Steven Pressfield is the author of Gates of Fire, Tides of War, Last of the Amazons, Virtues of War, The Afghan Campaign, Killing Rommel, The Profession, The Lion’s Gate, The War of Art, Turning Pro, The Authentic Swing, Do the Work and The Warrior Ethos. He’s an incredible and prolific writer with a lot to teach.
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield is a fantastic book for any creative (aspiring or veteran). The War of Art is at it’s heart a book about defeating all the demons we carry around inside that prevent us from starting and finishing things. The book labels this Resistance and digs deep at what we all fear – a blank canvas (or page or block of wood or whatever medium you use). After defining the enemy, the author lays out a battle plan to win with detailed steps and mindsets to do so. Many of my favorite authors from Tim Ferriss to Ramit Sethi site him as an inspiration. I’m a king procrastinator and Steven Pressfield digs to the heart of it.
The book is broken in to 3 parts.
Book 1 – Resistance
“Most of us have 2 lives. The life we live and the unlived life within us. Between the 2 stands Resistance.”
Pressfield outlines for you the enemy – Resistance – and shows him to you in all its forms, whether you are an artist, writer, painter, entrepreneur or just an individual trying to improve their lives in some arena. As Pressfield puts it, “any activity that rejects immediate gratification in favor of long-term growth, health or integrity.”
What is Resistance:
Invisible, Internal, Insidious, Implacable, Impersonal, Infallible, Universal and Never Sleeps! It has a dozen more qualities that you should pick up the book to read.
We allow self-sabotage, self-deception, self-corruption and many others to prevent ourselves from achieving the greatness we hope for. I experience all of these constantly while trying to put pen to paper and create something other people want to read.
A lesson learned – The danger is the greatest when the finish line is in sight. At this point, Resistance knows we’re about to beat it.
Resistance recruits allies (often among your friends and family) to stop you from reaching to be better.
The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.
Book 2 – Turning Pro
What is the antidote to Resistance? Turning pro. Pressfield spends this book talking about what is a professional versus amateur and what you have to do to get there.
“The amateur plays for fun. The professional plays for keeps.”
What makes you a pro?
- Show up everyday
- Show up no matter what
- Stay all day
- Committed for the long-term
- Stakes are high and real
- We accept payment
- We don’t overidentify with our jobs
- We master our jobs and keep a sense of humor
- We receive praise or blame in the real world.
The trick is to apply all of this to more than just your day job. It has to be that way for your side hustle or it’s just a hobby. Always know the difference between whats urgent and whats important and do what is important first.
How do you turn pro? You simply decide and do.
Part 3 – The Higher Realm
Here we delve in to the source of our inspiration and what we can do once we harness it. Pressfield like the terms angels and muses which is a bit hokey for me, but I largely agree with his sentiments. Personally I’m not that concerned with where the Muse comes from.
“When inspiration touches talent she gives birth to truth and beauty.”
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