Summary of “The Path of Least Resistance”: Our freedom in life, like our freedom of movement in a building, is partly defined by its structure, thus to be able to create our life, and move towards our ideal, it is better to change its structure rather than change our behavior within the same framework, this book teaches us to do so by showing how we can create a structure in our life, which draws us inexorably, and almost effortlessly, along the path of least resistance- and pushes us to create what we really want for ourselves.
The Path of Least Resistance by Robert Fritz, 285 pages, 1984 (first edition), 1989 (current revised edition).
Note: Because this book is extremely heavy and interesting, and somewhat dry (translation: difficult to summarize 🙂 ), I am posting it in two parts. Here is the first:
Book chronicle and summary of “The Path of Least Resistance”:
Robert Fritz is an American composer, director and screenwriter, and creator of the Technologies for Creating concept that he teaches in the company he created and that he shares with us in The Path of Least Resistance.
He begins by telling us that the roads from downtown Boston appear to have no precise structure. Yet they are built on former cow trails that existed in the 17th century. The cows were content to put one leg in front of the other, but once they had been to a place, it was easier to return, because the path was increasingly more useable and defined. The cows followed the nearest path that was easiest for them – that of least resistance. Thus, the structure of the plains and the path of least resistance for seventeenth-century cows still determines the organization and construction of urban Boston today.
Note: Although it seems that downtown Boston is effectively a shambles, and a source of numerous outcries by its inhabitants, the history of the cows is an urban legend. The image is none-the-less valuable for explaining that unsuspected structures – created by forgotten paths of least resistance – influence our behavior every day.
Therefore, energy goes where it is easiest for it to go. It is a fundamental point on which The Path of Least Resistance is built, and from which flow the three following ideas and insights:
1. We move through life by taking the path of least resistance.
2. The underlying structure of our lives determines the path of least resistance.
3. We can change the underlying fundamental structures of our lives.
Out of these three insights comes this guiding principle: We can learn to recognize the structures that play a role in our lives and change them to create what we really want to create.
In a very structural and systemic manner, Robert Fritz explains that structure refers to both its elementary components, as well as how those components interact with each other and with the global framework that they form, the whole being more than the sum of its parts.
This may seem complicated, but let’s take an example: the human body. The human body is made up of many very different elements, and each has a specific function: the brain, heart, lungs, red blood cells, nerves, muscles, etc., all interacting with each other on different scales to create a whole which is much more than the simple sum of its parts. Anything that affects one element can affect other elements at the same time, and the whole system, all the components, are related to one another, and doctors and surgeons learn to think of the body as a system and structure.
Thus, a surgeon who operates on one organ is not only concerned with the state of the organ itself, but also the whole body of which it forms a part, and he takes factors into account which may be completely external to this organ – such as blood pressure, brain waves, the presence of bacteria, allergic reactions …
Everything has an underlying structure, whether physical, as with bridges or skyscrapers, or intangible, as with the plot of a novel or the form of a symphony. Our life has a structure, it consists of multiple factors interacting with each other and with the structure itself.
So the structure determines the movements and behavior of the objects that it consists of, and certain structures are more useful than others for getting the desired results.
How can you change the structure? By creating it. Often we think in terms of solving problems, but this approach only allows us to change some elements here and there without changing the structure, and the structure could then return the elements to their initial state. By creating we are changing the structure.
When we try to solve a problem we are acting to remove something: the problem. When we create, we are acting to produce something: the creation. Therefore, by thinking structurally, rather than saying to ourselves “How can I make this undesirable situation go away?” we say to ourselves “What structure do I need to adopt to create the results that I want to create?”
It is a radically different approach. The author explains it to us throughout The Path of Least Resistance, after having shown us the fundamental problems with the problem-solving approach. Let’s learn about it.
Part One of The Path of Least Resistance: Fundamental Principles
Chapter 2: The Reactive-Responsive Orientation
When we were children, we received many messages that essentially told us that there is one way of doing things: there was the right way to put your clothes on, the right way to eat your food, the right way to cross the street. Our job as a child was to learn about the world, its limits, and especially the right way to live in it. We assumed that grown-ups knew what they were saying, since they seemed to know how to do tons of miraculous things, like driving a car or repairing broken toys, or making food to eat.
