"Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.” - Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
Since I started my journey as an aspiring journalist back in 2011, my road to adulthood has been a confusing one. Stress and uncertainty became daily struggles I had to face, and for the most part I decided to merely push them away and continue to move forward. Reality however was different, and it was not until I reached the beginning of third year in university that I realized I had been standing still the whole time. My mind was unrested, and a mountain of obstacles had been building up behind me, only to crumble down the moment I discovered I had been running in circles. After the crumble, I managed to get myself back up, but with a head too tired and feet sick of running I was left in a limbo of confusion.
Who was I? What did I want to become? And how on earth did I get here?
Then, one day, I opened my eyes and turned around only to witness the devastation my unfinished business had done to my life. It was like a tornado had wiped everything out, leaving pieces of rubble to put together. It didn't affect anyone else but me however - to everyone else it just seemed like I had a bad day. And I had a bad day - all the time, that is.
That's when I realized this was an excellent opportunity to put myself together right. For as 16-year old me wrote in big bold letters every day in every notebook she owned, in order to have a breakthrough, you must first have a breakdown.
Words I still live by, and words I now pass on to you.
I used to live my life like a human. Ordinary in its own way, naive, and with too many thoughts to process. Now, I live my life like a Shark.
By this I obviously don't mean that I swim in the ocean and hunt dolphins, nor does this mean that I am particularly aggressive or animalistic. I'm still human in nature, but my instincts have changed.
Every human have an animal or more in their life, knowingly or not. We resemble them in how our brain works, our instincts, our knowledge and what we seek in life. Our lives might be busy or peaceful, intense or calm, challenging or mundane. What we need to consider is not only how our lives are, but how we want them to be.
Consider an animal a symbol for how you want to live. Now, there are plenty of pages where you can discover which animal you resemble. As of now, I will show you how I most recently became a Shark, and how the shark should be present in every business-oriented mind.
1. Stop resistance
Sharks are masters of survival and adaptability. In Steven Pressfield's book The War of Art, he discusses the matter of Resistance, and how it is everyone's biggest enemy.
"The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.
Resistance is experienced as fear; the degree of fear equates to the strength of Resistance. Therefore, the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul. That's why we feel so much Resistance. If it meant nothing to us, there'd be no Resistance."
He goes on to say that the professional takes on the challenge and lets it take him or her to "uncharted waters." Sharks are fearless creatures. As a totem animal if you will, Sharks represent self-trust and survival. Don't let fear paralyze you to stand still. Sharks trust themselves, and whenever a momentum is built up, they don't let anything stop them.
Whether it's a business endeavor, daily work struggles, studies or personal challenges, whenever you get a feeling you're doing something right, don't stop whenever doubt starts arising. Imagine resistance as a massive wave about to hit you. A shark is cunning, and so should you be. So instead of letting that wave of insecurity, fear and uncertainty stop you from moving forward now that you've already started swimming, do as the shark would do, and swim underneath or right through the wave instead.
Sharks rarely swim in the "shallow end" of life - instead, they enjoy the waves of life and take them on fearlessly.
2. Don't hide behind optimism
Optimism became my biggest enemy. Whenever a challenge had arisen, besides difficult coursework and other practical matters, I had merely painted a smile on top of it, a smile I realize in retrospect could be washed away as easily as makeup can. I decided to put life on pause for a while, contemplating my next move. I knew I had a stressful time ahead of me, with an editorial role in the student newspaper and coursework for my final year ahead of me, and so I yet again pushed everything to the side.
I now realize that had I only faced Resistance and all the issues in my life when they were right in front of me, I would have had less work to do now. Unlike what most might believe, sharks aren't symbols of aggression and lack of emotion necessarily. What they're a symbol of is being master of your own emotions. If you feel sadness arrive one day, experience it, then let it flow through you. It's human to feel different emotions - the trick is to let it pass quickly. Don't drown yourself in an emotion, not avoid it. Let yourself cry if you need to, then dry those tears and get back up. Don't let them consume your life - just a moment or two.
Sharks are often symbols of business-oriented people for one reason - their cool exterior. There might be all kinds of emotions running through their heads, but their exterior remains controlled and calm. There's a difference between smiling your worries away and accepting and working on your worries, but leaving them to yourself and keeping them from showing.
3. Don't wait for the right moment
We've all done it - waited for the best moment to do something. Whether it be the right moment to say that you love someone, quit your job, quit smoking or something as ordinary as wake up - we often tell ourselves that we need to wait for a right moment.
Truth is, with most things, there will never be a right moment.
Sharks are authorities in life - they decide when the best moment is, and don't wait around. Sharks are symbols of acting on life, and creating the opportunities and best moments, rather than waiting for them. They know what they want, and even when they don't, continue forward as their instinct tells them to do.
Take one challenge at a time and get going. Give yourself a date to do something, write something down to confirm to yourself that it is what you should do and when you should have it done by - or better, just get started doing it. As smart as planning life is (and life does need some planning), don't overdo it - sometimes the best thing to do is to go with the flow of things. If your gut tells you this is the right time to start exercising, put on your shoes and go for a run. If it fails, you'll learn one of two things - one, it wasn't what you wanted it to be, and it might not become it either, or two, it wasn't what you expected it to be, but you're enjoying it and it feels right.
Listen to your emotions, and trust those instincts.
4. Stealth is key
A shark is a quiet hunter, sneaking in on its prey. It knows what it wants and how to get it, but doesn't necessarily let its prey know that.
Knowing what you want can be difficult, and we all usually want more than one thing in life. Personally, my list of "prey" is a long one, but I know I will be able to get them all and I will do si quietly, sneaky even. Being efficient and knowing which "waters to swim" and where you're heading in important. As a shark builds momentum before catching its prey, so should you.
My biggest momentum to date was finishing my first (unpublished) novel - It had been a work in progress for about 5 years, and I was on holiday in Spain when I realized I was about to reach the final page, which I had already written. The words started flowing through my pen, and my hand could barely follow. I forgot the sun, the pool, even lunch - I kept on writing and ordering Colas, and suddenly, about 15 pages later, I was finished. This was the moment I not only learned the power of letting a momentum run its course, but the satisfaction of making it - it gave me an euphoric feeling of mastery, and I felt invincible, indescribably happy and full of energy, despite sitting in a boiling warmth with no food in my stomach and a right hand shivering from writing so quickly. But none of that mattered - my prey was captured and I was indulging in it, and no matter how hard and long the struggle had been, I then felt how worth it all was.
And trust me, no matter how long you have gone without a momentum, if will come once Resistance stops getting in the way.
5. Honor the important things in life
In the midst of business-ideas, career building, studying, practicing and goal-oriented motivation, it is easy to forget what matters the most in life. Never forget the people that got you to where you are, and the people who care about you. While many use the negativity they have received from people as their motivation to succeed, it is important to remember the people you love, and use them as motivation as well.