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If you were the last person on Earth, would you still do what you're doing?

“We come into this world with a specific, personal destiny. We have a job to do, a calling to enact, a self to become. We are who we are from the cradle, and we’re stuck with it.   Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.”  — Steven Pressfield (The War Of Art)

In his book “The War Of Art: Break Through Your Blocks And Win Your Inner Creative Battles“, Steven Pressfield discusses the idea of “Resistance”, the block that prevents you from creating awesome work. He asks a key question he asks that made me stop reading while I considered my response: “If you were the last person on Earth, would you still do what you’re doing?‘”

I believe this question goes to the core of what’s wrong with too many entrepreneurs’ projects. We do it for others when we really should be doing it for ourselves. It’s about considering the orientation of your motivation: are you hierarchical or territorial?

Are you willing to do what you need to do to move your vision forward, no matter how other people respond?

Hierarchically-oriented motivation is external, coming from how we perceive our status in our tribe, and how others perceive us. Hierarchical motivation craves recognition and applause, and goes after awards, publications, market share, valuation.

Territorially-oriented motivation is internal. The territory is our mission, vision and permission: who we are, what we aim for and why this is important. We do what we do because it is our calling, our passion, our role in the world.

The conventional wisdom of business strategic planning is to define your market’s needs and position your business to meet them. The trap of this approach is that you can go around in circles chasing other people’s expectations, especially in today’s hyper-volatile economy. The problem of hierarchical motivation is that it is based on seeking the approval of others.  This is why I don’t care for the proliferation of contests or television shows (like “Dragon’s Den” or “Shark Tank“). I’m even skeptical about the “Startup Camp” format of short presentations to please an audience of investors. Too often, I see entrepreneurs distort ideas they believe in, watering them down or changing them to meet some kind of expectation of what they think people want, while missing the bigger opportunity.

The territorially-motivated entrepreneur anchors herself in the belief that her vision is important, and goes about executing it no matter what others say.

What moves the economy forward is not incremental progress, but disruptive ideas which ignite a quantum change in the status-quo. True disruption comes from the territorially-motivated entrepreneur – the person who believes in an idea so far out that at first people think they’re crazy, then all of a sudden others “get” it.

If at first you get lots of attention and interest for your project, be aware. The temptation will be strong to keep on producing a hit, to maintain and enhance your status in the market.  It’s natural to have a dip in interest after you launch a new idea. The “market” plays with your new toy for a while, then gets bored and moves on to the next shiny thing. The test of whether or not you will endure is how you respond to the reality that you’re now all alone.

This is where territorial motivation shines, because it sources its energy from inside you. Develop a deep clarity about who you are and the change you want to create in the world. Commit to it, make it your top priority: your faith in your idea grounds you no matter what happens.

Hierarchically-motivated entrepreneurs quickly exhaust themselves chasing after the next big thing, hoping to position themselves in the path of the market before the market changes its mind. However, the “market” is fickle and can change on a whim. If you’re doing what you’re doing primarily to meet a market need, you may be their darling of the moment, but when they change their mind, you’re out of luck.

As Steven Pressfield says, if the last person on Earth were Stevie Wonder, he would still play the piano and sing, even if he were the only person to hear it.  Do what you do because you believe in its importance, no matter what others say.

As solos, we don’t have to chase after a faceless market. Our strength is that we do what we do because we believe in it. The demand starts with us. For every combination of talent, competence and passion, there is someone out there who is looking for exactly what you offer. Do what you love and the right clients will come to you, clients who recognize the value of what you offer and who are ready to commit.

For more information

“The War Of Art: Break Through The Block And Win Your Inner Creative Battles”  by Steven Pressfield
Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00475AUWW
My public Kindle notes link:
https://kindle.amazon.com/work/war-art-winning-creative-ebook/B000AV4ENI/B00475AUWW

Steven Pressfield’s web site: http://www.stevenpressfield.com/

Image: Rupert Ganzer (“loop-oh”) via Flickr
Direct image link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/loop_oh/4563845830/
Used under Creative Commons 2.0 licence

 

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Michael Hyde May 6, 2011, 05:26

    It’s 6:00 am. I am still fully awake in bed thinking of all that I need to do today. I could not get my mind past the war of words with this marketing consultant I want to hire, who has now assumed the position in his mind that I must submit to him every decision I make. For my business idea to move forward, I will need “his seal of approval.” H has already made bad decisions referring some lousy graphic dsigner to me, but will not accept his mistakes that the guy is far from been what I need to positio my brand.

    I need ed something to clar my mind and usher me into what I want to be a good day. then I awakened to read your blog; something to refresh my mind….then you hit a cord with this article…”If you were the last person on earth, would you still do hat you’re doing?” Then, certain things caught my attention…”What moves the economy forward is not incremental progress, but disruptive ideas which ignite a quantum change in the status-quo. True disruption comes from the territorially-motivated entrepreneur – the person who believes in an idea so far out that at first people think they’re crazy, then all of a sudden others “get” it.”

    Basically, my “marketing consultant” whom I have not as yet hired, thinks I need to hire him bfore I can succeed. That was the breakig point for him. I realized he belongs to those who are still stuck with the way Blockbuster and Barnes & Noble were when Netflix and Amazon were looking into the future of brand positioning on the internet marketing as the next big disruptive marketing idea. Wehave Kindle. There were those who took far too long to warmth up to change, they missed the fun.

    Coach Davender, you simply made my day today. More of your inspiring and insightful writings.

    Michael

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