The focal point of our experiments was to learn how the world works and how to get along with it. We concluded that there was a thing or two to learn and that it was good because, when we showed that we had learned something, we were often rewarded – or at least left alone. Then, when our own interests grew, we depended less and less on family members and more and more on ourselves and other people our age. Through multiple experiences, we discovered that grown-ups are sometimes wrong and that they don’t know everything about everything.
The whole time we went on assuming the fact that the world only works in one way and we began to seek it out for ourselves. Our fellow explorers, our peers, and friends were happy to share their ideas with us, and we may have learned more about sex from them than from our parents. We discovered very early that some grown-ups could be unfair, mean, or dishonest. To protect ourselves, we have learned to try and understand situations, to find a balance between what we wanted and what they wanted us to do.
Sometimes when we were cooperating, grown-ups seemed to love us more. So, since we like them back, we cooperated for political reasons. But we might have found that cooperation does not change a whole lot, even when we put forth the effort, there was not much difference in the results that it produced. So we may then have decided not to be cooperative.
Over time we developed our own ideas, we changed our view of how life is, but we have kept this idea that life is built around concrete rules of operation. This view was central in developing our own ideas on how to live our lives. Some of these ideas were about how to be useful to others who were beautiful or intelligent or strong or fun. Or up to what point the world is dangerous and how to protect ourselves and avoid problems, or the importance of being a greater threat to others or how much to control things to minimize danger.
Once we formed our opinions about the world, the next step was to define a philosophy with which to deal with it. This philosophy was often formed by watching others who went before us, whoever they were – parents, teachers, friends, enemies, rock stars, stars from film or television, or political figures, etc. Some of our impressions came from books, movies, television, fashion, and poetry.
The study of “what life is really like” has become important to us. If we knew “how it works,” then we could figure out the right action to take. We suspected that some special people really knew “how it works.” Many people were willing to say they knew. We needed to find out who was right about it.
Maybe we found a person or group who seemed to have the answers. Whether they were optimistic or pessimistic, it’s the same thing. A way of looking at the world, followed by actions consistent with that vision which we learned growing up.
In the end, it boils down to one thing: reacting to circumstances. And the fact that circumstances are the dominant force in our lives. This message reaches us in many ways, by the parental approval for the right responses to appropriate circumstances and disapproval in the opposite case, by the rewards teachers give for a correct answer and bad grades in the opposite case.
When circumstances are at the center of our lives, we can only react in one of two ways: by responding to it or by reacting against it. We can be the “good little child ” or the “angry rebel.”
This reaction-response orientation assumes that you are powerless. In fact, if we could only react or respond, where does the power lie? In the circumstances. Thus, since the power does not lie in us, we are powerless and the circumstances are all-powerful. Even those who have achieved what others see as significant achievements have often succeeded to avoid failure. Success itself does nothing to change the assumption of powerlessness.
But living permanently at the mercy of circumstance often leads to a life that is far from ideal. Every year many young people commit suicide or join cults in response to a lack of meaning to their existence.
Even without going that far, it leads us to live in a closed, circular system: if our tendency is primarily to respond to circumstances, then our path of least resistance leads us towards a more reactive state. And if our tendency is more to react to circumstances then our path of least resistance leads us towards response mode. And so we move successively from one state to another, because it is easier to do this than to change the general structure, easier to solve problems rather than create.
Chapter 3: Creating Is No Problem – Problem Solving Is Not Creating
An important part of the creative process is to recognize what exists currently. We have many problems. They require our attention. But at best, solving the problems can only provide temporary relief in a specific situation, but it cannot, by itself, lead to ultimate success.
Thus, when there was a terrible famine in Ethiopia in 1984, the whole world mobilized to come to the aid of the hungry and send food. But those interested in the Third World – as it was then known – had seen this disaster coming for years. They were not heard. And despite the huge aid that saved thousands of lives, nothing has really changed. The political forces have remained in place, agriculture has remained rudimentary, infrastructure is non-existent. Does this mean that food aid was a bad idea? No, it was essential. But all it did was to buy time. If this time is not used to create a sustainable society, it can only delay the tragedy.
