Discover how resistance shows up and tries to stop you from taking action.
Dionne Leigh Kumpe invited her brother Brent Baxter to the Agency to Act podcast to discuss the resistance that writers and entrepreneurs face when chasing their dreams.
Dionne Leigh Kumpe helps businesses discover the benefits of better brand marketing. Through her consultancy Dionne Leigh she offers hourly consulting calls, specialized services like you would find at an advertising agency, and fractional marketing services. Her e-commerce store Carter & Gray is for people who want to explore their creativity and do more of what they love. Follow Dionne on Instagram.
Brent Baxter is a lyricist, songwriting coach, educator, author, and speaker. He co-hosts the C.L.I.M.B. Show, a 300+ episode podcast about creating leverage in the music business. His online community Songwriting Pro helps songwriters build valuable industry connections and get feedback on non-published work. Follow Brent on Instagram and Twitter.
Brent Baxter 0:07
Welcome to the Agency to Act podcast.
Dionne Kumpe 0:11
Wow, we have been recording, but not recording, for 25 minutes. And that was some good stuff.
Brent Baxter 0:17
Yeah, that was some good stuff.
Dionne Kumpe 0:18
Brent, would you reintroduce yourself to the folks who are listening to the Agency to Act podcast? I’m so glad that you’re a guest. And do you have another 25 minutes to hang out with us and re-record this session?
Brent Baxter 0:31
I do. Yes. So for those of you who weren’t in my office to hear what we just did 25 minutes worth of when the button wasn’t hit, yes, welcome. My name is Brent Baxter. I’m a pro songwriter. I help other songwriters turned pro by teaching you how to write like a pro, how to do business like a pro, and, on a regular basis, I connect songwriters to the pros through my website, songwritingpro.com. There are some people that want to have a drinking game when I say “pro”. I’m a creative but also I’m an entrepreneur. We do workshops. We do a lot of social media stuff and blogging and podcasting,
Dionne Kumpe 1:02
I love it. And for those of you who don’t know, Brent is my brother. Brent is in the music industry. And I’m actually in the advertising industry. And I just left that about a month ago. I was laid off and so I had a side hustle that I was pursuing, and now it is my full-time hustle. And so one of the things that I wanted to do in creating this podcast called the Agency to Act is to really explore what it is like to take action on your own behalf. There are so many times, and for the last almost 30 years, I’ve been acting on my clients’ behalf, but haven’t always acted on my own behalf. And so now as an entrepreneur, I’m facing what that looks like. And so Brent and I are going to talk today about the War of Art, the book by Steven Pressfield. And really talk about resistance and what that looks like in the life of an entrepreneur. So what does resistance look like to you, Brent, and how do you identify it?
Brent Baxter 1:49
You mentioned the War of Art and so that’s where the term resistance comes from. I think, definitely for me, when I use it I use it in terms of the War of Art. It talks about resistance being this invisible energy field that repels you from moving from a lower level to a higher level. Basically, it only opposes in one direction that opposes you doing things that will make you and the world a better place, right. And so for me, you know, resistance has taken different forms. My cornerstone is writing songs. That’s what gives me street cred to teach workshops. And it’s not just what I have done, but it’s what I’m consistently doing. And that’s the thing that can be the victim of resistance the most for me is that actual creative time. For one thing, Songwriting Pro (the business) is a good chunk of the income. And so it’s easy to go, well, I need to focus on this, I need to set up this workshop, I need to get this blog post out, this podcast out because that’s what’s gonna help feed the family, and that’s what can see more immediate results. And so resistance kind of whispers like, well, you can write a song today, but most of your songs don’t get cut anyway, which is true of any songwriter. And so I’ll spend time more on Facebook and social media engagement, which is good and which is important, but every time I show up to write a song, it’s always a step into the unknown. So it’s always I sit down, maybe I don’t have a title yet and I have to pick one, I don’t know which one to pick or come up with and so many times when I push through that I’m really glad I did. But it’s that step into the unknown for me that’s the uncertainty and I noticed that in the business stuff too, like reaching out to somebody maybe I haven’t before and anything that’s kind of little I’m not 100% sure exactly how this supposed to happen. That’s when resistance really kicks in. And for both of my businesses, that’s all the unknown because there is no manual for it. I mean, I learn, I listen to stuff, I try to study and be a student of the game. So it’s trying to keep me from writing is the biggest thing.
