The professional keeps his eye on the doughnut and not on the hole. He reminds himself it’s better to be in the arena, getting stomped by the bull, than to be up in the stands or out in the parking lot. – The War Of Art, Steven Pressfield
I would say for 90% of my life, I was not in the arena that I wanted to be in. In fact, I was so far away from the arena, that I would need a telescope to even see where my damn arena was. It was a dire situation to be in. Now that I am in the arena, I can safely say that there is no other place I would rather be.
Even if it can a scary place at times, and I feel quite alone, and lost at all times, I am so grateful. So grateful that every single day of my life that I get to be alive, and play in the arena of my dreams. I don’t want to be in the parking lot or the stands ever again.
I don’t ever want to watch other people play in my arena, and think, “Oh man, I could do that so much better. If only, I had enough courage to to be out in the arena as well.”
I wish I could say the courage arrives easily. But of course, it doesn’t. Nothing in this life comes easy, but when it does come, it comes with force, and it comes with its volition. It comes so that nothing can stand in its way. It comes so that it changes your life’s entire landscape.
I thought with this post I would share some things I have learnt about being in the arena, and why it’s the best thing you could do for yourself, ever.
The Arena Is Different For Different People – Do Not Compare
One of the very first things I want you to eliminate from your dictionary is the word ‘comparison’. It is a deathly term, and should be eliminated from the dictionary forever.
When I first got my courage quota, and started working and living in the arena, there were many times, I would peek over my own arena, and into someone else’s arena.
First of all, that meant that I was getting distracted, because instead of focusing all of my creative efforts on working, and getting shit done, I was wasting it on studying other people’s arenas. Just saying. But second of all, it meant that I was telling myself that my path with all of its uniqueness, and my arena with all of my personal characteristics, and quirks, was going to be similar to someone else’s arena.
First Class Bullshit
And that of course is bullshit. Of the first class.
We cannot and should not compare our path to someone else’s. If you want to stay small and foolish forever, then you should compare. But if you want to realize all of your dreams, then you have to stop comparing.
There is no way for us to compare our arena to another’s. There is just no way. It has to look different. Even two writers who are writing the same genre, will have different arenas. Because they are writing from different life experiences, and from different perspectives, and are writing for a different audience, and so on.
There is just no comparison. Keep that in mind.
The Arena Will Change Over Your Lifetime – It Doesn’t Stay The Same Forever
One of the main things I have realized over time is that the arena that we participate in, doesn’t stay stagnant over our lifetime. In fact, we might enter one arena for a bit, and then decide to move to another one. Of course, I am not thinking or saying that you should be inconsistent at all, or decide to move around from here to there all the time.
But, there is this fear… huge fear that I hear about all the time from all of my clients, and friends. The question or inquiry goes something like this, “I am interested in so many different things. I have a multitude of interests, and passions. How am I supposed to find that one thing that will keep me going on the right path forever? I mean, it’s FOREVER!!”
Believe me, I get it. I was deathly afraid as well. In fact, I still am. What if the choice I made isn’t the right one? And I am missing out on the right choice, because I wasted my time and energy on the wrong choice? I would hate myself, and I would hate my life, and I would hate everything else.
What gave me some solace, and peace, was the knowledge that I do not have to stick with this choice, whatever it might be, forever. It isn’t forever. In fact, even if the basic essence of the choice remains the same (writer, or pianist), the way you do it might change.
For example, when I was younger, I used to write short stories, and I loved it. Now, I write science fiction novels, and I love those. Maybe in the future, I will be writing melodramatic romance screenplays (who knows?) and I will love those as well.
Do Not Give Me Advice If You Are Not In The Arena As Well
This one I stole from one of my mentors, Brene Brown. I love her to death, I seriously have a girl crush on her (like millions of women on this planet). She says the following:
“A lot of cheap seats in the arena are filled with people who never venture onto the floor. They just hurl mean-spirited criticisms and put-downs from a safe distance. The problem is, when we stop caring what people think and stop feeling hurt by cruelty, we lose our ability to connect. But when we’re defined by what people think, we lose the courage to be vulnerable. Therefore, we need to be selective about the feedback we let into our lives. For me, if you’re not in the arena also getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback.”
I love the last line – it is in my manifesto now. I do a lot of stuff online. Putting myself out there on a daily basis means I get a lot of people giving me advice or feedback or criticisms. I get a lot of negative feedback, and I’m sure this is just the beginning.
I Love Brene Brown
But Brene Brown’s teachings give me peace. I know that most of these people aren’t out there getting their ass kicked. They are hiding behind a fake name, and a fake photograph. And a lot of them are hiding behind the anonymity of the Internet. Which means, that they are not just there criticizing you because they wish to do what you are doing, and they aren’t brave enough to do it.
