Sunday, November 13, 2005

Curious about Intensity: Does Intensity Add or Subtract from Your Life?

When Lawrence Taylor said, “You try to stay within the rules for the sake of the game, but you can always turn up the intensity,” he was speaking as an athlete. I feel, however, that he could just as easily be talking about life and business in general.

Yesterday I was reminded of intensity more than once.

First, I attended an inspiring all-day seminar for writers. Every speaker and workshop leader is a writer and each exhibited a sense of intensity for their writing and their writing careers. Even though they all shared that pursuing this career is not easy, they were intense in their dedication to writing. One well known writer, went so far as to say, “I write, for I have no other choice. If I had to take a regular job, I would slit my throat.” That is intense.

The poet Philip Levine reinforced this choice when he wrote, “I realized poetry's the thing that I can do 'cause I can stick at it and work with tremendous intensity.”

Later in the day, while listening to the tape of an excellent teleseminar, I heard Alex Mandossian speak to Jim Edwards about the power of intensity by using the following metaphor. Both he and Jim could go to the health club, work out on the same equipment for the same length of time, yet one would have better results in their body makeup than the other. What caused the difference? The intensity with which they were working.

I see this every day in the fitness classes I teach. Even though I continually call out, “Push! Work that body! Use you arms! Give it your all,” I find that there are a number of participants who are barely moving. These are often the ones who complain that they aren’t getting the results they desire and expect. Note: I do know that some are still doing the best they can. I am not referring to them.

I submit to you that in all areas of our lives that if we live and work with intensity, we will not only experience a high level of success, we will also create daily fun and excitement. We will enjoy others more, and others will enjoy us more.

It is time for some meaningful quotes to present other takes on intensity:
  • John McDonald stated, “The intensity of your desire governs the power with which the force is directed.” Maybe our desires need to be more intense.
  • Herbert Read wrote, “Progress is measured by richness and intensity of experience - by a wider and deeper apprehension of the significance and scope of human existence.”
  • Jane Roberts said, “The channels of intuitive knowledge are opened according to the intensity of individual need.” How is that for a mind tickling thought?
  • Stendhal suggested the obvious, “People happy in love have an air of intensity.”
  • And, I don’t agree with Joanne Woodward who said, “Intensity is so much more becoming in the young.” I find intensity becoming to all. What about you?

Several artists, writers and performing artists made some intense observations about their work:

  • Joan Miro, one of my favorites, said, “I feel the need of attaining the maximum of intensity with the minimum of means. It is this which has led me to give my painting a character of even greater bareness.”
  • Laurell K. Hamilton wrote, “My plots rarely change in mid-stream, only the romance arc, or the character development catches me off-guard or an occasional nasty bit by the villain. It's not usually anything that changes the book too much-just steps up the intensity.”
  • Roy Harper shared, “I've listened to a lot of music, and I reckon that my records are definitely better, more stimulating, and more carefully constructed than any others. I've studied the melodies and lyrical forms of many artists, but no-one else quite seems to sustain the burning intensity of my own work.”
  • And, another of my favorite artists, Jim Dine, said the following, “I do not think that obsession is funny or that not being able to stop one's intensity is funny.”

So, how intense are you? I challenge you to step it up a bit and see what happens.

I leave you with this thought-provoking quote by Leonore Fleiser, “The likelihood of one individual being right increases in direct ratio to the intensity with which other try to prove him wrong.”