- Why is it so hard to brainstorm a good idea?
- Why do committees usually wreck a project?
- Is it true that the more people work on something, the longer it takes?
- Why are most products below average (and the rest… meh)?
- Why is it so difficult to ship on time?
- Why does time pressure and an urgent deadline allow you to get more done and sometimes (if you’re lucky) improve the product itself?
The answer to all six is the same thing: The resistance.These bad behaviors are the work of the lizard brain, your prehistoric brain stem, the part of your brain that is responsible for revenge, fear, and anger. The lizard brain is eternally vigilant, trying to keep people from noticing you (which is dangerous). The lizard brain hates failure, and thus it hates creativity or the launch of anything that might make a fuss (which can lead to failure).
The lizard brain creates the resistance, a term first coined by Steven Pressfield. The resistance is the name for all that seemingly rational stuff that we do in the name of the devil (“just to play devil’s advocate for a minute…”). The devil is doing fine on his own, he doesn’t need an advocate.
The resistance is behind all those seemingly benign suggestions you might hear at the conference table when you present to the committee. The resistance leads people to make suggestions that slow you down, suggestions that water down your idea, suggestions that lead to compromises that lead to design death.
The resistance has a name, and once you call it by name, you have a shot at defeating it.
Everyone deals with the resistance differently, which is why groups of people will slaughter a great idea, each protecting themselves from the lizard brain in their own way. The resistance loves the status quo, because the status quo is safe, it’s here, it’s now, it’s known, and it won’t hurt us, not as much as the unknown future might hurt us.
The resistance leads people to make suggestions that slow you down, suggestions that water down your idea, suggestions that lead to compromises.
You – everyone in fact – have all it takes to be a brilliant designer, creator, or author. All that’s holding you back is the lizard. It’s that little voice in the back of your head, the “but” or the “what if” that speaks up at the crucial moment and defeats the joy and insight you brought to the project in the first place. It’s the lizard that ruins your career, stunts your projects, and hinders your organization.
The reason that you need tricks, distractions, graph paper, desk toys, retreats, conferences, and a coach is that the resistance will do whatever it can to slow you down and average you out.
So fight it.
Defeat the resistance.
Keep your team small. Smaller than that. No team at all if you can help it.
Ship often. Ship lousy stuff, but ship. Ship constantly.
Skip meetings. Often. Skip them with impunity. Ship.
Trick the lizard if you must, but declare war on it regardless. Understand that the only thing between you and the success you seek in a chaotic world is a lizard that figures out that safe is risky and risky is safe. The paradox of our time is that the instincts that kept us safe in the day of the saber tooth tiger and General Motors are precisely the instincts that will turn us into road kill in a faster than fast internet-fueled era.
The resistance is waiting. Fight it. Ship.
For more tips on quieting the lizard brain, check out this Seth Godin video.