Taking Out The Thrash

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Part of growing and evolving is intentionally testing the boundaries of an experience that’s perceived outwardly as success, but that’s begun to feel inwardly complacent.

Doing that means taking a risk, both in ego and ease.

It means going from being on top of your game (or, at least the perception) to potentially stumbling, falling down, not knowing which way is up.

Thing is, if you never feel that way, there’s a good chance you’re in a sideways trend.

And, sideways kills.

We all need to rattle our own cages on a pretty regular basis. The beginning of nearly every move from a period of sustained-success to evolutionary-quest is defined by waves of uncertainty, questioning everything you know, often realizing what you thought until recently was relative mastery was really…dumbass-plus-one. The first rung on a ladder, the end of which lies beyond sight.

That awakening screws with you.

It lays you bare. It forces you to start exploring the foundation of everything you believe in and everywhere you’ve sought to go and grow. On the surface, it’s not a good feeling. At least while you’re in it.

And, that’s where I am right now.

It’s not that I don’t have fantastic projects going on and brilliant family and friends to support me. I do. On those fronts, I’m blessed. But, my heart and gut are tugging me into a lot of uncharted territory these days. Into a more aggressive evolutionary stage.

And evolution is, by definition, unsettling.

Sussing out a new direction, opening to a level of ambiguity and uncertainty that betokens, then fuels innovation and making the shift from being daunted to enticed and intrigued is a process.

And, though I’ve been through it enough times to know that something gorgeous lies on the other side, it is nonetheless a challenge to keep acting and moving the needle when you’re in enough flux to not know quite what direction the needle needs to be moved at any given time.

But this much I do know…

Sometimes action is more important than direction.

Because action becomes cause that leads to effect. To reaction, affirmation, correction and eventually direction followed by the building of momentum and impact on a level that not only didn’t exist, but wasn’t conceivable before.

There is a big qualifier here, though. And that is, your actions must have “some” level of origination, directionality and force.

They can’t just be purely reactionary. They’ve got to go beyond just responding to what others might decide should land in your lap at any given moment. They must be originated by you and move you, even just a smidge, outside the bounds of your current paradigm. Even if the direction of the movement isn’t the direction you’ll eventually end up traveling. And, you’ve got to assess, correct and build upon each action.

Assess…but how?

I can’t speak for you, but for me, I feel it in my heart and my gut. Literally. If my heart doesn’t start to pound, nor my stomach start flutter in anticipation of going further or in response to steps just taken, it’s very likely not quite right, quite yet. It’s a misfire, but that’s okay. Because learning what’s not right for you is as important as discovering your new direction.

And, by the way, what’s right for you today, may’ve been plum nuts for you 10 years ago. And, vice versa.

Live here and now. Act. Kill the missteps, give birth to new steps, build around what your heart, gut and mind tell you is where you need to go.

Heros, leaders, visionaries, artists, renegades, rule-breakers, change-makers and just plain old people on a quest to engage with life on a more meaningful level all thrash.

We all flounder. We all struggle. We all go through periods of reckoning.

But, in the end, it’s the intuitive sense that the struggle will lead to something richer that fuels us. That keeps us questioning and acting when it would be so much easier to just settle back into and milk your last moment of glory.

So, here’s to the struggle. I don’t invite it, but I do embrace it.

As my friend, Steven Pressfield wrote:

“F**k self-doubt. I despise it. I hold it in contempt, along with the hell-spawned ooze-pit of Resistance from which it crawled. I will NEVER back off. I will NEVER give the work anything less than 100%. If I go down in flames, so be it. I’ll be back.”

How about you?

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47 responses

47 responses to “Taking Out The Thrash”

  1. GREAT post jonathan. You’ve really knocked it out of the park this time.

    This is advice I’ve given to several clients and written about several times:

    Very often the feeling of animalistic fear that comes hand-in-hand with the action you take is the clearest, most succinct feedback that you are in the right place, doing the right thing and pushing the right envelope in the right direction.

    If it was easy, it wouldn’t be worth doing right?

  2. Evan says:

    I think the process as well as the goal can be pleasurable.

  3. Lindsey says:

    Great advice and a salient reminder. I dislike the discomfort so intensely that my instinct is always to shy away from it but you are absolutely right that the only way to get to another state of comfort is to jump in. Also, love Steven’s work! Thank you for this.

