Do the Work

May 5, 2011

A pleasant surprise popped up in my Kindle app last week: Do the Work, by Steven Pressfield. I had pre-ordered when it first appeared as a free ebook. And as of today, it’s still free, so you should go get it. (There’s also a not so free hardcover available if you insist on such things.)

Do the Work is “designed to coach you through a project (a book, a ballet, a new business venture, a philanthropic enterprise) from conception to finished product, seeing it from the point of view of Resistance.

It is a follow-up/companion book to The War of Art, where Pressfield introduced the idea of Resistance. Do the Work could stand on it’s own, but I’d recommend reading The War of Art first. (I wrote a few reflections on The War of Art when I read it.)

Here’s a few, er, a lot of my highlights from the book. They can tide you over while you are waiting the six seconds for your own ebook to arrive:

  • Like a magnetized needle floating on a surface of oil, Resistance will unfailingly point to true North—meaning that calling or action it most wants to stop us from doing. We can use this. We can use it as a compass.
  • Ignorance and arrogance are the artist and entrepreneur’s indispensable allies. She must be clueless enough to have no idea how difficult her enterprise is going to be—and cocky enough to believe she can pull it off anyway.
  • A child has no trouble believing the unbelievable, nor does the genius or the madman. It’s only you and I, with our big brains and our tiny hearts, who doubt and overthink and hesitate. Don’t think. Act. We can always revise and revisit once we’ve acted. But we can accomplish nothing until we act.
  • Fear saps passion. When we conquer our fears, we discover a boundless, bottomless, inexhaustible well of passion.
  • “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” Begin it now.
  • Research can become Resistance. We want to work, not prepare to work.
  • When you and I set out to create anything—art, commerce, science, love—or to advance in the direction of a higher, nobler version of ourselves, we uncork from the universe, ineluctably, an equal and opposite reaction.
  • Do research early or late. Don’t stop working. Never do research in prime working time. Research can be fun. It can be seductive. That’s its danger. We need it, we love it. But we must never forget that research can become Resistance.
  • Only one thing matters in this initial draft: get SOMETHING done, however flawed or imperfect. You are not allowed to judge yourself.
  • When an idea pops into our head and we think, “No, this is too crazy,” … that’s the idea we want.
  • The opposite of fear is love—love of the challenge, love of the work, the pure joyous passion to take a shot at our dream and see if we can pull it off.
  • Because finishing is the critical part of any project. If we can’t finish, all our work is for nothing.
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