The 1 rule to getting started on anything: Just start already!
A book review on: The War of Art. Winning the Inner Creative Battle - Steven Pressfield
Why is it so difficult to get to do the thing we wanted to do for so long?
We’ve been planning to start our Impatient Bookclub for a while. Never gotten around to post the event, or first post, yet. The idea was a bookclub for anyone, who, like us, is having trouble with just taking a moment to sit down and start reading, picking it up again and finishing it, instead of starting the next book… Now we have the perfect book to start!
First I have a confession; I didn’t read it, I listened to the audiobook. So here I was listening to a book about procrastination, while I was working, or should’ve been working…
This book is for all entrepreneurs who never start a venture, all artists that don’t create, anyone who’s having trouble in the pursuit of their calling. Those who never launch any venture they’ve started, or couldn’t maintain any diet or health-plan… We’re going to face our “Enemy within”.
Foreword: “Steven Pressfield wrote The War of Art for me. He undoubtedly wrote it for you too, but I know he did it expressly for me because I hold Olympic records for procrastination…”
We use Impatient tools to make our own work easier. But mostly to mentor and work with other people to help launch, or build their projects.
Because it’s easier for us to help others getting started, instead of getting started on our own projects. First step is admitting…
After our work is done it comes down to them and nobody else to do it. All the support and workshops in the world wouldn’t help with that. It doesn’t matter how long you push it forward, there comes a time when it’s just going to be you and the blank canvas in front of you.
“It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write.”
So what is the “enemy within”?
The enemy of starting anything, of getting anything done, the enemy of creativity, is Resistance.
Resistance comes in many shapes and sizes. Sometimes tangible, or clearly noticeable, but more often very difficult to trace. Habits we don’t even know we have, or the characteristics that stop us unwillingly, mostly it’s fear.
Medium is a great platform to find sources to work on resisting Resistance. Ironically though it’s also a great platform to find Resistance. Like looking at your phone without knowing why, opening up Facebook, or Instagram. Or reading a Medium article instead of doing the work you need to be doing (yes, you!). Even doing the things you love to do, instead of the things you should be doing.
The thing I love to do is to design, preferably using design to solve great issues. So we started designing tools that could help us to get things done, that might also help others to get things done. Designing structures to be creative and establishing rules so we are able to live with freedom.
“…the truly free individual is free only to the extent of his own self-mastery…”
Back to the book
We started a bookclub because we use a lot of books in our work. On design thinking, finding your purpose, strategy etc. You probably guessed it already, reading books can be a form of Resistance, too. It’s important to take a step back for a moment and ask: Is all the thinking, researching and writing actually work, or just busywork? Are these incubators, courses and consulting hours actually helping, or just keeping me from having to make decisions?
In the book Steven Pressfield calls it “Bullshit-Incorporated”. Our first rule within Impatient is to be honest and to call each other on our own bullshit. Stop reading and thinking about it. Stop wondering: “Who am I?”, “why am I doing this?”… Start!
Resistance is fear
Fear is a complex underlying form of Resistance. Probably a fear of failing, of showing yourself and getting yourself out there. The fear of getting judged, or rejected.
Although the mother of all fear is the fear we will succeed. Fear of the consequences of following our heart. Going all the way, sacrificing the ones we love. Fear that we are more than we (or others) think we are. That we actually have the talent, the means. We fear we become what we have spoken about and need to put our actions to our words.
“We fear this because, if it’s true, then we become estranged from all we know…”
Instead of getting uncomfortable we reject long term growth in favor of immediate gratification. We know it takes guts and energy to deviate from ways of doing. We should take the step away from being comfortable and change the pattern of thought. We never said it’s easy…
So what does it take?
The only way to successfully do anything is just to do it. And even though that’s not the most helpful piece of advice we can give here, this does seem to be the most important. Stop collecting more and more things you won’t finish. Things you want to do and want to be. It’ll only make you feel worse about yourself to add on things you won’t finish. Recognize a spiral?
The book changed my mind forever on how to view being an amateur and a pro. Amateurs, before seen as doing what they love, in this case never out for success, is the person doing it without an eye on gain. Amateurs are part-time, the weekend warriors. Amateurs are aspiring artists, defeated by Resistance. They think like amateurs, not thinking like pros, yet. The amateur does not love the game enough.
Writers block, anxiety and ‘imposter syndrome,’ they are all signs of Resistance, therefore signs of being an amateur. The amateur plays for fun, it’s their avocation. Professionals play for keeps, it’s their vocation. Professionals do this full-time, the pro loves it so much they devote their life to it. Resistance hates it when we turn pro.
“Grandiose fantasies are a symptom of Resistance. They’re the sign of an amateur.”
The good news is we are all pros already. Just not where we want to be; Our jobs. Let’s raise our amateur activities, the things we love, to the same level of importance as our professional.
We show up, we are on time every day, we stay on the job all day, working. We are committed over the long haul, still working until we can’t anymore. The stakes are high and tangible, it’s about survival about not getting hungry. We don’t over-identify with our jobs. We aren’t what we do. Meaning we don’t take it so seriously, having a sense of humor, but we do master it. And we except a reward for it, receiving praise or blame in the real world.
What are you already successfully doing as your profession?
And can you apply that to your passion?
- A professional seeks order, eliminates chaos from its surroundings and mind.
- Realizes fear can never be overcome, instead respects Resistance.
- Excepts no excuses, plays it as it lays and doesn’t show off, not drawing any attention.
- It serves the material, mastering the technique, not as substitute of inspiration, just to use it to its full potential.
- A pro separates itself from the tools, doesn’t identify with the technique, the material, or the work. Not even identifies itself with the artist, rather looks at it as “you incorporated”, keeping the person separate from the operations.
The fact that we feel Resistance is actually a good sign
The more important the thing we’re working on, the more Resistance we’ll face. Being paralyzed with fear is therefore a good thing; The more certain we can be it’s something close to us.
This can separate the things we’re pro at from the things we’re amateur at. The fear of rejection, for instance, only stops the work of an amateur. It’s too close and becomes personal. Resistance is seeking to break the will and dedication. Too much love can make you choke. Loving the game too much stands in the way.
“Resistance is directly proportional to love. If you’re feeling massive Resistance, the good news is that it means there’s tremendous love there too.”
It is the reason why we do it
Being professional shows we do it because we’re afraid of it. Living for the excitement of uncovering the next adventure, sailing the uncharted waters. Instead of saying no to something uncomfortable, we actually take it as a sign to do it. It shows us what we have to do.
Professionals know that it can’t hurt them. The part we create from is bullet-proof. That part that needs healing is your personal life, has nothing to do with your work.
“Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.”
Okay, let’s call our bull-shit
Workshops are the best forms of Resistance. Have to admit it hurt to read this, since we mostly work with workshops, but even though this is a tough pill to swallow, nw we wholeheartedly agree. Just like support from other people, it’s nothing that helps us actually getting there, just prolonging the prep work.
It’s time to take the wheel. “Whenever your muse comes in, shut up and use it!” It’s one thing to lie to ourselves, it’s another to believe it.
“Rationalization is a combination of fear and shame.”
The magic of making a start
Okay so we can’t really support others, what can Impatient do? The only thing we can do for others is to serve as an example and inspiration.
“…Whatever you can do or dream you can do, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Do yourself a favor, continue to read (or listen to) the book. Learn about the ‘self’ and how to work on finding it to become what we are supposed to be.
We have a job to do.
We’re Impatient to start the next book.
P.S. Let us know if you’d like to join our Bookclub. We can share which one we’ll cover next. Happy to get a conversation going.