  4. Love this post Jonathan.

  5. Katie Marsh says:

    I “stumbled” upon you after writing a blog, wondering if and what blogs existed quite like mine. I am so thankful. I have moved through the process of being stripped of every illusion I had, which I now see did not happen to me, but for me. In losing what wasn’t even real, I became real. On the other hand, I have been hiding under my sheets, terrified to move, to make a wrong choice, decision, wondering if I could handle any more loss. What I discovered is that walking on the edge of destruction is the path to greatness, that what your friend says rawks my face off, so thanks for that. I’m making today my b**tch, and I may just go rattle a few cages of my own.

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Hey Katie, Glad to have benefited from your stumbling into our little tribe. Thanks for sharing. And, welcome.

  6. Paula says:

    Much appreciated wisdom at a perfect time. Diving head on into the uncomfortable has been challenging lately – you have just provided momentum.

  7. Chris says:

    Wow, it’s Monday morning and the first day back after some vacation time. This post resonates so loudly that my heels hurt. I’ve had a dozen slinkys in my brain contemplating, questioning and re-balancing my priorities on moving full force forward on a proprietary project that I’ve been internally working on for almost 6 years!

    I know that I have to do it, that I’ll forever regret inaction on it, but the realities of family, kids, clients, work, money flow, etc. seem to inevitably pull me away – and each of them hold valid reasons.

    But I must embrace the struggle, jump in. That much I know. How to achieve balance is the trying part. Perhaps temporary imbalance is part of the gig.

    Thanks Jonathan – I think 😉

  8. Jonathan, you just so eloquently described the swirl that I am in – you are in my head, now. I finally have a vision making a breakthrough by describing the work I will do in two words. I don’t have to know the absolute how or what it will ultimately be.
    You hit it big on two notes – One, nothing moves without action. As soon as I stepped out and took action, things started to happen and clarity came. Second, that gut, instinct, intuition is one of the most powerful spiritual gifts you have. And it’s working for you. Great energy coming your way and thanks for sharing. This is big.

  9. Doug S says:

    Thanks for the post Jonathan, hard to reach your dreams without taking action. I needed this reminder today!

  10. Hiro Boga says:


    Wishing you support, love, courage, curiosity and playfulness as you stride into the horizon. May the new rise up to meet you in delightful and unexpected ways!

  11. Joel Libava says:


    I’m at exactly the same place, and it’s a little frightening at times.

    Those darn uncharted water..

    How does that go?

    “Ships were meant to sail, not to stay in the harbor”

    Something like that. Let’s do it, Jonathan!

    The Franchise King®

  12. Andrew says:

    Cool post man.

    I’m in a similar phase at the moment and it can be extremely frustrating having this unconscious feeling pulling you in a direction that holds no certainty…

    But this was a good reminder that something special awaits.


  13. denise says:

    Boy does this post resonate with me. I am in one of those dark, murky places, questions swirling, trying to find the next rung on my ladder. In the dark. And it’s raining…and I hourly remind myself to embrace it. And know that it’s all good. Thank you for this great post and these words, “the struggle will lead to something richer…” Yes.

  14. Sean Low says:

    This is really terrific Jonathan. Moving through the dis-ease is always so valuable for me. I am there now and feel like there is another big evolution coming along. As much as I want to control and plan my life (reformed lawyer too), the unexpected, the leap, the bombs and the booms are what bring me most to myself. Thank you for writing this. So validating for me.

  15. Jenny Fenig says:

    As always, beautifully and powerfully said, Jonathan! I can relate. Just when I get to the “top” of my game, I typically get bored … and know it’s time to SHAKE things up and make CHANGE … not only for change’s sake, but for ME. It’s my gut instinct telling me it’s time to evolve, grow, discover, screw up, learn, cry, laugh and transform.

    I’m also at this point now so this is particularly poignant. I’m heeding the call and making a huge shift. I’ve gone through the various feelings – disbelief, fear, excitement, anger, acceptance, more fear … and now: PURE CURIOSITY and FAITH.

    We’re all in this together. Let’s keep rockin’!

  16. This article is stunning! Thank you so much.

    And the Steven Pressfield quote is a great thing to keep in mind. It’s too often that we cuddle up with our self doubt instead of embracing the butterflies.

