If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, first off- thank you!
Secondly, I hope that I have made one thing clear about my life “behind the scenes” of these missives; that is that I still consider myself a “work in progress.”
As much as a self-help advice tone as this blog takes, in all honesty I have to admit that it’s because I am working on it for- and on- myself. Given that and the fact that my own first book was essentially a self-help book (albeit focused on fitness,) it’s not surprising that I pick up some self-help books myself. You learn to write by reading, after all.
Most of them say the same kind of things; truly, some wisdom IS universal, and writers just put different curtains on it. One book I finished recently, however, pulled off a little twist that made me smile.
Sometimes books are recommended to me. My older sister is a big fan of Jen Sincero, and I’ve cited Chris Guillebeau more than a few times on this blog. Others have an interesting quirk or a good bit of buzz to them that catches my ear. You might recall 20 or so years ago when every businessperson was expected to read “Who Moved My Cheese?”
When I went looking for a new audiobook to binge on Libby after finishing Stephen King’s “The Green Mile,” Gary John Bishop’s “Unfuck Yourself” popped up as a potential listen. I thought, “… what the hell? It’s another curse-heavy, ‘straight-talk’ book, and those are at least funny.” I borrowed the short audiobook, and plugged some headphones in a few days ago as I was grinding my way through piping a truly absurd number of tarts at work.
Bishop’s book was, first, not as curse-heavy as I thought. True enough, he swears in the book- but it all seems intentional and not just for comedic or attention-getting.
Second, the wisdom Bishop offers is hardly original. Boiled down, it comes to a lot of the same messages I’ve read elsewhere and even written myself. “You always have time for what you make time for,” etc. His insight is mostly in the form of specific, assertively-worded affirmations, like “I am wired to win” and “I am not my thoughts, I am what I do.” The comedy comes mostly from his thicker Scottish accent, making the book feel like a pep talk from a football hooligan.
Beyond that, there was one particular part of Bishop’s book that got me thinking.
One of the seven assertive statements that Bishop enjoins his readers to adopt is “I am relentless.” Rather than saying “Don’t give up” or “I’m not a quitter,” Bishop uses the word relentless– and I fucking love it.
Words have power, remember- and a word can carry a lot more weight than it’s dictionary meaning. Synonyms of “relentless” include unstoppable, stern, inexorable, persistent, unforgiving, implacable. Read through each of those words right now, out loud.
They all carry different weights and connotations, don’t they? Some sound cruel, damning, and powerful- “the inexorable march of Time,” “the unforgiving storm.” Others sound milder and even benign- “The stern teacher,” “the implacable judge.”
I love that Bishop used “relentless” though because, to me, that also means “enduring.” “Unstoppable” can mean a runaway train, but “relentless” feels like a long, unending march. It doesn’t really imply speed- only that whatever-it-is is coming at it’s own pace, and will not be stopped.
THAT feels more like a model in life I want to replicate. I’ve written before about the idea of “festina Lente”- Latin for “Make haste slowly,” or- to borrow Octavian’s words- “What has been done well has been done quickly enough.”
I’ve had people in my life tell me they admire my capacity for patience. I don’t always see it- of course, I have very little patience for myself and my own goals, but I’ll tolerate a lot for the sake of others. What I do acknowledge in myself, however, is a quality of endurance- the ability to “embrace the suck” and tolerate delays, obstacles, and frustrations.
Regardless of what happens, or how long something takes, I have a tendency to just keep going. In that way, I feel like that endurance could well be “relentlessness-“ the kind that makes success feel inevitable, if one is only patient enough.
Patience is most commonly conflated with waiting- in other words, idleness. A look at the history and etymology, however, reveals the Latin root pati, “to suffer,” and patient “one that is suffering-“ which makes a lot more sense when you go to see your doctor.
Patience, then, is the ability to endure suffering without complaint. To do so relentlessly– without stopping or altering one’s trajectory- amounts to “Embracing the Suck.”
All of this etymological wordplay can, like a popular self-help book, boil down to a simple punchy lesson: Slow progress is still progress.
Whatever it is you are aiming for, the results you want will likely be slow in coming. There will be obstacles and missteps. You’ll screw up, backslide, and feel blocked- but if you’ll just be patient and relentless in pursuing your goals, you’ll get there. It won’t be as fast as you might like or expect… but it’ll happen at the right time.