War of Art

By Steven Pressfield

Date: 12 June, 2019

Just the Highlights in : 6 Minutes

Buy the book Here

Summary and My Thoughts

This is a very heavily recommended book and for good reason; it’s a short but inspirational read that you can easily revisit in moments of productivity drought. The book attempts to paint the psychological factors that distract and stifle action as a malevolent supernatural entity called Resistance that you should recognize and be aware of. Once you acknowledge the existence of this entity, you must adopt the mindset of a professional to actively work against its efforts; in contrast to the amateur who is more susceptible to the negative effects of Resistance. A professional is defined by his/her ability to work through the efforts of Resistance in pursuit of his/her goal or calling. By actively taking action, the professional recruits the help of other entities such as the Muse which aids the professional in their work and provides help in working against the relentless efforts of the Resistance.

What I Know & The Unlived Life

Pressfield paints a mental image that divides your life into reality and the life of your dreams (the Unlived Life). The main force behind this division is Resistance which appears to be a personal force that stifles progress, creativity, and most importantly action in taking the steps to actualize your dreams.

Book One - Resistance - Defining the Enemy

Resistance is the force that discourages action in endeavors that reject immediate gratification in favor of long term progress and growth or any activity that derives from our higher nature rather than our lower nature.

Resistance is the invisible force that distracts and prevents us from doing our work. It is self-generated and self-perpetuated from within. Resistance will lie to you, seduce you, or use any tactic to prevent you from doing your work. It is an objectively destructive force of nature. The activity that is most important to your calling and meaning is the same activity that resistance affects the most. Resistance affects everyone. Resistance is relentless and always present to discourage you; it aims to kill your soul, your genius, and your gift by depriving you from taking action in it. The more we fear resistance, the more powerful it becomes. Resistance panics once we are almost at the finish line, at this moment it becomes much more powerful and assaults us with its full force. Resistance is self-sabotage but it may also recruit others, even those closest to you, suffering with their own forms of resistance to help sabotage you.

The most common manifestation of resistance is procrastination. Procrastination will become a habit that continuously puts off taking action until your death.

Never forget: This very moment, we can change our lives. There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny. This second, we can turn the tables on Resistance.

Resistance can also be sex, or sexual lust, an empty act of immediate gratification that distracts us from doing our work. Resistance is trouble that seeks cheap attention. Resistance is self-dramatization that creates a drama out of your life as a way to distract you. Resistance is self-medication, businesses play upon the resistance by marketing controlled substances to cheapen your life in the guise of resolving mental issues instead of applying self-knowledge, self-discipline, delayed gratification, and hard work. Resistance is adopting victimhood, an act to achieve gratification not by honest work but by manipulation of others.

Resistance feels like a cloud of misery and unhappiness that envelopes our daily lives, we are marketed to based on this unhappiness, and we seek out our vices to provide immediate gratification to this unhappiness. The artist and fundamentalist face the same critical questions in life: the artist is forward-thinking and seeks to progress toward an ideal whereas the fundamentalist views humanity as fallen and seeks to return the world backwards to a more purer form that it has regressed from. Resistance often results in criticism of others beginning to live their authentic lives. Self-doubt can be viewed as an indicator of aspiration, it causes you to reflect on your calling and purpose. Fear is also an indicator of what we have to do.

Remember our rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.

If you feel massive resistance, there is probably tremendous love there too. The more resistance you experience, the more important and the more gratification you’ll experience when you finally do it. The professional realizes that success and happiness are the by-product of work and therefore concentrates on his/her work and doesn’t become wrapped up in grandiose fantasies. Resistance may come in the form of healing, we procrastinate action until he feel like we’ve fully healed from previous battles and we’re physically ready to begin. An athlete knows that he has to play hurt. The only part that needs healing is our personal life, and the only way to heal our personal life is to find our center of self-sovereignty. Resistance in its most naked form is fear, however it wraps itself in rationalization so that we believe the lies that it tells us. Resistance uses rationalization to create justifications to distract us and prevent us from doing our work.

Book Two - Combating Resistance - Turning Pro

Artists who think like amateurs instead of professionals are easily defeated by resistance; instead they should think like professionals. An amateur plays for fun whereas a professional plays for keeps. An amateur is a weekend warrior, whereas a professional works seven days a week. The professional loves it so much that he dedicates his life to it. The professional doesn’t work based on inspiration, he is disciplined and forces himself to work regardless of how he feels. The professional shows up every day, shows up no matter what, stays on the job all day, is committed over the long haul, realizes the stakes are high and real, accepts remuneration for our labor, and does not over-identify with his job, masters the technique of his job, has a sense of humor about his job, and receive praise and blame in the real world.

The professional loves the game, but not so much that he/she freezes in action. The professional remembers their love for their calling and realizes that the accomplishment is important to the evolution of his/her soul and thus the stronger the resistance you will experience. A professional incorporates a “play-for-money” attitude because it inculcates a hard-head, hard-hat state of of mind that shows up despite the conditions of the day, not necessarily because of the monetary payoff itself.

The professional is patient and understands the concept of delayed gratification whereas the resistance promotes immediate gratification over long-term gains. The professional uses patience to give the stars enough time to align and to also avoid flaming out in his/her individual work. The professional conserves energy. The professional does not tolerate disorder. The professional views her work as a craft and not an art, she simply does her work instead of over-glorifying the mystery of it. The professional realizes that fear can never be overcome and simply works/acts in the face of fear. The professional accepts no excuses because doing so would permit resistance to overtake his actions. The professional is prepared to confront his self-sabotage.

A professional dedicates himself to mastering technique out of respect for his craft and does not feel the necessity to boast or show off. A professional is humble enough to ask for help from others when help is needed. The professional identifies with her consciousness rather than the instrument that manipulates and serves her art. The professional does not let success or failure personally, since resistance can and will use feedback to paralyze our actions. The professional uses feedback and criticism as an opportunity to learn and grow. The professional endures adversity in his work and does not allow himself to take humiliation personally.

It’s better to be in the arena, getting stomped by the bull, than to be up in the stands or out in the parking lot.

The professional self-validates rather than allowing external criticism to be taken to heart. The professional can not allow the actions of others to define his reality. A professional recognizes her limitation and brings in external help when necessary. A professional re-invents himself rather than allow himself to locked into one incarnation out of comfort or success. A professional is recognized by other professionals. The essence of professionalism is to focus upon the work and its demand to the exclusion of all else. Turning into a professional is an act of will, we have to think of ourselves as professionals and thus we shape our lives and actions accordingly.

Book Three - Beyond Resistance

By sitting down and beginning to work, we inevitably set in motion a process that allows unseen forces to aid and enlist in our cause, our purpose. When we sit down and work, power concentrates around us, ideas come, and insights accrete. Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it. Begin it now.


Blake Adams is a writer, software developer, technical consultant, and financial independence enthusiast living in Oxford, MS.

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