  17. Jonathan, you can definitely paint a vivid picture of the place I am today. I’ve been sleepwalking in my not-so-comfortable comfort zone as an estate planning attorney for years. I’ve reached the “dumb-ass plus one” realization and have started to move in a new direction. I’ve self-published two books and am learning painfully to market them. Your post struck me because the two most influential books I have read in this struggle are Career Renegade and Steven Pressfield’s, The War of Art. One has given me a pretty strong kick in the ass and the other a direction to stumble toward.

    Keep up the great work.

  18. I really enjoyed this post and find it comforting that you and several of the comments are from people in a similar place. I too have been here before and yeah, it doesn’t make it much easier.

    I have a question: How do you discern the difference between the fear of moving forward into the new unfamiliar-yet-appropriate direction and the fear that’s trying to tell you, no, this isn’t right for you. I sometimes have a lot of difficulty telling these two fears apart and they often seem to be disguised as one another.

    Personally I find a mindful practice helps recalibrate my internal monitor, but even so it can be difficult to know when to plunge ahead and when to retreat, not because of fear of failure, but because you’re instincts are correctly telling you there’s something rotten in Denmark.

    Any thoughts?

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Hey Linda, have a few tests I use to help answer that question, but before I share, I’m curious how anyone else in our great tribe might answer it?

      • Christopher says:

        To distinguish between fears, I often will mindfully examine my deepest emotions that are correlated with the fear and with the desired end result in order to determine what is real. This gives me the ability to determine the real path from the illusory path.

      • Ryan says:

        Discernment is next to impossible on my own, I’ve found. I have two methods that I use. The first is modeling. I have a set of people that I admire and a set of people I pity. They have names and faces and will answer the phone when I call. Whatever things I can imagine the first group undertaking, I explore. Conversely, the pity group rarely does anything worth emulating. They are an even firmer guide than the first group. I try to do the opposite of what they might do if they accidentally discovered they were in charge of their own destiny.
        I have some very successful creative friends. They dwarf my few accomplishments. I write a plan as succinctly as possible and ask them what they think. Of course these people are sometimes too close to be critical. So, ultimately each of us makes our own bed. It is helpful to seek strong advice first.

      • Jodi Hume says:

        Linda… Happy to share my Litmus Test on that… although I will say I my more important driving rule is that much like in chess, every move changes the whole game, so I trust my capacity to course correct as I go more than i try and figure it out in advance.

        But that being said… If I have ANY idea of where the path might be headed (or what I might be growing toward)… I imagine what might come AFTER the thing i’m scared of stepping out into.

        If that fear feels big and scary and expansive and has at least a layer or two of excitement burbble-ing around in there… I can usually trust it’s just stage fright and I press on through.

        But if that fear has any flavor of dread or yuck to it, or worse… registers FLAT-lined blah-tastic on my alive-o-meter… i take that as my inner spidey sense telling me to steer clear.

      • Thanks for this, Jonathan! I think we all feel this way at times!

        A friend said that “If you’re paralyzed with fear, it’s a good sign. It shows you what you have to do.”

        On sticking points, he wrote:

        “First, though they feel like defeats, sticking points are actually good signs. A sticking point means we’ve arrived at a threshold. We’re on the brink of moving to a higher level. That’s the good news. The bad news is that when Resistance gets wind of our impending advancement, it races ahead of us and strews our path with Krazy Glue and thumbtacks.

        “Second, sticking points are real. There’s a reason why we’re stuck and it’s usually that we’re not good enough yet to get over the particular hump that’s facing us. We need to grow. We need to learn. We’re faced with a real problem and we really have to solve it.

        “Third, sticking points are about fear. Yes, we are struggling with a real problem in the real world–but what makes it worse is the multiplier effect of fear. What are we afraid of? We’re afraid of growth. We’re terrified of exposure. Remember, nothing scares the crap out of us more than advancing, because to advance is to move from the known to the unknown.

        “Fourth, sticking points do not respond well to emotion. Resistance wants us to take getting stuck personally; it wants us to blame ourselves, freak out and begin racing around madly revising, rehashing, second-guessing. The reason these knee-jerk, emotion-spawned responses don’t work is that we’ve become stuck for a real reason. What we need now is patience, objectivity and professionalism. Our jalopy has broken down by the side of the road; we won’t get it started again except by coolly assessing the situation, finding the problem, then fixing it.”


