Reaching A Higher Level: Understand That Life Has “Layers” And “Seasons”

In order to reach a higher level at any Art, skill, Craft, Vision, stage of life, or Way of Being than one is currently at, one must have the discipline to “chunk away” at it, every day, until that higher level is reached.

I have a theory that this discipline doesn’t originate in a vacuum. I believe that it comes from a burning or insatiable desire to continue this process even through times of seeing few to no results. There must be a Light At The End Of The Tunnel, a strong feeling of what it would be like to get there, accompanied by a sense that one must Get There at all costs.

This feeling must be strong enough to last through disappointments, plateaus, and any forms of Resistance. It must represent a pull towards the Higher Level, one that overrides what Stephen Pressfield calls “lower natures”.

Whoever is on this path understands that, to go from the current level to the Higher Level could take an uncomfortably long amount of time. Furthermore, they would have to have the mentality of “chunking away” every single day. This part is especially important – the best way to build momentum when working towards a Higher Level is to take no days off.

None of this is overwhelming to the person truly on the path. He or she knows what she wants, and he or she is okay with never stopping.

Now here comes the “Big But”: but what if this feeling isn’t present? But what if the direction is unclear? But what if the desire is not so fiery?

Well, then, maybe the context needs to be re-examined. If that fire in the belly just isn’t there, if no path is visible, then maybe it makes sense to not be so concerned about that Higher Level.

Yes, human beings are built to evolve, to reach fuller and fuller versions of our potential. But what if this process was not always an active one? What if it unfolded in seasons, and there were seasons when specific action should be taken, and seasons when less action is better?

For anyone thinking about Visions and Higher Levels and evolution, it might seem counterintuitive to consider that to not have a plan could be a feasible way of doing things. But Life, like an onion, is a many-layered thing. Just because action is not being taken within one’s idea of the Art, skill, Craft, or Vision, does not mean action can’t be taken in other areas. There is a time to take action in non-Craft related areas, just as there is a time to focus on the Craft and let everything else fall by the wayside.

Maybe the best time to get down to the nitty gritty stuff that all Artists hate but that we must all face and do at some point is when we are not really feeling the grind. What if the Craft were just one layer in the onion, rather than the onion itself?

Yes, discipline is essential. Yes, it’s important to not skip a day. But what may be even more important is understanding that Life is Life. Sometimes it does make sense to stop, and trust that something will rush in to fill the void – for a season.

Social Media: Tool or Threat?

Cal Newport, author of So Good They Can’t Ignore You, was interviewed by James Altucher on the podcast The James Altucher Show. In the conversation, Newport brings up a concept called “mental residue,” which is the phenomenon that occurs when we glance at our email or our cell phones for just 30 seconds just before we dive into a practice, discipline, or some kind of focus.

He says this “mental residue” stays with us for up to 20 to 30 minutes into our focus time.

I’m sure this could be expanded to include any activity we happen to be doing in real life – from having dinner with a close friend, to performing in the workplace, to writing a poem. If we allow our minds even brief stimulation, it could mean some serious mental costs.

This brings to attention the danger of Social Media. While some aspects of the “online presence” can be useful, every Impresario walks the line between falling prey to the focus deficit it can cause, and only using it strategically, to reach folks in ways that doing so in person could not.

Cal Newport argues that Social Media is not really useful or needed at all because it causes people to waste attention and therefore does more harm than good. I am inclined to agree with him, because at the end of the day, it’s the Craft, the Vision, that truly matters.

The “Craft”

In the last entry, I discussed the two ways that Impresarios relate to their audience and to each other: 1) sharing and collaborating in Art, and 2) relating.

I focused more on the second way, “relating,” and now I’d like to talk a bit about the first way. It’s true that Impresarios must have what I called “Intimacy” – a deep identification with their fellow Impresarios, and with the audience member or members, or anyone on the receiving end of their process. But before all of that can happen, the Impresario must have a “process” in the first place.

The “process” can go by many names: the Art, the Craft, the Practice, the Discipline. I prefer Stephen Pressfield’s term “Craft”, because, to paraphrase him, the Artist cannot over-identify with the Art. Seeing the Art as a Craft helps her de-mystify it and get down to business.

So, the Impresario must have a Craft. This is the wellspring from which all else flows – all opportunities, events, karma, and relationships. If the Impresario doesn’t attend to his Craft, then there will be no Art to share.

Even the collaborative presentation of Art can’t happen without each of its collaborators having their own, individual practice, and bringing that to the table. (An exception might be an audience made of people who are not themselves practicers of the Art being presented, but who might still be participating on some level. Even here, however, these folks must be guided by the Artists or Impresarios conducting the participatory experience. So no Art form can be said to work without a Craftsman, or Craftsmen, as the driving force.)

So, bottom line, an Impresario needs a Craft. Now, his Craft might be multi-faceted, but it still needs to be there, and he needs to be attending to it on a daily basis, for it to work. This may not be news, but I thought it would be worth revisiting if only for a moment, if for nobody else but myself.

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