How To Break Through Resistance As A Creative Entrepreneur
Resistance is the enemy of every creative entrepreneur. It lurks undetected in the blackness of the ocean. We know it waits, hoping we set sail on a journey into the unknown. For those that leave the comfort of the shore, it rears its ugly head like a serpent from the sea. The emotional scars of past attempts pulse with a sobering reminder that we may not have what it takes.
I've had my fair share of moments where I wanted to throw my hands up in the air and say fuck it, I'm done. So much of entrepreneurship feels like you're one degree below boiling point. At any moment, the heat will get cranked and you'll be cooked alive. It feels hopeless and completely out of your hands.
Filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan knows a thing or two about the demon of resistance. Few directors have experienced such a wide range of praise and criticism. He was only 29 years old when he released the blockbuster The Sixth Sense. Followed by a series of box office twists and turns of success and failure.
In a recent conversation with Fast Company, Shyamalan was asked the question, knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your younger self? His answer spoke of empathy for those of us that are still building our resistance muscles. "You want to be this trailblazing artist, but you [also] want to be accepted. They sometimes don't go together. [I'd] say to myself, Hey, you're on the right track. Just keep going. Your gut is right, even though maybe the marketplace hasn't caught up to it yet."
Resistance is a normal part of any creative entrepreneurs process. That should come as welcome news because it means it can be overcome. It's this first inkling of awareness that lets us see what's holding us back. Here's the crazy part, sometimes we can learn more from what we didn't do than from what we did do.
There are many ways to break through resistance. The framework I've found most effective is also the simplest in nature. Get curious. Many times, resistance takes hold when a limiting belief is exposed.
When Shyamalan did the movie Unbreakable, the producers wouldn't let him sell it as a comic book movie because they thought it had no commercial appeal. Shyamalan said "I felt a little hurt by it. I was probably just being immature, and I put away the idea of making a trilogy, which I had been thinking about. Life went on. I did other movies..." He felt like he had no choice. Here were the rules he had to play by if he wanted to make movies.
If I were coaching Shyamalan (I wish), I'd walk him through this process:
How true is that belief, really?
Where did you get that belief from?
How is that belief working for or against you?
How can you let that belief go?
How can you put that into action, immediately?
It's like playing a game of Clue, each question answered lets you take another step in the right direction. Once you've exhausted all possibilities, you're able to connect the dots with a feeling of confidence.
Sometimes, we're just too overwhelmed with a task or feel like a failure has knocked us off the horse. This is your starting point. Small challenges that create success and build upon them. If you fall off a horse, it is often wise to get back on a pony.
For Shyamalan, this meant doing low budget movie making. He released The Visit, a horror movie he self-financed for $5 million that went on to gross $65 million in the U.S. The following year he made a $9 million horror film called Split that grossed $138 million. His movie-making powers came from the freedom to pursue projects where he was the rule maker. He put himself in the driver's seat.
Sometimes we'll avoid looking back because it reminds us of the pain or dreams we failed to pursue. Let the words of author Mandy Hale cut deep into your soul as a reminder, "Growth is painful. Change is painful. But nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you don't belong."
We always have a choice. Choice is freedom. Choice is power.
Shyamalan put the power back in his hands when he decided, "I'm doing these films the way I want, because I've paid for them. There is a high likelihood that [the return is] going to be positive, because [the budget is] so low. That's comforting. For Glass, I said, I'm going to put a loan up against my house. I'm setting the tone, for the actors, that it's going to be hard, and they might not have everything they're used to. The process weeds out people organically because not everyone is up for that, and spurs a kind of work ethic from everybody."
It's a reminder to fight every battle, not because you hate what’s in front of you, but because you love what’s behind you—the people and things you stand for.