      • Leah says:

        This is a great post and a great question asked by Linda.

        I have been dealing with this myself off and on the past year as I have been hurling myself forward in my coaching biz and more fully embracing who I am.

        Johnathan, you describe it perfectly “The beginning of nearly every move from a period of sustained-success to evolutionary-quest is defined by waves of uncertainty, questioning everything you know, often realizing what you thought until recently was relative mastery was really…dumbass-plus-one. The first rung on a ladder, the end of which lies beyond sight.”

        It seems like there is a break down before the break-through. I feel like i am lost and have no idea where i am going and i get caught up in fear and self-doubt, then i turn the corner and everything seems clear and unfolds before me.
        For me the key is to face my feelings of fear and resistance by acknowledging that it is there rather than avoiding it, and then exploring it to see what lesson it holds for me.
        The whole process of expanding and growing is meant to knock us out of our comfort zone so we can learn and release what we need to in order to more fully step into our kick-ass dream lives.

        I have learned to welcome this discomfort and I know that it will pass and things will be be even more kick-ass in my life.

      • Andreas says:

        “I have a question: How do you discern the difference between the fear of moving forward into the new unfamiliar-yet-appropriate direction and the fear that’s trying to tell you, no, this isn’t right for you.”

        For me these two cases are kind of overlapping. You never know completely when you are moving forward into the new and unfamiliar if this unfamiliar thing is actually right for you. It may be a phase in your life and after a time you move on and try something new. But that´s ok like this.

        What do you think if we put the question like this: How do you make winning decisions without letting you influence by your fears?

        Do make sure your do go into the appropriate direction you have to make a right decision. According to a great book (“Winning Decisions”) I am reading there is a pyramid of Choice.

        1. On the bottom their is the Intuitive Choice,
        2. On level up there are heuristic procedures (tailored and generic shortcuts, these are the shortcuts and rules you get in these comments here mostly),
        3. then one level up there is the importance weighting (here you write down your choice and weight it)
        4. When a decision is really important and complex you may incorporate values into your decision making model.

        So if you want the maximum quality of your decision you should go with the last apporach. If you want the maxium transparency of you decision you can go with weighing your decisions. If you do not want to have a lot of effort making a decision you just go with you intuition but you run into the risk that you do not make the best quality decision.


    • Thanks to everyone for some very insightful suggestions. There is finally no way to completely discern the difference but this discussion has certainly helped me get more clarity.

      What really muddles things up is the fact that when we are in a state of fear, appropriate or not, we’re biologically wired to fight or flee (or freeze) and not so much to think or reflect or act in more intentional ways.

      Thanks again for all the feedback. You’ve given me fuel for several blog posts!

  19. John says:

    Very well said Jonathan. We can often talk ourselves out of new things just because we do not have all the parts in place and all our ducks in a row. We are taught ready – aim – fire, not a bad thing but I have found change and new things do not come in that order. One of my mentors says it like this “A bad plan acted upon violently (or with complete dedication) will often time produce good results – do something”.
    Thank you for giving us the gift of insight into what helps make you tick.
    Love Pressfields quote…

  20. Great post Jonathan, seriously. After 20 plus years in the personal development/conscious living/energy balancing/well-being/ EVOLUTION business, I’d say you’ve nailed it absolutely. This eticket ride never stops does it! No matter how long you walk the path there’s always forks in the road,hills to climb, valleys to press thru and something even more awesome round that next bend. I feel blessed to be in such good company Jonathan, thanks for stickin to it!!

  21. Jodi Hume says:

    Great Post as always Jonathan. Big luck with shaking loose your next bigger game… and thanks for your willingness to take on that struggle (and double that for doing it in front of the camera!!)

  22. Priscilla Cuddy says:

    Reminds me of the times I’ve journeyed through the dark night of the soul. Ah, the mysteries of the human mind and body. Moving is essential, and so is waiting for the next move.

  23. Jon Strocel says:

    It’s very true, comfort and doing great things are not terribly compatible. Thanks for the reminder today!

  24. Dawn Abraham says:

    I love it! Very inspiring. I agree 100% that we need to rattle our cages or step outside of our comfort zone.

