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Path of Least Resistance: Learning to Become the Creative Force in Your Own Life Paperback – April 22, 1989

4.4 out of 5 stars 91 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Using as analogy the scientific principle that energy follows the path of least resistance, the founder of the DMA seminars attempts an easily assimilated self-help book--a substantial revision of his 1984 best seller. He argues that just as wind moves around natural obstructions, seeking the path of least resistance, so do we attempt to move around the structures of our lives--getting by with as few hassles as possible. Fritz's advice is to modify the structures, enabling the creative energy within to flourish instead of dissipate. Initially, his focus is clear; but numerous citings of well-known psychologists and famous movers and shakers (Einstein, Henry Moore, etc.) grow tiresome as Fritz drones on, losing us in excess verbiage. Some valuable sections, but most will find this tedious. Not recommended.
- Kevin M. Roddy, Oakland P.L., Cal.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From the Publisher

I first became acquainted with this excellent book just about 10 years ago and its fresh approach to catalyzing creativity in step-by-step processes is still helpful and insightful. Fritz's psychological approach to his subject is particularly interesting and helpful in the way he quantifies and makes concrete the different "technologies for creating" he explains.
Leslie Meredith
Executive Editor & Divisional Vice President
Ballantine Wellspring

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Rev Exp edition (April 22, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0449903370
  • ISBN-13: 978-0449903377
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #78,071 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Robert Jordan Fritz (born 1943 in Cambridge, Massachusetts) is an author, composer, filmmaker, and management consultant. He is known for his development of "structural dynamics," the study of how structural relationships impact behavior from individuals to organizations. His book The Path of Least Resistance and subsequent books develop the theory and application of structural dynamics and the creative process.

Robert Fritz studied music composition and theater at the Boston Conservatory of Music where he earned a BM and MM in composition. He also studied on scholarship at the Darmstädter Ferienkurse, Germany. He studied cinematography at Maine Media Workshops formerly Rockport Workshops. In the late 1970s, Peter Senge, Fritz, David Peter Stroh and Charles F. Kiefer founded Innovation Associates, a management consulting firm. Fritz's study of music composition along with his close contact with Senge's work in system dynamics, became a major influence for his exploration of the relationship of structure to behavior. His books on structural dynamics are based on his pioneering work with Blue Shield of California, La France, Harvard Vanguard, IBM China, and Ortynsky Automotive among others.

Structural dynamics has been used extensively in corporations, education, and third-world development. The Uganda Rural Development and Training Programme adopted this visionary approach as its fundamental operating principle. In 2009, URDT won recognition for its programmes from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for Changemakers "Cultivating Innovation: Solutions for Rural Communities". Fritz has worked with the Swedish governmental agency Vinnova. He has consulted with the US Department of Defense Special Ops on issues of terrorism, and has also introduced his work to the US Air Force and Department of Transportation. The Managerial Moment of Truth (co-authored by Bruce Bodaken) was chosen as one of BusinessWeek best books of 2006, and Harvard Business Review placed it on their executive reading list.

Structural dynamics has also been used in public school systems as chronicled in School Leaders Building Capacity from Within (Corwin Press) by Leonard C. Burello, Lauren P Hoffman, and Lynn E. Murray. In his book, Schools That Learn: A Fifth Discipline Fieldbook for Educators, Peter Senge features Fritz's structural approach as well.

Fritz has created two separate careers, one as a consultant and the other one as composer and filmmaker. As a composer, Fritz has won commissions from groups such as Collage and Dutch Radio. He has composed music for film, TV, and theater, as well as CDs. Two of his arrangements appear on Celtic Ladies, which topped Billboard Magazine (2007-2008 World Music).

Fritz has made documentaries for government, industry, and television, has written and directed three feature-length films, has directed and co-hosted Creating (a TV series made for a Canadian network), and directed episodes of the PBS series LeaderTalk with Garrison Krause, for which he also composed the theme music. Fritz wrote and directed the TV series Vermont Stories. He created the multi-media work She Was A Dancer for the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center. Overload, a narrative feature film written and directed by Fritz has won nine awards including an Indie Spirit Award in Recognition of Distinguished Accomplishment from The Boston International Film Festival, a Merit Award from the Los Angeles Cinema Festival of Hollywood, and Fritz won Best Screenplay and Best Original Score in the made for television category from the Los Angeles Movie Awards.