So what triggered this enormous wave of global support? The severity of the problem. Pictures of starving children invaded television screens. The call for our help, the biggest stars who used their talents to mobilize the public. Millions of dollars were raised. As a result, the famine gradually abated. The situation improved. The media became interested in another topic. The pictures of starving children have disappeared. Contributions have fallen off. The focus on Ethiopia has evaporated. But today, in Ethiopia, as in many other countries around the world, children are dying of hunger.
This is the fundamental problem of solving problems: the path of least resistance takes us from the worst to the best, then from the best back to the worst. This is because the actions we take to address the problem mitigate the problem. Then, when the severity of the problem decreases because of the actions that we take, the motivation to take more action in turn decreases. So the problem remains. Then it may increase again later in a continuous stagnant cycle.
To break out of this endless loop, we must create. Creating does not mean solving the problem creatively. In this case, the use of the word creative refers to the style and not to the substance. This is the case, for example, in brainstorming, a process in which we try to overcome our usual way of looking at things by using free association of the imagination, then suspending critical judgment to be more inventive. This process has nothing to do with the real creative process which is at work in the arts and sciences. An artist does not paint a canvas to solve a problem, but to realize a work of art.
Can you imagine Mozart using brainstorming to find alternatives for the opening of the Marriage of Figaro? Or Beethoven doing the same thing for the 9th Symphony? Beethoven’s notebook was filled with themes and variations, but these notes were not free associations or a generation of alternatives, but a focused study of how interval structures interact. “Model, then test in a systematic and apparently cold way;” Beethoven’s critical judgment was not held up in his drafts, but increased by it.
So the act of creating starts with this question: “What do I want to create?” Then by concentrating our critical judgments on the results we are seeking.
When we recognize the final result that we want to create, we can focus on the process and choose, rather than select at random.
Chapter 4: Creating
One day Robert Fritz passed through East Harlem by taxi, a grim ghetto in the heart of New York, where he had once lived after getting his master’s degree at the Boston Conservatory of Music. Going from cultured Boston to a ghetto devoid of culture was a stark contrast, but something struck him that day as he contemplated his former stomping ground. Spectacular graffiti adorned many city walls. Where he had lived, these graffiti were vulgar kinds of vandalism sketched in a hurry with spray paint. Now, most of the works of art were complex and unique, born in a ghetto where suffering, misery, and violence were the daily bread of its inhabitants.
Photo by Jacivico
Photo by jag9889
Some Harlem Graffiti
The city has become the canvas. If someone had told Robert Fritz in the 60s that the under-educated, cultureless children of New York would rise, not in violence, but art and dance, he would never have believed it.
It’s a profound lesson. We have been led to believe that the circumstances of our lives determine our ability to express ourselves. If this were true, how would this creativity, this originality, and this vitality have been able to come from humble people born in adversity in the ghetto? Creation is not a product of circumstances.
The author proposes 5 steps to truly create:
- Think of the result we want to create.
- Find out what already exists.
- Learn the rhythm of the creative process.
- Create a movement.
Chapter 5: The Orientation of the Creative
Living life as a creator is truly a special type of existence. It’s difficult to explain it to someone who is in reaction-response mode, both the opportunities and realities of life are completely different.
What motivates a creator? A desire for his creation to exist. And the reason why a creator created whatever, is because he loves it enough to want to see it exist. It is a deep, true love, that comes from inside us.
But what is the secret of creation? How do we create the what in “What do I want?”
We invent it from scratch!
It is both as simple and as complicated as that. Even if it seems impossible, it is worth trying. Many things have been discovered or invented when it seemed impossible.
What is the formula? There is none. Learning formulas and processes has become a socially acceptable response. There is an abundance of processes to lose weight, build muscle, re-energize, learn the art of seduction, stop smoking, etc. It is a wonderful age we live in. There are so many things available. But often the criteria that people use to determine which direction they should take are dictated by the process rather than the results you wish for.
Chapter 6: Tension Seeks Resolution
The tendency for any structure is to fix every stress that it suffers by going down the path of least resistance. If you stretch an elastic band, it tends to revert to its original form as soon as you release it.
