The War of Art by Steven Pressfield book summary

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield [Summary]

This is a comprehensive book summary of the book The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. Covering the key ideas and proposing practical ways for achieving what’s mentioned in the text. Written by book fanatic and online librarian Ivaylo Durmonski.

Worksheet: Download the interactive sheet for taking notes.

The Book In Three Or More Sentences:

The author is explaining in great detail how this force, the Resistance, is playing with our minds. Basically, Steven Pressfield is giving us ways and how-to guides that will help us overcome our procrastination problem. A way to fight this insidious beast pushing us towards mediocrity. A way to win our inner battles.

The Core Idea:

There is this force that we can’t see, touch, smell or hear but we can feel. It’s a force, so strong, that can destroy lives. It’s called the Resistance. The invisible force that will try to manipulate you and send you to the bench every time you think about training, working out, bench pressing. It will feed your mind with what you want to hear in order to keep you intact and away from doing what you should be doing. In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield will help us beat the hell out of this invisible force.

5 Key Lessons from The War of Art:

Lessons #1: What is The Resistance?

Resistance by definition is self-sabotaging. An enemy to anyone aiming to escape his average life and become more, something better, start a business or finally do the job he was hired for.

This force aims to sabotage your every act of self-discipline. It will prompt you to stop what you’re doing and lure you into the depths of endless pleasure. Fortunately for the Resistance, pleasure is all around us nowadays: discounts, commercials, videos, social media, online dating, etc.

The Resistance is this voice that will tell you to abandon what you’re doing. Convince you that what you’re doing doesn’t make any sense and put the phone in your hand so you can procrastinate.

Every time you choose social media instead of working on your project, the Resistance wins. In contrast, every time you choose to work undistracted on a task by your choice you kick the Resistance’s ass.

To conquer this invisible force that is pushing you towards mediocrity you need to stay vigilant. Concentrated in your ultimate goal in life.

Lessons #2: Self-Dramatization and Victimhood

Turning our daily lives into a TV-worthy soap opera is a symptom of the Resistance. A lot of people do stupid stuff only to get someone’s attention.

You might steal a car, bring home a man/woman with head-to-toe tattoos, even coloring your hair pink (or another strange color) is a way to get attention from the people around. But probably the most common, and well disguised, way to make people care about you is to act like you’re sick.

People love self-dramatization and playing the victim. They can present a story in such a way so that everyone around them will start to nurture them, calm them, sometimes this can even spark deeper feelings, like love.

Doctors estimate that seventy to eighty percent of their business is non-health-related. People are just self-dramatizing, they are not sick. There is a name actually about this “feeling”, it’s called the Munchausen syndrome. It’s a mental disorder in which the patient fakes illness to gain attention and sympathy.

If you suffer from something like this, or you know people who have it, it means that the Resistance is all over them.

Lessons #3: The Difference Between Amateurs and Professionals

  • 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 an every-day type of fighter.
  • The amateur is waiting for inspiration. The pro wakes up and works regardless of his level of motivation.

Or in other words, the amateur doesn’t love the game enough to make it part of his life.

The pro, on the other hand, understands that what he pursue needs to become part of his daily schedule if he really wants to make it. He loves his work so much, that he dedicates his life to it. He commits full-time.

“The sign of the amateur is overglorification of and preoccupation with the mystery. The professional shuts up. She doesn’t talk about it. She does her work.”

Lessons #4: Making a Start and Keep Going

No matter how much planning you do or how much preparation, without going for it, all the effort in the early planning will be just a waste of time. When we start we put the very first step. It’s the first act of commitment.

However, starting something is the easy part. Anyone can start a blog, a podcast, paint one picture, even write one book.

Even though starting is important, it’s only the beginning. You don’t become a writer when you write one single post, two, even twenty. You become a writer when you write, consistently, over time, for years.

Lessons #5: How To Turn Pro

If you want to pursue a business, start working on your talent, whatever, you must turn pro. It sounds scary and you might think that it’s super hard but most of us are already doing the steps, daily. We’re just too blinded by the Resistance to see.