---Structural dynamics---
Structural dynamics is the study of how structural constructs lead to predictable behavioral patterns, otherwise known as macrostructural patterns, the long-range patterns that reoccur in a person's life. Two basic patterns can be observed: oscillating and advancing. These two predictable patterns occur in quite specific and unique ways; and in each instance the same steps and the same sequence can be observed in every aspect of personal and professional life. The oscillating pattern emerges when a person, team, or organization takes action to accomplish a goal; and after achieving the desired result a reversal occurs. Examples illustrating this sequence include the business success that eventually leads to a financial loss, the great love that ends with a break-up, the successful project that turns into an undesirable predicament. In contrast, the advancing pattern creates momentum when outcomes are achieved, and accomplishment builds a platform for future success.

---Tension-resolution systems---
Underlying structures cause these behavioral patterns. The basic structural unit is the "tension-resolution system". In musical composition, harmonic tension behaves as a structural dynamic when it seeks resolution. Similar tension-resolution systems appear in behavioral macrostructural patterns. In the oscillating pattern, opposing tension-resolution systems dominate, and "non-equilibrium" occurs when the desired outcome is achieved. Structurally, the opposing tension resolution system remains and resolving it requires moving away from the achievement. In the advancing pattern, a single tension-resolution system dominates, and equilibrium occurs by achieving the desired outcome, the structural point at which the desired state and the actual state are equal. From these observations, this principle was developed: the underlying structure of anything determines its behavior. Without a change of underlying structure, change efforts fail, and the original behavior patterns reoccur. This explains why many sound change efforts fail within organizations. Organizational oscillating patterns occur when building up capacity, then downsizing, then building up capacity again; or centralizing decision making, de-centralizing decision making, and then centralizing it again; or focusing on long-term growth, then refocusing on short-term demands, and later refocusing on long-term growth again. When an underlying organizational structure leads to oscillation and remains unchanged, the structure rejects any change effort in a similar way that a body rejects an implanted organ. Conversely when a change of underlying structure designed to support advancement occurs, any subsequent change effort increases the likelihood of success and sustainability.

---The creative process---
Fritz developed his ideas about the creative process from the arts rather than psychology, making a distinction between the creative process and creativity. Creativity usually focuses on idea generation and comes from suspending the norm. However, Fritz argues that to advocate withholding critical judgment in favor of free association, brainstorming, or other systems in an effort to bypass the usual thought processes will not guarantee successful creativity or accomplishment of the goal. In the arts a consummate professional must produce consistent quality outcomes and meet rigid deadlines. Rather than freeing the mind, an artist focuses the mind, often by using structural tension--the relationship between two related data points. With repeated application and refinement what was once the unusual then becomes the usual. A desired outcome or goal, the first data point is contrasted with its relational current reality, the second data point. As the creative process begins, a difference exists between the desired state and the actual state, and this difference creates a useful tension. The composed tension is not psychological nor is it associated with stress, anxiety, or pressure. Rather it is structural. Clarity about the desired outcome and the actual situation, establishes a structural tendency that moves the structure toward tension resolution; and strongly motivates the best actions to achieve the desired outcome. The actions may be conventional. But often inadequate resources limit the conventional means to accomplish goals. Therefore, invention and innovation emerge naturally bringing forth new ways to accomplish goals. Fritz argues against glorifying inspiration. Professionals can create irrespective of their circumstances. Ideas about structure and the creative process fundamentally underscore Fritz's observations that like other structures, the mind seeks equilibrium. By nature, the mind desires a state of equilibrium and attempts to create order out of disorder. Fritz advocates using the mind to compose a structured state of non-equilibrium (structural tension) in order to originate new ideas. The mind then generates structurally relevant ideas which do not emerge using usual thought processes.

---Problem-solving vs. creating---
Fritz argues for a distinction between problem-solving and creating. Problem-solving is taking actions to have something go away: the problem. While problem-solving has its place, as a persistent approach, it limits accomplishment. The elimination of a problem does not mean that the desired result can be created. As distinguished, solving a problem does not by design lead to a creation. Creating is taking action to bring into being that which does not yet exist: the desired outcome.