Sometimes we have contradictory tensions. If we are hungry (tension), we will naturally try to resolve this tension by eating (resolution). However, if we are overweight, we want to reduce the weight to a reasonable level, which creates a different system of tension and resolution. Being overweight (tension) encourages us to eat less (resolution).
The two systems are incompatible. If we try to solve one, we let go of the other one and allow the tension in it to increase. It is a conflict born of the very structure we are using.
The contradiction between a desire and a belief can create such a conflict.
Thus, the desire creates tension, which is resolved by getting what we want. Conversely, the belief that we cannot get what we want creates a tension that is resolved by failing to get what we want.
Now imagine that you are in a room, attached by two elastic bands in front and behind you. On the wall behind is written “I can not get what I want” and on the wall in front of you “I want that.”
Now imagine that you move towards the wall in front of you, towards your desire and its realization. The more you advance, the more the elastic band behind you exerts its force, until you cannot continue and the elastic pulls you back.
Now you are heading towards the other wall, the one with your limiting belief, but now it’s the elastic of your desire which slows you down, then ends up pulling you back.
Thus we are prisoners in a structure that forces us to oscillate endlessly, to work towards a goal, then its opposite, without any chance of escape: the structural conflicts are not resolvable. It’s the structure that needs to change, not the problem. However, any attempt to change the internal structure of the existing structure will not work.
Chapter 7: Compensating Strategies
So, structure conflicts lead to endless oscillations and not to the desired results. People tend to develop compensation strategies to manage the shortcomings of the structure. How do they develop? Generally, gradually.
If your car tires get out of alignment and your car starts to pull slightly to the left, you will develop a compensation strategy by pulling the steering wheel slightly more to the right when you are driving in a straight line. If the tendency for the car to go left develops gradually, your act of compensating will also develop gradually, perhaps even without you noticing.
Similarly, if you try to go from one structure and swing towards another that resolves it, you are automatically going to change some behaviors. But if you try to change your behavior without changing the structure at its root, you will never succeed. Imagine that a friend notices that you tend to pull the wheel to the right. If he knows nothing about wheel alignment, he might point out your behavior and suggest that you change it: “You shouldn’t turn the steering wheel to the right, hold it straight instead.” You could follow his advice and change your actions temporarily, but soon – to stay on the road – you go back to your old way.
You could even go and see specialists, gurus, and other psychologists from whom you may learn the following:
As you are pulling the steering wheel to the right because you have over-developed the left side of your brain. You are too intellectual and have not developed your intuitive side enough. What you should do is concentrate on your receptive nature through meditation and by changing your diet. Your diet should include more grains and vegetables. This will better balance your protein consumption and help you become more yin.
Obviously, this does not solve the problem of the wheel alignment …
The author then continues by telling us that there are three major strategies for compensating:
- Remaining in a zone with tolerable conflict
- Manipulation using conflict
- Manipulation using will
Taking this third strategy as an example, many people try to use it by employing positive thinking: You program your mind with positive propaganda to get your subconscious on board and encourage its cooperation to control your life better, using statements, audio programs, self-hypnosis, positive reinforcement, motivational meetings, slogans and notes stuck on the bathroom mirror. But if you suppose that you can influence and direct your subconscious, what message are you giving it by using this kind of programming technique? It is very difficult to communicate with the subconscious. This requires special and extraordinary measures. The old “programs” have enormous powers. The subconscious is stupid and unruly. It must be treated like a child.
If you think that programming your subconscious is the key to your life, why try to influence it with this kind of message? When you try to feed your subconscious positive thoughts, these acts of manipulation tell it more than all the positive propaganda in the world. It is one of many dead-end compensation strategies.
Chapter 8: Structural Tension
To change the existing structure, another structure must be called in, and this structure must 1) incorporate the previous structure and its conflicts and 2) convert a complex structure into a simple structure.
The master structure must be a system for simple resolution of tension, one that resolves, and that ideally resolves completely. This master structure is called structural tension.
The structural tension is built from two major components:
- The vision of the outcome you want to create.
- A clear vision of the reality that you currently have.
