speaker, consultant, coach

Displacement activities

"Distraction and displacement seem innocent on the surface. How can we be harming ourselves by having fun, or seeking romance, or enjoying the fruits of this big, beautiful world? But lives go down the tubes one repetition at a time, one deflection at a time, one hundred and forty characters at a time." -- Steven Pressfield


I'm going to keep this short.


I've wasted vast tracks of my life working on the wrong things.


Of course, had I  known my 'calling' from the start, then I'm sure, by now, I would be further down the road towards Turning Pro (I gratefully adopt the metaphor and the substance of Steven Pressfield's wonderful book bearing the same name).


Right now, I'm buried knee deep in displacement activities:



  • blogging


  • social media


  • arguing about the status quo


  • looking for answers


  • looking back on my life (not forward)



But mostly, and perhaps for the majority of my life, the thing that's kept me from knowing if I've the potential to do something meaningful with my life, is work. And when I talk about work, I mean the common or garden variety, i.e. the type of work that puts food on the table but not much else.


Now you might think this sounds dreadfully pompous, and it does, but the truth of the matter is that I've stalled, failed to commit but most of all to follow through with the promises I've made to myself, and I’ve used work as the excuse.

But work is not our calling. It’s just work, and in my case I’ve tried to outmuscle everyone when I should have been doing the
real work of writing, speaking and writing poetry.


The thing is when you get to my age, you haven't got much time left to make the jump from amateur to professional. (Trust me despite all the apocryphal stories about those people who in their latter years make their mark, i.e. Colonel Sanders, time does catch up with you, if only because it requires a lot more effort to keep going than in your youth.) And I know that if I've talked about this once, I've talked about it a hundred times; but if I'm going to make the leap from amateur to professional (as a writer or speaker or poet), then I've no choice but to kill off the displacement activities, save paid work (we have to eat), and focus like I've never focused before. If I don't then I might as well quit.


Perhaps I won't be able to kill off all my displacement activities at this time, but even one or two of could make a major difference to my mindset sufficient to open a space to create and finish the real work; and that's the key point. I have to finish something, not just to know that I can break through the Resistance (again, another term of Pressfield) but if I can do it once, I can do it again and again.


I take heart from some areas of my life where I feel previously I've come close to Turning Pro -- e.g. karate. I know that what it requires is a monomaniacal zeal that's currently missing. At best I'm paddling on the surface but not going deep.


Let's face it, if I want to be a writer not only do I have to write (books), but I also have to read everything about writing, read more widely than the slew of non-fiction books I've amassed and get myself plugged into the writing scene, so I know exactly what I'm up against (again, I'll be very mindful not to allow these too to become displacement activities).


I'm sorry if this sounds a tad self-referential but the fact that I've been promising so much but delivering so little calls for a better answer than "I'm too busy".


Onwards, forever onwards.


Well, there is a saying that what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander; and there is a saying that one man's meat is another man's poison. Since i don't much relish being served up in a sauce, i much prefer the second proverb.

Maybe it is a difference in our ages. I've got maybe ten years left, no more than twenty even if i outlive all my kin. Asking questions and seeking answers is about as productive as i will get, publicly at least. And that is just fine with me. Non productive behavior is a symptom of my condition, but when i consider the nature of most "productive" behavior i feel not one bit embarrassed.

There is also a very male bias in the very notion of productive activity. A sense the "real" men are born to kill, or to lead, or to be willing to be led "into hell for a heavenly cause." I would prefer a far more relaxed stance.