more people than it saved. Raynor talks about this in The Strategy Paradox, the system creates incentives for mediocrity and punishments for risk. You, I, can see signs of this everywhere. I find it–excuse the pun–on street signs. They tempt you with rest and slow the heading of progress. And your instincts were bred to indulge this impulse, they aim to save you from yourself.

Overcoming Bias wrote about a solution last week. Tell your Anti-Story. Pressfield in The War of Art, wrote that the stronger the resistance, the more you know you’re heading in the right direction. My fix has been to push through. It is exactly when the desire to stop and rest is greatest that you ought to ignore it. Even more effective, when I find myself aching for a shortcut, I add distance to the end.

But there are limits to this too, as I mentioned with hours and the office earlier. Your desire to achieve and accomplish should never be confused with the concept of work, or spending as much time there as possible. Banging your head against a wall takes a lot of determination, but what does it do? I’ve made it a point to stay (or with Rudius to sit at my laptop) for as long as I am still DOING or ACCOMPLISHING something. If the results have stopped, then it is time to stop. Come back later when you can produce again. I try to buttress running with the same philosophy. If I didn’t sleep the night before the run will leave me in worse shape than if I didn’t. If 1pm is the only time I can do it but it’s 97 degrees outside, is saying that I did it worth the subsequent dehydration? In other words, going to far with your Anti-Story is just as bad as not telling one at all.

I’ll end with the definitive word that I end everyone of these debates with:

“At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: ‘I

have to go to work–as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if

I’m going to do what I was born for–the things which I was brought

into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle

under the blankets and stay warm?’

–But it’s nicer here…

So you were born to feel “nice?” Instead of doing things and

experiencing them? Why aren’t you running to do what your nature


–But we have to sleep sometime…

Agreed. But nature set a limit on that–as it did on eating and

drinking. And you’re over the limit. But not of working. There you’re

still below your quota. ”

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.