The tension between what you have and what you want will create the tension that will lead you to your desired outcome.
One of the ways to weaken structural tension is by not representing reality correctly. This is the strategy used by people who “have a vision” while ignoring what is going on around them. Do not confuse creators with dreamers. Dreamers are happy just to dream, but creators turn their dreams into reality.
Chapter 9: Vision
The best place to start the creative process is at the end. What is the outcome you want?
By knowing that you can move from concept, general and rich in possibilities, to vision, specific and focused, having laid to rest all the possibilities of the concept to focus on only some of its aspects.
Here are the steps suggested by the author to find out what you want:
- Ask yourself the question: what do I want?
It is amazing to see how many people do not ask themselves this obvious question. Ask it of yourself in every kind of situation. Make a habit of it. Find out what allows you to focus your attention quickly and to accurately describe the truth around you.
- Think about what you want independently of considerations regarding the process.
Otherwise, you will limit your ability to envision the outcome to what you already know, but the creative process is fed with the discovery of what you don’t know.
- Separate what you want from the possibilities that exist.
In the same way, do not limit what you want by what is possible. If you have cancer you want to be healthy. It may be impossible, but it is your deep desire. Don’t deny it.
- Ask yourself the question: what do I want?
Chapter 10: Current Reality
There once was a lion came upon a monkey. The lion thought this was a good chance to confirm his position of prominence in the jungle.
-“Hey, monkey !” the lion growled.
-“Yes sire,” the monkey answered in a shaly voice.
– “Who is the king of the jungle ?!” the lion growled even louder.
-“Why, you are, sire, you are!”
-“And don’t forget it!” the lion said, very pleased with himself.
A little later the lion came upon a zebra.
-“Hey you… zebra!” the lion roared.
-“Yes sire,” the zebra answered in a nasal voice.
-“Who’s the king of the jungle ?!” the lion roared some more.
-“You are, sir, you are!” the zebra said with a timid and forced enthusiasm.
-“And don’t you forget it!” the lion roared.
A little later the came upon an elephant. “Hey you, elephant! Who’s the king of the jungle ?!” the lion roared and growled with his most ferocious roar and growl.
Without saying a word, the elephant picked up the lion with his trunk and threw the lion against a tree. Then he walked over the lion and stepped his tail. Then the elephant picked the lion up again and slammed him down on the ground.
As the elephant walked away, the battered lion lifted his head and yelled, “Hey, don’t get mad because you don’t know the answer !”
Some people have a lot of trouble with reality. It seems if it should be simple enough: See the obvious. But as children we were often hushed up by an adult while we said something that was undeniably accurate like :
-“Grandma’s house has a funny smell.”
Part Two of The Path of Least Resistance: The Creative Process
Chapter 11: The Creative Cycle
There are three major steps in the creative process of constructing your life and its development:
1) Germination. Full of a particular energy – an energy characteristic of new beginnings – this step is the ideal moment to act. Motivation, excitement, and enthusiasm are at their zenith. Unfortunately, most personal development approaches focus on this step exclusively, and while it’s certainly vital it can’t produce sufficient results on its own. Numerous people get stuck at the peak of the energy that comes with this step and procrastinates over the next steps, ultimately forgetting them amongst other activities and never truly advancing.
2) Assimilation. this step is crucial, but it’s the least obvious in human development – particularly in its beginning phases. What we’ve created grows organically during this time, developing within us and calling upon our internal resources while we work on developing it. We teach ourselves our vision – a vision that goes beyond beginner status and becomes like an old friend. This is how intuitions, ideas, and connections appear.
3) Achievement. Completing what we create is a step that few people master. We all know people who haven’t finished what they’ve started, sometimes even with very important projects, and we’ve all surely been there ourselves. This step is characterized not just by the completion of our creation, but by the fact of learning to live with it as well.
Chapter 12: Germination and Choice
Germination doesn’t only consist of conceiving what we want and establishing the direction in which we want to go, but more importantly, sowing the seeds of our creation. The way we get these seeds of our creation started is by making choices about what we want to create. When we make a choice, we mobilize vast quantities of energy and resources that would otherwise remain unused, and very often, people fail to focus their choices on the results, which renders them ultimately ineffective.