* Boston International Film Festival - Indie Spirit Special Recognition Award
* Los Angeles Reel Film Festival Honorable Mention
* Honolulu Film Festival Aloha Accolade Award for Excellence in Filmmaking
* Los Angeles Cinema Festival of Hollywood Award of Merit for Narrative Feature
* Accolade Competition Award of Merit
* Los Angeles Movie Awards Award of Excellence (television), Best Original Score, Best Screenplay, Best Actress (for Katherine Partington)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Many of us realize that our lives are driven by certain learned patterns of behavior and thinking. This little treasure helps us to identify those patterns that we fall into unconsciously on a daily basis. It brings them into consciousness, where we can alter them and transform our lives. These old patterns form deep groves into our minds (the path of least resistance), which we too easily fall back into--unless something comes along to form a new, powerful and more effective pattern. Examples and analogies abound here, from the creation of musical compositions to manifesting the ideal job for you. It is practical and yet touches something at a deeply spiritual and creative level.
This book is not for the feeble-minded. Read it slowly and let your psyche absorb it with pleasure. If you have the resources to commit to reading and comprehending it, it will change your life. Are you concerned about the environment? Are you worried about something else going on in the world or in your life? Listen to me-- after you read this book you will view and be able to act upon ANY global or personal "problem" in a new and more powerful way! I'm not kidding. Our thoughts and words have so much power! Our patterns of thoughts and words can create a world we only dreamed about before. This book is magical. This book shows us how to be responsible for the state of our lives and the condition of the world around us. It teaches us how to own our personal power.
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The Path of Least Resistance is an awesome piece of work. It's a "manual" that belongs to the product of YOU the instant you learn how to read.
We do exist to create, you know. In one of his books, inspirational author Alan Cohen has a chapter named: Create or Die.

If you think this is just a specifically focused book of techniques for artists on ways of being "creative", such as brainstorming and doesn't apply to your life as a bus driver, or a waitress, or a doctor, you're wrong. We ALL create, everything from good relationships, to successful meeting outcomes, to careers, and yes... music and paintings and inventions and sculptures and books. As a matter of fact, Fritz eschews the notion of brainstorming and you'll see why in this book.

Basically, the first thought that'll crowd your mind as you complete the first chapter and then the second chatper, is that you have to read this repeatedly, because you want to soak these very profound, life-changing ideas into your psyche. It was hard for me to concentrate on the rest of the book during my first reading, because I was so excited about the implications of my expected change in thinking, and how I would tell others. What you'll learn is that being a reacter to problems doesn't result in peace of mind or success long-term. There are actual laws that he cites which explain the Structure of Tension which causes you to let go of all struggle and be powerfully pullled toward completion of ANYthing you want to accomplish.

In this book, he tells when you think of a goal, that you need to separate what your brainwashed mind think what is impossible, from what you reallly want.
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Robert Fritz's Path of Least Resistance is an empowering guide to creating a life that reflects your abilities and passions. It's not a New Age book, in that the author does not teach that everything that happens to us stems from our conscious attitudes and intentions. He presents very good evidence as to why affirmations and will power don't work. His thesis is that you cannot create what you desire in life until you change the underlying structures that make your life what it currently is. Changing those structures does not have to do with problem solving either. It has to do with figuring out what you do want (harder than it sounds) and then using the creative process to set in motion the forces to accomplish whatever that is.

Fritz is a professional musician with a clear understanding of the artistic process. However, he takes this process well beyond the arts and applies it to life in general. He has worked with groups who have used these principles in foreign aid projects and business; he's also worked with individuals who have changed their personal and professional lives for the better. The point is that creativity is not just for artists--it's a human concern. If we all understood how to create rather than to just react to what life throws at us, the world would be a happier place. This is a hopeful, inspiring which should benefit anyone wanting to live a well-crafted life.
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I treasure this book. I first read this book when it came out 10 years ago. I have read it a total of 4 times now. It is a truly remarkable book because it relates the creative process to the physical laws of nature to which we are all subject. This is the path of least resistance, along which all energy including creative energy will flow. It takes a while to understand the writing. It is not a self help or quick fix book. It is not a book on descipline or willpower. It is a book that explains how to change the underlying structure of your life to create the life you want. It must be understood both intellectually and experientially as you practice examining your current situation at the same time you hold the vision you want to create. Robert Fritz does a wonderful job of using very simple examples to demonstrate the dynamics of the "least resistance" principle.
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