Michael Neill was the first person I heard use the term effortless success. It much intrigued me because it seemed to stand in absolute contradiction to a universally accepted concept of success, which is that it is the product of hard work, of effort. In fact, because success is such a valuable commodity, and because no one receives valuable commodities for free, hard work feels like the necessary price we pay for success’s commensurate reward. And don’t most writers appear to be working hard? Look, there is the first-time novelist, waking every morning two hours before her family rises to pound out her 1,000 words. Look, there is the sixty year-old writer visiting 29 bookstores in 27 days to promote his 10th book. Look, there we all are, alone, rewriting, and rewriting, and rewriting, lying awake at night wondering if this will be the book that simply doesn’t come together.
Quite a compelling portrait that. Shed a tear for us all, we bear our cross stoically. But is not effort the expenditure of energy against an outside force? Would we not say that walking up a mountain requires effort, while walking down a mountain requires just balance to keep our feet under us? In this way, writers – or anyone doing what they love – are inverted mountain climbers. There is far more effort expended by the choice not write than is expended in the actual writing.
For me, writing, speaking, and interviewing are different facets of the same work. The other day I finished an interview with a writer that had gone particularly well. It was, by my standards, as successful an interview as I could have. Yet it required absolutely no effort. In fact, it was the opposite of effort. It was so easy, so effortless, and yet so successful it almost felt like cheating. I had to remind myself again that what I am doing is called work. It didn’t feel like work any more, I am guessing, than a dolphin considers swimming work.
Every day I must remind myself that this effortlessness is the correct way to work and to live. The hardest, the most effortful thing we will ever do is to move against ourselves. We will provide more resistance than the tallest mountain. And so, as the saying goes, we seek the path of least resistance, the way that leads directly you.
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