Therefore, you must choose to master this germination step. This goes back to learning how to set certain possibilities aside to concentrate on those that are the most likely to help us get the results that we want. When we don’t sacrifice some possibilities we are actually sacrificing all of the others because it’s impossible to advance to the next steps and we remain stuck at this stage.
According to the author, there are many ways to make an ineffective choice:
- Choice by limitation – choosing only what seems possible or reasonable.
- Indirect choice – choosing the process instead of the result.
- Choice by elimination – eliminating all of the other possibilities until you have only one choice remaining.
- Default choice – the “choice” to not make a choice, so the result, whatever it is, doesn’t seem to come from a choice.
- Conditional choice – imposing predefined conditions upon a choice.
- Reactionary choice – choice designed to overcome a conflict.
- Choice by consensus – find out what everyone recommends and base your choice on the results.
- Choice by adverse possession – a choice based on a cloudy metaphysical idea about the nature of the universe.
Chapter 13: Primary, Secondary and Fundamental Choice
A primary choice is a choice about the results that we wish to achieve. It doesn’t serve as a single step in a series of steps, rather, it is the ultimate goal. We can have one in practically every part of our life: we can choose to become one of the most effective managers in our company, to develop a new method of transporting dangerous materials, to open a factory in Singapore, to become a professional blogger, to have a superb relationship with our better half, a beautiful house or wonderful vacations.
A primary choice is based on a result that you want by itself and for itself. If you have doubts about the nature of what you want, whether it’s a primary choice or part of a process, ask yourself the following question:
“What is this choice supposed to accomplish?”
If it was designed to help accomplish something beyond the choice itself, then it is part of a process. Thus, it’s a secondary choice. If it wasn’t designed to take you further, if it is leading you to the result you wish for by and of itself, then it’s a primary choice.
Exercise for Finding your Primary Choices
- Make a list of everything you want, from today until the end of your life. Include both your personal and professional desires. Don’t limit yourself to what’s possible or probable. Treat this list like a first draft.
- Re-read your list to make sure that you’ve included all the major components of your life.
- Test all the items in your list with this question: “If I could have it, would I take it?” If your response is no, cross this off of your list. If your response is yes, formalize your choice by saying “I choose this result: <insert what it is you want>”
- Continue the process until you have chosen all the things you truly want on the list.
A Secondary Choice helps us to advance a step towards our primary goal. If we hope to cook a good meal (primary choice), we have to buy the ingredients at the supermarket (secondary choice).
A Fundamental Choice is a choice we make towards the orientation of our life and our existence. Primary choices only concern themselves and secondary choices support primary choices. A fundamental choice is a foundation upon which primary and secondary choices are laid.
If you haven’t made a fundamental choice to stop smoking, no matter which system or method you try, you will never quit. If you have made the choice, it doesn’t matter what method you use. To be a non-smoker is a basic choice of existence and it is very different from the choice to be a smoker who is trying to quit. It’s a choice made with the soul.
Chapter 14: Assimilation
This is one of the most natural stages in growth and development. We have all experienced it. When we were children learning how to walk, we assimilated the skills of balance, coordination, and movement. When we learned how to speak, we assimilated and incorporated the vocabulary and syntax of our mother tongue. And we continue to use assimilation in our adult life -in sports, at work, in our relationships, and our daily life.
And yet this assimilation is misunderstood.
In fact, during this step, the progress that we make is hard to see for a while. During long periods it seems as if nothing significant is happening. At this time, when the excitement of the germination phase wears off, and the results of new creative developments should be expected, a lot of people give up. It’s at this point that many students abandon their musical instrument, that many give up their exercise program or fitness routine, or quit learning a language.
If you have a creative orientation rather than one guided by reaction-response, these crucial, beginning moments where nothing seems to be happening are not a problem, for two reasons:
- Creative people understand that there will be periods in their creative process where nothing is produced and that there will certainly be a failure, and they understand that these moments don’t inhibit in any way the development that will lead us to the results we are striving for. Learning to ride a bike includes a period – maybe a day, maybe a week – where the bike rider frequently loses their balance and falls. But he knows that if he continues, he will be able to ride like everybody else. In fact, failure is a part of the process, because it lets you know what you need to learn to get the results you want.
