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An important part of my journey towards doing more meaningful work is reading books that inspire and challenge me.

I am shooting for a book a month. And I have decided to share my thoughts about the books that have a direct impact on doing work that matters, escaping the corporate treadmill, earning money in your own business, etc.

The process of starting something meaningful and profitable is both exciting and daunting at the same time. I often wonder if it’s normal to feel inspired one moment and feel like quitting the next.

What is it that causes this huge fluctuation in emotion and the ability to stay focused on the task at hand? I have found the answer in Steven Pressfield’s classic read, ‘The War of Art’.

Someone once said, “The enemy is a very good teacher.” According to Pressfield, the enemy is Resistance.

Resistance is felt by everyone and it rears its ugly head most vociferously during activities endeavored in pursuit of a higher calling and during which you are certain to experience challenges, setbacks, and delayed gratification. In other words: anything worth doing!

These can include, according to Pressfield: “the pursuit of any creative art, however marginal or unconventional; the launching of any entrepreneurial venture; any program designed to overcome an unwholesome habit or addiction; any activity whose aim is tighter abdominals.”

Pressfield makes his living as a writer, primarily of fiction (his best known work is ‘The Legend of Bagger Vance'), who must sit down at his computer and contend with Resistance every day.

He personifies Resistance vividly throughout the book, referring to it as “a bully” and “Santa's evil twin.” In ‘The War of Art' he encourages the reader, whatever his or her motives or goals, to look Resistance in the eye and tell it to f*** off.

Key Themes

Everyone experiences Resistance every single day. Be prepared that you, yes you, qualify as “everyone”. Resistance takes many forms, most notably procrastination. It can manifest itself in ways that distract us from doing our most important work including: TV, drugs, shopping, web-surfing, email addiction, gossip, sugar, chronic lateness, compulsive screwing-up, self-created drama, self-medication and/or feeling sorry for yourself (plus many more). Do any of these sound familiar? If so, you are battling with Resistance.

The way to defeat Resistance, according to Pressfield, is to become a Professional. Pressfield writes, “Resistance hates it when we turn pro.” Turning pro doesn't mean getting included in membership of a professional association or earning a degree; it means doing the work every day. He tells us, “There's no mystery to turning pro. It's a decision brought about by an act of will. We make up our mind to view ourselves as pros and we do it. Simple as that.”

If you are looking for a clear course of action, you will be disappointed. Pressfield implores you to do the work, do the work, do the work. Master your craft, endure the inevitable adversity, dedicate your life to your work, arm yourself with patience and commit to the long haul. Do not over-identify with your craft! Resistance loves when you over-identify with your work: it knows you will never complete the work when you are over-invested because you are too afraid to fail. Instead be mission-focused and regard your work with a cool detachment to keep you from freezing up. And, yes: do the work.

‘The War of Art’ is a quick read. Pressfield's style of writing is aggressive, funny, passionate and inspiring. This book will appeal to anyone that reads this blog, especially career-changers, life hackers, aspiring entrepreneurs, experienced entrepreneurs who are in a holding pattern, self-proclaimed creative types and anyone who would benefit from a little kick-in-the-ass inspiration.

This is the kind of book you can pick up, flip through to a random page, and find a few choice words to put a bit of fire in your belly. Then get on with it and do the work.

What do you think about ‘The War of Art'?

  • Do you think Steven Pressfield is right when he says that what holds us back is not our level of talent, but our ability to overcome our own fears and self-doubt?
  • Do you agree that when it comes to becoming successful, we are often our own worst enemy?
  • What types of “Resistance” do you find yourself dealing with on a daily basis? How do you overcome it?

Share a thought or two about how you deal with the challenges along your creative journey! 

In gratitude,

Michael

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