    Action is another important step to achieving anything. You must move in order for something to happen.

  25. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Gerald Weber, Jonathan Fields, Tom Webster, Dave Perks, Amy Voros and others. Amy Voros said: http://bit.ly/dxlYT6 Interesting post on finding direction: exploring to find what's not right is just as important as a new direction. […]

  26. Gi Baccarin says:

    Great post Jonathan…
    I´m in this moment too right now. I´m in it again. I guess that just like yourself, after you lived for a while you know quite clearly when a moment like this shows up.

    I guess that just like you, even though I think and try to plan and organize… in the end I stick with my guts to lead me, and know how to recognize the signals it one of the best tools one can have.

    It´s rewarding at the end but it does take serious work doens´t it?

    My best wishes to you and hope you can make the most of the ride…

  27. READY- FIRE- AIM!!!

  28. Joanne Peltz says:

    Cool post!
    Your blog makes my day.

  29. Happiness says:

    […] Jonathan Fields wrote a great post yesterday about feeling the need to push boundaries, to make himself uncomfortable, live in dis-ease, all in an effort to (re)explore himself and his world.  In the process, Jonathan knows he is going to lay eggs – golden and rotten – and he is choosing to do it anyway.  It is incredibly validating to me to read his words and know my moments of insecurity are the same choice as my moments of confidence and courage. […]

  30. Amy Putkonen says:


    I almost always connect with your posts but this one is a really good one. I have been listening to David Allen (GTD) Ready for Anything and he was saying something to the same effect – that we need to push through those stagnant periods sometimes. Sometimes it takes a step back, or away to get there. Sometimes a fresh stance will renew your gusto.

    Great stuff, as always… will post on my Facebook page for you.


  31. Rick says:

    I’ve felt that way the past week or so – not sideways, but that I’m taking that step out of what might’ve been success and having to deal with something less intuitive. Thanks for posting – going to chew this one a bit.

  32. Steve Errey says:

    Nicely said Jonathan.

    I’m in something of a similar place to be honest, with the added bonus of the brain fog that creeps in with CFS that makes it hard to gain much clarity. Nevertheless, the process is the same, even if I have to move slower than I’d perhaps like to.

    1. Always listen to your intuition – it knows what it’s talking about.

    2. Sweep aside the “shoulds” that limit how you think and what you allow yourself to do.

    3. Don’t worry about spending time being in that space of discomfort. The more time you spend there without needing to do anything about it, the more capable you become of being comfortable with discomfort.

    Here’s to finding that next spot Jonathan!

  33. Jonathan,
    Three all time favorites:

    “To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest.”
    — Pema Chödrön

    “Better to be in the arena getting stomped by the bulls, than to be up in the stands or out in the parking lot.”
    — Steven Pressfield

    And finally,

    “If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.”

    — Steven Pressfield

    Mary Louise

  34. I’ve always said that direction needs motion. Your tiller does nothing when the sailboat’s at the dock.

    Move. Measure. Check with your gut.

    Lather rinse repeat.

  35. […] was reading a blog post by Jonathan Fields the other day that talked about the discomfort of growing and expanding into the unknown, and being […]

  36. Denny Sugar says:

    Andrew Hansen said to come check you out, glad I did. This post really hit me.

  37. Sheri Woodruff says:

    I am just seeing this several months after it first appeared — but am seeing it precisely when I need to. I have resigned my “perfectly good job” and will leave the company at the end of the calendar year. When I tell people this, I get one of two reactions: 1) Are you NUTS that you are leaving your job in this economy?! OR 2) Good for you. It takes courage to decide that your happiness and professional satisfaction are more important than just staying in a job and waking up in 10 years and realizing that you have been doing the same thing all that time.

    Whenever I make a change like this, I don’t try to decide everything at once. I typically decide on 2 or 3 criteria that are important to me…and then I let the rest take care of itself. When I left state government, I identified 3 criteria: 1) I wanted to work in the private sector, 2) I wanted to work for someone who made a tangible product, and 3) I wanted to relocate just for the adventure of it. Crystallizing my thinking around just a few things really helps me — and it might help others to decide “what’s next.”

    Thanks for your insights, Jonathan — and best wishes to all of you in your journey/ies.

  38. […] Jonathan Fields, Taking out the Trash […]