For those who haven’t heard of Steven Pressfield he is an American author of historical fiction, non-fiction, and screenplays. And in his younger days he struggled to make a living as an author, at one point becoming homeless and living out of the back of his car.
In his book ‘The War of Art’ Steven Pressfield delves into our internal obstacles which we have to overcome in order to reach the success that we want to achieve.
It’s very much a case of identifying, defeating and unlocking our inner barriers to creativity.
Steven acknowledges that there’s only one thing that stands between us and what we want in life and that’s resistance.
He goes on to say that resistance is the most toxic force on our planet. It is the root of more unhappiness than poverty, disease and misery combined. To yield to it deforms our spirit, stunts our inner growth, and makes us less than who we are and what we were born to be.
We all have genius no matter what our skills. And every sun casts a shadow, and genius’s shadow is resistance. As powerful as our calling is, so is the potent force of resistance to stop us from adhering to it.
Here’s a story – Hitler wanted to be an artist and at 18 he moved to Vienna to live and study. He applied to the Academy of Fine Arts and later to the school of Architecture. Ever see one of his paintings? Neither have I. Resistance beat him. It was easier for Hitler to start World War 2 than it was for him to face a blank canvas.
Any time we pursue any calling in the creative sphere whether in acting, writing, painting, music, film or dance, or any act that entails a commitment of some sort. In other words any act that rejects immediate gratification in favour of long term growth, health, or integrity. Any of these will elicit resistance.
The damn thing can’t be seen, it arises from within, it is self generated and self perpetrated. Resistance is the enemy within.
It’s like the creature from the film Alien or even the Terminator. It cannot be reasoned with. It’s an engine of destruction that is programmed with one objective only: to prevent us from doing our work.
But, it’s not out to get us personally. It doesn’t know who we are and it doesn’t care. Resistance is a force of nature and it acts objectively.
Also, lets remember this rule of thumb: the more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more resistance we will feel towards pursuing it.
It has no strength of it’s own since every ounce of juice it possesses comes from us. We feed it with power by our fear of it. If we master that fear then we conquer resistance.
Fear is good and like self doubt, fear is an indicator telling us what we have to do.
The more scared we are of a work or a calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.
Yet, for most of us fear manifests itself….
How does it manifest itself? Procrastination is the most common way. And it can become a habit, putting off what we need to do till our deathbed.
Sometimes we’ll even self medicate and ingest any substance, controlled or otherwise, whose aim is the alleviation of depression, anxiety etc. They may be real but they can also be resistance.
Instead of applying self knowledge, self discipline, delayed gratification and hard work we simply consume a product.
Casting ourselves as a victim is the antithesis of doing our work. So let’s not do it and face resistance head on.
How do we do this? By have a core of self confidence, of hope for the future. To believe in progress and evolution. To have faith that humankind is advancing however haltingly and imperfectly we are towards a better world.
The paradox it seems that the truly free individual is free only to the extent of their own self mastery. While those who will not govern themselves are condemned to find masters to govern over them.
If resistance couldn’t be beaten there would be no Fifth symphony, no Romeo and Juliet, No Eiffel Tower, no iPhones and no Teslas. Defeating resistance is like giving birth. It seems absolutely impossible until we remember that women have been pulling it off successfully with support and without for time immemorial.
To beat resistance we have to be professional about it and not amateurs. The amateur plays for fun but the pro plays for keeps. The amateur plays part time, the professional full time. The amateur is a weekend warrior while the pro is a seven day week hulk.
Turning pro is what resistance hates.
The pro committing themselves to their calling have volunteered for hell, whether they know it or not. They will be dining for the duration on a diet of isolation, rejection, self doubt, despair, ridicule, contempt, and humiliation.
Turning pro is understanding that sometimes we will not taste the success yet and will have to appreciate the failures.
But as long as we know this is to come we can challenge resistance by facing it head on, not letting it faze us and get down to doing the work required.
By performing the mundane physical act of sitting down or getting up and starting to work we set in motion a mysterious but infallible sequence of events that will eventually produce inspiration and evolutionize our soul.
Evolution has programmed us to feel rejection in our guts. This is how the tribes back in the days enforced obedience, by wielding the threat of expulsion. Fear of rejection isn’t just psychological; it’s biological. It’s in our cells.
The pro cannot take rejection personally because to do so reinforces resistance. Critics and naysayers are not the enemy. Resistance is the enemy. The battle is inside our own heads. We can’t let external criticism, even if it’s true, fortify our internal foe. That foe is strong enough already.
We need to learn to recognise envy driven criticism and to take it for what it is: the supreme compliment. The critics hates most that which they would have done themselves if they had had the guts.
The professional keeps their eye on the doughnut and not on the Hole. Reminding themselves it’s better to be in the arena, getting stomped by the bull, than to be up in the stands or out in the car park.
Work, will work when nothing else works.
The most important thing about work is that nothing else matters except sitting down every day and doing.
When we sit down day after day and keep grinding, something mysterious starts to happen. A process is set into motion, power concentrates around us and unseen forces enlist in our cause; serendipity reinforces our purpose.
We must do our work for its own sake, not for fortune or attention or applause.
We were brought onto this earth to act as agents of the infinite, to bring into existence that which is not yet, but which will be, through us.
We are the servant of that intention and the enemy of us is the small time Ego which begets resistance, which is the dragon that guards the gold. That’s why we must be warriors. We know that we are not the source of the creations we bring into being. We are only the facilitators.
In the end the question can only be answered by action. Do it or don’t do it.
Let’s, therefore, not cheat ourselves of our contributions to the world and give out what we’ve got.