Unblocking the Resistance

“The War of Art: Break through the blocks and win your inner creative battles” by Steven Pressfield

Every once in a while the A-list superstar guests at the Tim Ferriss Show podcast are asked about their favourite, or most life-changing, books. And without fail, this book often come up as the top 3 books. And now I can see why.

It is a light, good feeling, kind of book but with such an impactful message, which are broken down into several neat mini chapters (1-2 pages long) in just few hundred pages that are easy to read. They say that some of the best books ever written are thin books but with mighty content, just like Marcus Aurelius’ Meditation or Sun Tzu’s Art of War. I truly believe that the War of Art also live up to that category.

The core theme of the book is what the author, Steven Pressfield, calls the Resistance. It is that block you have in your life that prevents you from doing all the things that you’ve always wanted to do. And in this book he masterfully define the broad term of the Resistance into a multi-layer guide for many different walks of life.

Now, every sentence of the word in the book has this feel of wisdom in it, and this reflected from the author’s own harsh journey, where he too met his Resistance for years (decades, in fact). He got divorced, went bankrupt, resigned from a stable job to end up working odd menial jobs for years until well into his forties, even became homeless at one point, before he finally took the courage and developed the know-how to deal with his own Resistance. Hence, everything that he writes in the book came from his own incredible experience.

Today, Steven Pressfield is a best-selling author of several successful novels, one of which even turned into a movie (The Legend of Bagger Vance, starring Will Smith, Charlize Theron and Matt Damon), and he was even made an honorary citizen by the city of Sparta in Greece.

Here are some of my favourite quotes from the book:

“It was easier for Hitler to start World War II than it was for him to face a blank square of canvas.”

“The Resistance covers every one trying to pursue everything, from health, entrepreneurial, seeking creative outlets, recovering from addiction, education, political, charity, everything that rejects immediate gratification in favour of long-term gain.”

“Resistance arises from within. It is self-generated and self-perpetuates. Resistance is the enemy within.”

“The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel towards pursuing it.”

“Anything that draws attention to ourselves through pain-free or artificial means is a manifestation of Resistance.”

“Fundamentalism is the philosophy of the powerless, the conquered, the displaced and the dispossessed.”

“The fundamentalist cannot stand freedom. He cannot find his way into the future, so he retreats to the past.”

“The professional cannot allow the actions of others to define his reality.”

“To labor in the arts for any reason than love is prostitution.”

“We humans have territories too. Ours are psychological. Stevie Wonder’s territory is the piano. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s is the gym. When Bill Gates pulls into the parking lot at Microsoft, he’s on his territory. When I sit down to write, I’m on mine.”