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The War of Art

One of the absolute best reads on any shelf; one that should be revisited multiple times yearly, is Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art. We should all read and mark it up with margin notes, underlining, highlighter, post it flags and dog ears. To complement the physical copy on the shelf an audible copy should be kept handy for the car, train, Lyft, rower, treadmill, walking track, etc, etc, etc….

I guess technically The War of Art could be classified as a “self-help” book, but it’s more like a kick in the ass reminder that crafting a creative, full life is hard. Somewhere along our timeline our internal voice of curiosity and self confidence is squashed and replaced with one of self doubt and trepidation. The author refers to this as “The Resistance” and it hinders us from making the decisions the person we want to be would make.

Pressfield arranges the book into three parts. The first part introduces “The Resistance” and describes its various manifestations, such as procrastination, self-doubt, and fear. He emphasizes that Resistance is a universal force that affects anyone pursuing a creative or meaningful endeavor. He writes, “Resitsances’s goal is not to wound or disable. Resistance aims to kill. Its target is the epicenter of our being: our genius, our soul, the unique and priceless gift we were put on earth to give and that no one else has but us. Resistance means business. When we fight it, we are in a war to the death.”

Part two explores the qualities of a professional, contrasting it with an amateur. Pressfield argues that professionals are committed, disciplined, and show up consistently to do the work, regardless of external circumstances. He emphasizes the importance of treating creativity as a job and cultivating a professional mindset. Turning pro is more than just your profession. It’s not just what you do to make money. He says, “it’s an ideal…The amateur plays for fun. The professional plays for keeps. To the amateur, the game is his avocation. To the pro it’s his vocation. The amateur plays part-time, the professional full-time. The amateur is a weekend warrior. The professional is there seven days a week.”

The final part of the book provides practical strategies and advice to overcome Resistance and develop creative habits. Pressfield encourages readers to adopt a daily routine, establish rituals, and embrace the concept of "turning pro." He emphasizes the importance of perseverance, developing a strong work ethic, and accepting the inevitable challenges and setbacks that come with creative pursuits. “Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation) there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: That the moment one definitely commits oneself, then the providence moves too…I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets: “’Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it. Begin now”’

On the surface “The War of Art” would seem to be written for only creatives and other Don Draper types. Pressfield DOES draw steadily from his time trying to become a writer. But just below that surface, these lessons can, and should, be applied to anything we set our minds to do. Fat loss. Learning music. Learning a new role at the accounting firm where we work. Teaching our kid a tennis backhand. Whatever…..All of them are endeavors capable of teaching us lessons about how we learn and what we’re capable of. They can all be important stages in the manifestation and creation of positive habits for the rest of our world.

“How you do anything is how you do everything” – Marth Beck [or] – Unknown Zen Buddhist [or] – T .Harv Eker [or] - who knows for sure?

Let’s go with this one to end in certainty. It's from MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 8.22 “Pay attention to what’s in front of you—the principle, the task, or what’s being portrayed.”

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