I don’t listen to feedback now. Not even a little bit. Nowadays, if anyone says anything to me, I will politely listen. And, then I will file it away under ‘Useless Information I’m Going To Ignore’. Unless, you have proven yourself worthy in some way, I am not taking advice from you.
I Would Rather Be In The Arena Even If I’m Getting Pummelled
What if I told you, that now, I love being pummelled? I really do. I’m not even joking about it. First of all, I love it, because it means that my stuff is out there, and being read by strangers (not just my mother who loves everything I do). And they are reading it, and hating it or loving it, or getting angry/emotional enough about it, to write me an angry email or message. That’s awesome!! Yikes, that’s what I want.
Second of all, I love it, because it means I am not in the sidelines anymore. Fuck! I’m in the damn arena, getting pummelled, and punched, and kneed in the groin. I love every moment of it. It makes me feel so alive. I’m so lucky and grateful that I get to be in the arena, getting my arse kicked from here to Tuesday (or however that phrase runs).
I realize every single day that the arena is where I want to be. Even if everything I am doing is shit, and every word I write is crap, and every video I produce is horrendous, I want to be in the damn arena.
Until the die I kick the bucket, I want to be in the arena, being yelled at, and kicked at, and punched at. That’s where I want to take my last breath in this lifetime. I never ever want to leave.
When I’m In The Arena, In The Game, I Feel Like Everything Is Right With The World
It’s an interesting thing, and you will agree with me, if you are in the arena, and doing your work. Those days that I am not in the arena, which means, I haven’t done anything creative, or I haven’t made anything new, I feel like crap. I literally go around, moping about, and thinking that the world sucks, and all the bees are going to die, and we are going to go extinct.
The world has no music, and no light. I feel like everything sucks, and I don’t know why I am even alive. What is the point of it all?
As soon as I realize after a brief self-reflection period, that I need to create something in order to get out of my funk, I create something, anything, whatever, right away. It is crucial for my mental health.
I create something, and then, as soon as I do, even if it is the worst thing on this planet (and a lot of times, it is really terrible), I feel good again. It’s like instantaneous relief. I feel happy. Everything is fine with the world. I am happy, and the world is doing fine.
It is like I have taken a shot of cocaine or something. It’s literally like being high on something awesome, and illegal.
You must be wondering how I could be so stupid as to stop doing what makes me so happy. Right. I’m a dumb ass. I have no excuse. I really don’t. Foolishly, I stop doing the very thing that keeps me going. Silly AF.
I Want Everyone To Be In The Arena With Me
My ardent desire, the reason I do all of the things I do, writing, videos, podcast, is because I want to inspire everyone to live the best version of themselves. I want everyone to be self-actualized. I want everyone to be what they were meant to be.
But, people ask me if everyone is the arena, then who is going to be reading or watching all of the stuff that we put out there. In my viewership or readership, the best people, the people I want reading or watching my stuff, are the ones who are putting stuff out there themselves.
And that’s what ends up happening. The people in the arena end up consuming the stuff of the other people who are in the arena as well. It is a big cesspool of incestuous creative relationship, and I love it all.
I want everyone to break off those damn shackles that bound them to the seat on the sidelines. Those shackles of doubt, fear, anxiety, and more, that keeps bound to the chairs in the stadium. We are so afraid of ridicule, and rejection, that we sit tightly bound to those seats, even afraid to lift our eyes up to see what is going on around us.
We roll ourselves into a ball, and we don’t look up. Fear is us, and we are fear.
Some Days I Am Spitting Up Blood, Other Days, I Am Cashing In Cheques
Maybe from my posts, I come across as forever confident, and striving valiantly into the battlefield everyday. Of course, I want to disabuse you of that notion right away. I mean, right freaking away.
I’m a mess. A complete mess. I wish I could explain to you through words how much of a mess I am. It is rather sad.
I get up somedays, and I want to hide under the covers, and not go out into the battlefield at all. I want to hide in my room, and cry about the unfairness of it all. “No one gets me,” I lament to myself in my journal.
Of course, those days, my nose is bleeding, and my heart is broken, and I feel like I am filled up with holes.
Luckily enough, the next day I wake up, and I feel like, “Okay, let’s do this thang,” and I go out bravely once again, ready to take on the haters and the trolls.
I share this with you, to tell you everyone who is in the battlefield is like this. Everyone in the arena is like this. They are crying some days, and laughing others. Some days are good, and other days are worse than bad.
Thus, you can do it, too. That’s the point of this whole post. You should do it, of course. But you can do it, too. You can. You certainly can. If I can, you so can. I am not special, and if I can do it, you can do it, too.
You can. Please try. Not sometime in the future.
That someday isle we all live in might never arrive. Do it right now!