Book: The War of Art, Steven Pressfield

Who is this for?

Read this if you procrastinate in moments that matter…

Why did I read this?

In Tools of Titans, Tim Ferris asked a heap of impressive people what book they would recommend or gift to people the most. The War of Art came up a lot… and I figure that’s a pretty good endorsement to read it.

Overview

Steven breaks the book up into three parts:

  1. Resistance – Steven describes resistance with examples under seemingly over the top titles such as ‘Resistance never sleeps’ and ‘Resistance recruits allies’. You begin to appreciate the power of resistance and that it keeps you from doing the big, worthwhile, fire-in-your-belly type pursuits – whether this is art, business, health, education, or courage. Procrastination is the king of resistance, and it keeps you on the standard mediocre path. And resistance is fueled by fear.
  2. Combatting resistance – By now you are ready to fight and destroy resistance… but you must wait and start determining whether you are an amateur or professional? Do you have what it takes to play for keeps… to act in the face of fear? a professional will throw up and keep going. WOAH! The use of a job vs. a passion project allows Steven to introduce ways that we already combat resistance: we show up everyday; we accept remuneration; we don’t over identify with our jobs; we’re committed over the long haul.
  3. Beyond resistance – Steven looks deep into the self and ego to work through how we can continue maintaining creativity, pursuing our passions, and pushing ourselves further. Fear is explored. As is owning a territory that is personal. And making sure you’re doing something that even if you were the last person on earth… you would keep going.

What did I like?

It’s great to read a book with thought-provoking ideas that’s also well written. Whilst the book is short and rather simple, the bite-sized chunks will get your brain working in overdrive.

The understanding of resistance, or the enemy, helps to explain many internal discussions I’ve had with resistance where an idea, activity, or goal has fallen flat. By clearly understanding the enemy we might have a chance to take it down.

My favourite section was “You, Inc”. Steven writes “I like the idea of being Myself, Inc. That way I can wear two hats. I can hire myself and fire myself. I can even, as Robin Williams once remarked of writer-producers, blow smoke up my own ass.” This is a new and powerful idea for me – and will be great when I need to remain calm and fearless in crucial moments.

What wasn’t the best?

I found the resistance section slightly too long, as I was bogged down in why it’s so hard to achieve anything outside of work. I was itching to get to the ways to solve my mastery of procrastination.

How will I use it in my life?

  • Me, Inc. I have started thinking about myself as Me, Inc. and it’s really interesting how this shifts your mindset and makes you more accountable and adaptable in various situations. Where I might be hesitant to fight for something, I can get my employee (me) to do that for me.
  • Do work for it’s own sake. I can’t evaluate my life, success, happiness or achievement by ranking it and comparing it with others… If I do my life has value only when it produces an effect on others. What a waste! This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while, and Steven’s articulation in the book is spot on.
  • Respect fear. But don’t let it stop you. Acknowledge it, throw up if necessary, and push through (I’m yet to follow this advice exactly). Real fear is that we will succeed.
  • Impact. This is the motherhood statement at the end of the book. And it’s a pretty good smack in the face for any future maybe tomorrow moments. “If you were meant to cure cancer or write a symphony or crack cold fusion and you don’t do it, you not only hurt yourself, even destroy yourself. You hurt your children. You hurt me. You hurt the planet… Creative work is not a selfish act or bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.”

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