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The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

Steven Pressfield

or how to overcome the obstacles that lead us to excellence

Steven Pressfield is the author of more than a dozen books. He has worked throughout his career in various creative fields: novels, non-fiction, writing for film, etc. In the book “The War of Art”, he teaches us the lessons learned from decades of experience

The work of the greatest creators has been built in spite of the obstacles common to all those who try to produce a significant result. Whether it is in artistic creation, entrepreneurship or self-improvement, we all face the same pitfalls, no matter what our level. Let’s see what they are.

Resistance

Resistance is any invisible force that prevents us from getting started. It can take different forms such as procrastination or fear. It cannot be seen, touched, felt, but only sensed. As such, there are two forms of procrastination (non-book concepts):
simple procrastination: it consists in not doing the tasks that are incumbent upon us
complex procrastination: it consists in disguising our refusal to do the most important tasks by a whole series of actions in order to have the impression of being busy and to progress in our work.
Resistance manifests itself in everyone’s daily life, so it’s the ability to tame it that makes the difference in the long run, including what distinguishes good work from great work. It acts on several levels of our creation.

First, it can affect our emotions. Fear, reluctance and even disgust are in many cases only a symptom of resistance. This is why we must learn to recognize these emotions as part of an unconscious strategy of sabotage. We must openly declare war (hence the name of the book) on these emotions. The first step in a war is to identify your enemies, there is nothing worse than taking as friends those who are not. Our emotions can serve us, but for that we must tame them by a form of discipline and intransigence.

The second type of resistance manifests itself in our thoughts by providing us with rational arguments for procrastinating or stopping work.

The main problem with resistance is that it acts on our habits which are a key element in our success as a creative or professional. Giving in to resistance can therefore have undesirable effects, especially when it leads us to fall into addiction, that is, to acquire bad habits.

To fight resistance, there is only one solution: sit down and work.

Your dreams are your full-time job

The only thing that distinguishes someone who achieves incredible things from a dreamer is that they take their dreams seriously. To be able to achieve your dreams, you have to dedicate yourself to them as you would to a job that pays you: you have regular hours, you work and think about your work most of the time, you adopt the habits and customs of your profession etc. Whether you feel like it or not, whether the weather is nice or not, you will go to work. Do the same for your most important dreams. In sports, tell yourself that it’s the same thing, what distinguishes a pro from an amateur is the way he looks at his practice. In the same way, to continue the analogy with war, those who are most likely to win are those who treat war as a serious matter. There are many levels of involvement that yield different results:
hobby → part-time → full-time → all the time
To maximize your chances of success, try to get closer to the “all the time” mindset.

What exactly are the qualities that define a professional?

  • show up every day
  • being present no matter what
  • stay at work all day
  • be committed to the long term.
  • the stakes are perceived as high and real
  • accepting payment for one’s work.
  • not over-identifying with your job (have a sense of humor about your job)
  • mastering the technique of one’s work
  • receiving praise or blame in the real world

Fear is normal

Fear must be part of your path. You can’t consider going into battle without having this emotion close to you. Fear is important because it often accompanies your creation. When you go beyond your limits, when you do something important, fear can be close to you, you must use it as a sign of your progress. Of course, you should not live with the omnipresence of fear because it can be paralyzing. Fear is often the indicator of where we should be going. It is by overcoming our greatest fears that we access our higher self.

The Warrior Spirit or Learning the Roughness of Life

To acquire the warrior spirit, you must become accustomed to a form of destitution or even misery. Imagine the soldiers in the field or sitting in the cold in their trenches, they could not be satisfied with any real comfort. To be in creation you cannot be in a search of comfort, that will make you give in to the assaults of the resistance. On the contrary, you must become familiar with a certain harshness of life, and it is in this state that you will be able to create best.

Some other interesting ideas from the book:

The best thing you can do as an artist, creator, professional or entrepreneur is to be a role model for the world
The muse of your creativity blows in your ears at times when you least expect it, most often when you are relaxed and not focused on your work. To listen to your inner muse, you need to know how to intersperse your work with breaks like a hot shower or a walk in nature.
The more resistance you face, the greater the reward when it is overcome
There is no mystery to becoming a pro, it is a purely deliberate act of the will.
The professional accepts the money for his work, but that does not prevent him from loving what he does
A professional never brags
A professional does not take failure (or success) personally

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