Back when I used to help Mystery run workshops, we had a division of labor. He did most of the teaching, I did most of the organizing, and he made most of the decisions. Our program was three nights in the field: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and two days of seminar. At one point Mystery decided that students could no longer take seminar and workshop during the same weekend. They would have to come one weekend for the seminar, and then the following for the workshop. This was great for local students, but a huge hassle for anyone traveling.
No amount of convincing would change Mystery’s mind on this. I tried, of course, explaining that the reason we had fewer and fewer students was because no one wanted to fly out two weekends in a row. He wouldn’t budge. Mystery is stubborn.
At the time this was frustrating, and even mind boggling– how could someone so smart make such a bad decision and not listen to reason?
There’s another side to being stubborn, though. When he was around twenty one, Mystery was a virgin who was bad with girls. Many young men have been in this position, and most of them never really solved their problem. But mystery was stubborn. He spent his last couple dollars every day taking a bus downtown so that he could go to nightclubs and observe the dynamics between men and women. He took notes, he pondered, he came up with theories, and he tested them.
I remember how hard it was for me to walk that path, and I had it all handed to me, courtesy of Mystery. I can’t fathom how hard it must have been to be the one blazing the trail, pushing through rejection after rejection, not even knowing if it was possible to get better. Now it’s sort of taken as a given that you can get better with women, at least in my circles, but back when he started, common sense told you that you had to make due with the cards you were dealt.
Think of how stubborn you would have to be to get through something like that. Whether you think pickup is a good thing or a bad thing, you have to admire that tenacity.
The difference between tenacity and stubbornness is slight. You could argue that if it turns out well, it’s tenacity, and if it turns out poorly, it’s stubbornness. Just a difference in connotation.
I’m a stubborn person, too. In particular, I’m really bad at taking advice. Some part of my brain always thinks I’m right, even if someone much smarter is giving me advice in their field. I don’t try to remove my stubbornness, though, because I recognize that it’s the same thing as tenacity. Instead I try to manage it, to add a filter to that “I’m right” impulse, making myself be a little more self critical. Sometimes I think I’m right but I make myself take the advice anyway.
Even with this effort, I intend to remain somewhat stubborn. I will miss out on good advice, but I’ll also stick it through when others may not have. It’s a trade off I’m willing to take.
Didn’t like this post? Let’s try again– I have another one up at Zen Habits. When this blog is posted, Leo, eight other friends and I will be asleep at a tea farm in Japan!
Reminder– we’re doing a Japan Meetup in just a few days. Details here.
Photo was taken about 5 minutes after I emerged from the subways on my first trip to Japan eight years ago.