Turning pro is not something magical. It doesn’t require superhuman powers and can be achieved by anyone willing to do the work, consistently.

If you have a job, you’re already doing the steps. The idea is to apply them to your long-term project also:

  • Show up every day: Most of us are doing something, working a job, only because we need the money. Still, the act of showing up every day is a key element if you want to succeed. If you work out every day, you will surely feel and look better. This applies to every aspect of our lives.
  • Show up no matter what: Sickness and despair will eventually knock on our door. But the pro knows that these setbacks are temporary. We do it even now, we visit the office, the factory, even when we’re not feeling so well. We might do it for our co-workers, or for our families, no matter what the reason is, we do it for a reason.
  • Work all day: No matter what’s your current position, you’re there. You assist clients, you write emails, you arrange the clothes inside the store. You do it for 8, sometimes even 10 hours. Even if your mind wanders, you’re still there and you’re still executing. Apply this to everything else in your life.
  • Be committed: Even if you change jobs, you’ll be still working. Another job, another company, another country even. Unless you inherit a fortune you’ll be part of the labor force. Apply the same to your desired business.
  • Remember that the stakes are high: You can’t be without a job. You probably have a family to feed. Mortgage to pay. Utilities to cover.
  • Work for money: Regardless of what’s your passion, you need to make money out of it. You can fool yourself that you love what you’re doing for some time but if you’re not making money you won’t be doing what you’re doing for long.
  • Master what you’re doing: If you’re in a current position for years you’ll inevitably become better at what you’re doing. The same should happen in your artistic aspiration. Become known for being a writer, a painter, a pro.

Actionable Notes:

  • How are you going to beat the resistance: The Resistance is an insidious force. It doesn’t obey any rules and it can force you to do things you don’t necessarily need to do. Stay vigilant and notice when the Resistance got you. Make a plan to beat it.
  • Find your territory: We do a lot of crazy stuff so we can share them on social media. It’s something we do to feel reassurance from our online “friends”. In reality, if we really want to succeed, we need to find our turf (our hood). Find an activity that you’ll do regardless of whether there are people watching. If you go to the gym without giving a damn about whether other people we’ll find out about that, you’re doing it right. If not, you still haven’t found your territory.
  • Despite failure: Hating failure is a great virtue. Whether you’re starting a business or trying to lose weight, it doesn’t matter. You should despise failure. Every time defeat knocks on your door, punch it in the face and send it away.
  • Do it or don’t do it: You’re born to become something. Painter, writer, coder... It’s up to you to find what’s your calling, sort to say, and pursue it with everything you’ve got. If you don’t do it, you don’t only hurt yourself. You hurt your kids. Your friends. Everyone around you. Being a creative person and pursuing your dreams it’s not a selfish act, it’s a way to make the world a better place.
  • Set a date: If you really want to do something else, to change jobs, set a date for that. Say when you’re going to start working towards your dream job and don’t allow outside circumstances (the Resistance) mess with your plans.

Commentary And My Personal Takeaway

Short, easy read book that has a lot to offer to the reader. You will quickly relate with what the author is sharing because we’re all fighting this beast, this invisible bastard that is crushing our dreams without even realizing it.

I call it laziness, society calls it procrastination, Steven Pressfield calls it the Resistance. These are all the same. All ways to avoid doing our job.

Procrastination is a real issue today. We live in an age of constant connection and it’s getting harder and harder to focus on one specific task. As soon as you realize that you have a problem because we all do, the better.

The book is amazingly written and it will give you a gentle push towards your tasks and hopefully, you’ll learn how to do more, and procrastinate less.

Unfortunately, the book doesn’t end with a happy ending. We’ll never kill the Resistance. It’s a constant battle. The sooner we accept that fact the better.

Notable Quotes:

“Creative work is not a selfish act or a 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 of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.” Steven Pressfield

“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.” Steven Pressfield

“We must do our work for its own sake, not for fortune or attention or applause.” Steven Pressfield

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