Dionne Kumpe 3:36
I think for me, I am balancing the aspects of being a new entrepreneur and what that looks like. So my day was fairly structured before now I’m in charge of making the choices with my time. One of the things that I’m finding is that it is easy to work on the nuts and bolts of the business, whether I migrated a website, I updated the copy on this website, I enhanced such and such, I added a blog. And those are all really good things for what I’ve done, but at the same time, they’re not the thing that I know is going to get me to the next step of what I want to accomplish. And for whatever reason, I am finding that sitting down to do the creative work is the hard work for me, possibly because that’s not where I’ve spent most of my time. But I think that’s also a lie. I think it’s gonna be hard to sit down and do the creative work until you sit yourself down to do it. I heard Jon Acuff talk about that recently. He talked about how (and I love this) he has cues that he gives himself to be able to do the work. One of them is a pair of shoes. He has a writing pair of shoes, I kid you not, where when he’s writing his book, he puts on these incredible shoes, but he doesn’t allow himself to wear the shoes any other time until the book is finished.
Brent Baxter 4:42
Yeah, that’s great. I think we, it’s rituals, athletes have rituals. A lot of people have rituals. It’s funny. Used to be like boots and jeans, you know, writing country songs, I don’t care if we’re in my apartment, I’m putting on the boots and I’m wearing them in the apartment and that sort of thing, my pearl snaps or whatever. So I had those rituals that put on that identity like I’m a country songwriter that I’m dressed like one, you know, and this is my uniform. I’m going to work. I like the idea of cues. I mean, for some people may be walking up the stairs to that home creative space or whatever it is. I like that.
Dionne Kumpe 5:14
One of the other things I noticed about resistance is fear. Fear is something I held on to for years because I had a dream that I would be a writer. Let’s put aside that dream 20 years. As long as I don’t touch it, there’s a possibility I’m a writer. But really you’re not a writer unless you write. It was the fear of this was so important to me that I wanted to do it right. I was so afraid of failure I was afraid of starting and I think that’s been the biggest gift is recognizing that fear is actually pointing out what I need to focus on and push through.
Brent Baxter 5:43
It’s like I love my baby so much. I want to protect it. I squeeze it to death. Sorry, that’s quite visual. But anyway… The hardest part of writing is not writing. The hardest part of writing is sitting down to write. And writing is hard, but sitting down to write is really hard. That first letter, you know, the “blank page bully” I call it. That’s the hardest part. Over time, it gets easier. The actual writing, I think, in a sense, but the sitting down to write, I don’t know if that ever gets easier.
Dionne Kumpe 6:11
I think another thing, too, with resistance for me is is perfectionism. I came from agency life, working at an advertising agency [with a] team of people to help me accomplish any creative task. And now I’m in a world where I’m the team and I’m having to readjust my thinking. One example was I developed a workshop for people, and I feel passionate about this, that you figure out what lights you up and you do more of it in your life. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a job, you come up with an extracurricular activity or volunteerism, side hustle, whatever it is, or you start a new path, but you do more of what you love. It doesn’t matter how old you are. I felt passionate about this. I’ve felt that way for years, but again, haven’t done anything. And so I realized I had joined a writing group. A friend said, “Hey, I’m going to start this group. We’re going to meet on Saturday. Do you want to do it?” And I said, sure, why not. She was so casual and intentional about it. We just got together. And I felt, to what you said, it’s life-giving. I felt so energized afterward. I’m like, I want to do that for somebody. So I rethought the workshop that was taking me so long to put together and I thought, I’m just gonna start. So I invited three friends. We did this workshop, two weekends in a row, and then I was able to get their feedback [and] figure out the best way to share this information is really an online course. So now I’m revamping the creative, putting it into an online course. But I wouldn’t have known that had I not faced that fear, deconstructed all the steps I thought were necessary, and just started.
Brent Baxter 7:37
Yeah, I think sometimes we over-complicate things as to make it, well, that’s just impossible, or that’s so far out that now there’s no way I can do this next week. And so I think that’s a place to hide. You know, I heard the thing about, and it might have been Seth Godin who talked about it, but he talked about the basketball and how we have basically like a perfect version of a basketball, but it wasn’t that way 100 years ago, and if they’d sat around for the last hundred years in the laboratory and said we’re going to design the perfect basketball before we release it into the public, into the wild, we’d have a sucky basketball, you know, and it would probably be square. Over time, now we have this amazing basketball because it’s been out there, it’s been tested, and you learn and you iterate. When I did my first workshop back at the time was called Man vs. Row. It wasn’t even Songwriting Pro yet. Again, I didn’t have the perfect name, but I had a name that I’ve used for some other stuff that had a little bit of brand recognition, so we’ll just use that and I didn’t focus group it. Just like that’ll work. And over time, I decided to found something better and I changed it. And we’re still going. It didn’t disrupt everything. But when I did my first workshop, and it was on Google Hangouts, which was always janky back in the day, I don’t know how good it is now, but I had been blogging for a little while, I’m like I’m gonna sell this workshop, and I’m going to do like a two-hour teaching on songwriting and I found some people that would pay me like 50 bucks for this two-hour workshop. So I waited until Emily and the kids were gone one night or they were out of town or something. And so I had it all set up had the, you know, the house to myself and so we launch into this thing, I’m up in my office and I have a setup like on a dresser like an armoire so that I can stand up because I need my energy, you know, I’m bouncing around on the balls of my feet. And we’re talking, and who knows what was in the background, and then the feed stops. I got kicked out of my own meeting because there wasn’t enough bandwidth. So I popped into a cold sweat, I grabbed the thing, I run downstairs where the router is in our living room and set my laptop on the coffee table, and didn’t even have like a good external mic or anything. I think it was just like the laptop and was sitting on the couch, like out of breath like welcome back. Okay, I’m glad you’re still here, you know, and I had the behind the knee sweat because I was all sweaty. And I was just stressed out and I got through it. And now it’s a funny story. And that was a first and it was the worst, and early on there were a couple of incidents like that, of getting kicked out of my own meetings and stuff and but I iterate and now I could throw guitar pick and hit my router because it’s right there in my office, which is set up for video.
