The War of Art

by Steven Pressfield

Steven Pressfield is best known for his fiction books The Legend of Bagger Vance, Gates of Fire, and The Afghan Campaign. Gates of Fire (about the Spartan battle of Thermopylae) is supposedly taught at West Point, US Naval Academy, and Marine Corps Basic Training.

Despite being a full time writer since his mid 20's, he didn't have a novel published until he was 52. The first movie he wrote (King Kong Lives) when he was 42, has a 0% on Rotten Tomotoes and has been remarked as possibly the worst movie, ever.

From this it is obvious he knows a thing or two about grinding through tough periods and coming out better on the other side.

The War of Art is a very basic book. It's only about 150 pages and all the chapters range in length from a single paragraph to at most a few pages. The books main theme is about unlocking inner barriers by doing whatever it is you want to be good at, every day. Without fail every day. Every day. Every day. Every day. No excuses, every day.

The book is broken up into 3 parts.

The first part, and to me the most valuable part, is focused entirely on defining what Steven calls Resistance. In order to become truly good at something, you have to do it every day. Resistance is essentially what will try and stop you from practicing your craft each day. It's your self-doubt, it's procrastination, it's your friends wanting to go for a beer. The only way to defeat Resistance is to practice your craft that day. But it will be back again tomorrow, without fail.

I personally have found it quite valuable to personify the resistance you face on a day to day value, and recognize when it's actively trying to stop you from doing what you truly want to be doing.

The second part of the book defines what it means to have a professional vs amateur mind set. Having a professional mindset vs an amateur mindset can help combat Resistance.

The third part of the book kinda sucked to be honest. It started out about praying to angels and muses to unlock your potential and I legit couldn't tell if he was serious or meant something more akin to affirmations or psyching yourself up. I didn't get much value out of it until I got to the section called territory vs hierarchy. Essentially Steven believes you will find greater happiness and success if you pursue your craft because you are interested in the territory (the field you are studying or working in) vs the hierarchy (being better than other people and having other people recognize that you are better). Obviously a completely novel and original idea, but seriously I believe no one (myself included) can hear this concept enough times. As Russ Roberts said "To always be worrying about the gap between me and someone else is, I think, the road to unhappiness at the individual level and the road to tyranny at the national level."

As always here are a few of my favourite quotes from the book.

"So you've taken a few bad blows, that's just the price for being in the arena and not sitting on the sidelines."

"Our job in this life is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it."

"The professional has learned that success, like happiness, comes as a byproduct of work. The professional concentrates on the work and allows rewards to come or not come, whatever they like."

If you are short on time just watch this video by Thorin instead.

Originally posted on Facebook August 2, 2017.