- Even noticing that nothing happens reinforces the clarity of our perception of actual reality, and thus reinforces the structural tension which pushes towards the desired result.
Chapter 15: Momentum
Assimilation is a gradual process. These steps are built one on top of the other. Because they are constructed in this way, the process generates energy; energy which builds on itself, and the process gains momentum.
The sooner we take the first steps in our process of growth and learning, the sooner we will be able to assimilate the more advanced parts of the process. It is easier to learn a foreign language if we already know a foreign language. When we learn a foreign language, we assimilate not only the language but also our ability to learn a foreign language. If we master two, the third will be even easier to learn.
Assimilation can, therefore, drive us to exponential results. In fact, with a creative outlook, once we have assimilated our own creative process, mastery of our life in general grows, which allows us to create what’s important to us in a more natural, easygoing way.
Every entrepreneur has succeeded in building momentum. One way to do it is to create a habit of success by deliberately structuring a succession of small victories along the path that leads you to the final objective. Read this article on the art of breaking an objective into mini-objectives to learn more. Momentum is gained by learning the ways we consciously act, whether or not they are successful, and using them to figure out how to advance.
Chapter 16: Strategic Moments
In the creative process, there are key moments when it seems like we are slipping, or going backward. The actions that we take in these moments will largely determine whether we succeed or fail.
Often, we think that we are closer to our objective than we actually are. A climber at the top of a mountain might estimate the distance of a neighboring mountain at around three kilometers, then realize, back in the valley, that it is a lot further than he thought. He might even think that he is on the wrong path and is going further away from his destination when he is actually slowly getting closer to it.
So it is also possible to be mistaken about our place along the road to progress and make decisions based on this erroneous perception. To avoid this, there are several factors to take into account.
First, there’s the delay. When we start to make changes in our life, there is often a delay between the time we start these changes and the time where we come to see the first results. For example, there is a delay between the moment we start a diet and when we start to lose weight. We may even get heavier in the beginning, perhaps because of a diet that we have only just stopped. It is important to not quit during this stage, nor to make the mistake of concluding that our new diet is making us fatter!
Next, it is important to see reality how it actually is, because it is often different than we think it is. If we are often confronted with the fact that present circumstances are different than what we thought they should be, we undermine our ability to use the power of reality to create a sound structural tension that will lead us to the results we want.
The problem with an analysis of reality is that we learn from a very young age to misrepresent it or even to hide it completely so that we don’t hurt others. Therefore, our aunt isn’t fat, she just gained a pound or two, or the dinner was wonderful, even if the vegetables were overcooked, the wine was like vinegar, or the meat cooked like leather.
This tendency to protect people from reality assumes that these people couldn’t stand the whole truth. So, when we become used to misrepresenting reality, the truth can somehow seem dangerous. But the truth isn’t dangerous, it allows us to create, by recognizing facts as they really are.
The Pivot Technique
This technique is a tool that allows us to better represent reality to ourselves and use undesirable circumstances like a catalyst to help us move towards what we want.
- Describe where you are. Don’t hesitate to tell yourself “I am lost. I don’t know in what direction my destination lies.”
- Describe where you want to be.
- Once again, formalize the results that you want. Say “I choose…” and add the result that you want to obtain.
- Advance. Once you have described where you are (actual reality) and where you want to go (vision) and you’ve formally chosen the results that you want (re-establishing structural tension), change the focus of your mind so that it quickly thinks beyond the unexpected situation. Change the subject.
Chapter 17: Completion
This final stage is the complete and total accomplishment of the results we wanted to create. It can seem like the source of ultimate joy, but often it’s equally a source of anxiety, just like prisoners who are going to finally be set free and can’t sleep the night before.
Why? Because success often implies an important change in our life.
One of the most important talents needed to create is the ability to harvest the fruits of one’s own labor. When he began to succeed and harvest the fruits of years worth of work, Robert Fritz had the strangest feeling. The more he succeeded, the stronger this feeling grew. He understood that he had learned how to succeed, but not how to receive this success. In a way, he hadn’t permitted himself to get the results he had been working on for all those years.