Dionne Kumpe 10:00
One of the things I’m curious about, because you mentioned this, like you’ve had all these opportunities to, let’s not call them to fail, let’s call them to learn while doing, learn while taking imperfect action. So what does that look like today that’s different? Because I’m just at the beginning of this journey and that’s why I really appreciate that you’re walking alongside me. And we’ve obviously been talking our whole lives about things like this. But what does it look like that’s different now that you’re further into it? How does resistance sneak in?
Brent Baxter 10:27
So for me, the resistance still is sitting down to do the creative work and carving out that time for something that I love. To me, the resistance shows up, because it’s sneaky, right? It doesn’t announce itself. It might be when I’m tired, or I just find myself not doing the things that are going to be the most effective. Like, what are the things that could be the game-changers for the business that I’m putting off because I’m not really sure how to… there’s some data points missing or there’s I’m not sure exactly how to get from A to C. I’m not sure what B is going to look like, but I know how to do this thing that I’ve been doing. So it’s easy to kind of do that and get busy in the busywork. And because no one’s going to do it for you.
Dionne Kumpe 11:05
Brent Baxter 11:05
And so finding that margin to look at what needs to be done, you know, what’s important now what’s going to be that long term big needle-moving win that can really significantly change how things happen. So for a while, I had two sites. I had Songwriting Pro which was the used-to-be-called Man vs. Row, a WordPress site, and then I had this Frettie site and so it took me way longer than it really should have taken me to merge those two things because I had to hire somebody to do it. It’s tech stuff. I’m not a tech guy. And so I had to find somebody and pay and do the financial investment and that was a form of resistance, of fear going “Ugh, spend money on this? How fast can I get that money back?” Snd things are always tight, and there’s never a good time to spend money and how much is it gonna cost and all this stuff, right? I just don’t know. And it took a long time because maybe I didn’t hire the right guy. But that happens too. But finally got those sites moved over so now I have one website, songwritingpro.com, and so I think for me that that cost me a lot of time and momentum because I’m trying kind of maintain, and, really with a podcast called The C.L.I.M.B., kind of three different brands, two different websites, and it was just so inefficient. And why didn’t I just take that bull by the horns and run and do it earlier? I guess resistance.
Dionne Kumpe 12:13
Well, it’s funny you say that because I have been trying to figure out the next chapter of my life for several years, several years, and figuring out the exit strategy from the agency and all these things and trying to figure out what I really want to do. I’ve been around the creative industry for so [long], I mean, for almost 30 years. I was like, I want to create things too. I want ideas, influence, impact — those are hugely important to me. And so I’ve got these passions on the side, but they were always on the side and I was figuring out like three years, five years, you know, what’s that gonna look like? And I was building slowly for the future. And then the future became today when I was laid off my job, right? Implications of COVID-19. It affected advertising agencies significantly. That happens. It’s happened to people across the country. I was fortunate in that I had already done some groundwork, but I had not taken the action that I wish I had and really done as much early as I wish I could have. And the thing is, I could have, I really could have done these things earlier. But at the time, I was still focused on the comfort and anything that came up, any resistance, I sort of allowed it to slow down the momentum. And today I’m finding that resistance is going to be there and I’m going to have to push through it if I want something to change, like the resistance doesn’t get to take me down.
Brent Baxter 13:31
Right. I heard Gary Vaynerchuk say it’s hard to stay hungry when you’re well fed. When you have that check coming in, it’s really kind of hard to go, “And do I really want to leave this for this uncertain thing?” And talking, what I’ve heard before, is it kind of gives you a similar endorphin rush to actually doing — to actual accomplishment. And so you get like a good feeling and talking about the book you’re gonna write. And so I’m like I can feel good about [it]. I feel like I wrote a book without ever having to write a book. And it’s like, oh, that’s dangerous. So some people say don’t ever talk about it. Just do it. That way the only endorphin rush you get from your book is that when it’s done or doing it
Dionne Kumpe 14:05
Alright, thanks, Brent.
Brent Baxter 14:06