While January is all about new beginnings and good intentions (Moving Forward), February is when you need to get down to business. The rosy glow of our resolutions has worn off and the reality of the ongoing effort required to reach our goals starts to register. It’s hard to keep up the initial enthusiasm for your plans when the cold days of winter stretch on and the snow refuses to melt. I must admit succumbing to the temptation to curl up with a good book rather than making progress towards my goals.
It’s lucky that one of the books that I curled up with was The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. The book was recommended by a colleague but when I went to the bookstore to buy it, I hesitated. It was a slim volume whose chapters were only a few pages long. The tone seemed overly philosophical. I put it back on the shelf and bought something else (Sapiens: A brief History of Humankind by Yuhal Noah Harari, which was also an excellent book). When I purchased Sapiens, the store gave me a coupon to save on my next purchase. That was it. I went back and bought The War of Art.
I got home and quickly devoured this little book. The book’s premise of the book is that we can be our own worst enemies. Resistance – the force of procrastination, self-doubt, fear, and rationalization – arises from within us and prevents us from becoming who we are meant to be. Giving in to Resistance can ultimately lead to depression, illness, unhappiness and self-medication. Pressfield wants us to know that we are not alone. Everyone experiences Resistance and we can muster the self-discipline and self-motivation to overcome it. I like to think of myself as a focused and disciplined person, but I must admit there are moments when inertia gets the better of me. It took more time than I care to admit convincing myself that investing in real estate was a good idea (it has been, as discussed in the post Turning Houses Into Degrees). I’ve also experienced plenty of Resistance to starting an ecommerce business. However, Pressfield encourages us that the more reluctant we are to start a new venture, the more certain we can be that we have to do it, and the more gratification we will feel after finally starting.
The secret, he proposes, is becoming a professional rather than an amateur. The qualities of a professional are to show up and work all day, over the long-term; to remember that the stakes are high, but still keep a sense of humour. Professionals should master the techniques of the work, but not overly identify with their job. Finally, professionals can accept both praise and blame as the price they pay for being in the game, not on the sidelines. A great way to foster the manner of a professional is to think of yourself as a corporation – “You, Inc.” Anyone can make up their minds to view themselves as a professional by a simple act of will. It doesn’t require official documentation, just a focus on the work.
In the end, the most important thing about any creative venture (such as writing or entrepreneurship) is simply to start working and keep working consistently. Once we begin, momentum builds, insights are inspired and power manifests around us. Pressfield goes on to describe this poetically in terms of muses, or angels, or the Jungian concepts of Ego and Self. The main idea is to be guided by your internal compass, rather than by others, and to keep going. Each of us has a unique gift to offer the world and we shouldn’t stop short of sharing our contribution.
After finishing this book I’m inspired and ready to get to work. How about you? Where are you experiencing Resistance? Are you ready to go professional? Are you ready to be “You, Inc.”?