So he quickly decided to learn how to accept and fully receive these results. He realized that receiving is a very simple process. When somebody sends us a package, we receive it and accept it from the giver. So, when we don’t accept it, we don’t get the package. It’s the same way with these results.
Once we’ve accepted them, it’s equally important to acknowledge receipt, to recognize them. In this way, we judge that the results are complete in the same way a painter signs his canvas signifying that he considers it finished.
Part Three of The Path of Least Resistance: Transcendence
I won’t spend long on this part, I will content myself with a brief description because it seems to me that these chapters are more of a ‘bonus’ relative to the subject of the book.
Chapter 18: Signs of the Future, Signs of the Times
In this chapter, obviously written in 1984 and presenting therefore a nearly prophetic vision of the importance that computers and information networks will play in people’s liberation and creativity – Robert Fritz talks about his Mac and his son’s Commodore 64 connected via modem to BBS, ancestors of today’s forums, the author maintains that as long as creative people exist, the world will be healthy and demand that society recognizes the value of creative talent.
Chapter 19: The Power of Transcendence
The Path of Least Resistance finishes on an optimistic note and the notion of transcendence. Transcendence is rebirth, starting from scratch; wiping out the past. Transcendence is the result of fundamental choices and the recognition of obstacles in our life, and the work we do to change them.
Book Critique of “The Path of Least Resistance”:
This book is deeper and more complex than I was expecting. It took me two weeks to read it and write this summary for you, and that’s the first time this has happened to me since I started my Personal MBA project. It’s a very dry read, difficult, full of jargon, lots of repetition, and often a bit heavy.
But, unlike many other books of this kind, it is worth the effort it takes to hang on and to get through it because the contents hidden behind the heavy format are like a thread of gold hidden behind a thick wall: you must dig to reach it, but once you get there, what a feast! This book gives us a rich, complete method to liberate us from our shackles and lead us to the life we’ve been dreaming of. The creative process is dealt with most universally there is – much more so than in The Creative Habit which was more centered on artistic creation – and applies to everyone, even those most allergic to artistic creation, because it tries above all to give us tools to better create that for which we are the one and only creator: our life.
This is the first book I know of that touches concretely on the notion of structure and system since systematic and structuralist theories exist today mostly in the sciences. The idea to not only change the structure rather than behaviors within the structure but also to use structural tension to push us towards our objectives, seems brilliant to me, even genius. The idea of not changing the structure seems to me like an obvious source of failure that one can see all around daily.
I realized somewhere in reading this that I have been for a long time – and still am, perhaps to a lesser degree than in the past – hung up on the excitement and adrenaline caused by the beginning stage, that has driven me to experiment in numerous things, rarely going into detail. It’s not entirely a bad thing, as long as I can find the delicate balance between satisfying curiosity and useless waste of time. The balance is difficult to find, and I’m speaking from experience.
I’d be lying to you if I told you that I understood everything in this book on the first reading. Writing the summary helped me enormously to dissect it, and it’s a book that will you definitely benefit from re-reading so that you can extract all of the nuggets, sometimes deeply hidden under layers of jargon. Realize that this two-part summary that took you maybe a half hour to read took me 10 hours to write and bring out the main idea. I hope that you will be able to use some of this work : )
Strong Points of The Path of Least Resistance:
- Complete method, rich and profound
- Concrete use of a system to change our lives
- Many passages that stand out for their intelligence and the impact they cause
- A dense book which will only be completely understood after several readings
Weak Points of The Path of Least Resistance:
- Very dense
- Lots of jargon
- Lots of repetition
My rating :
Have you read “The Path of Least Resistance”? How do you rate it?
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Wish to thank the author of this page with deep respect and gratitude. This book was one of my first reads in English in my London years. But only now, after 30 years, i realize the true potential of these messages, and thanks to this incredible work of distillation on focus points, I can start working on it again. Namaste ! Highlangher
Hey Olivier! I would like to personally thank you for the summary. I’m not a native English speaker so the book was too heavy for me, but your summary worked great. Keep it up!