Do the work

by Steven Pressfield

Posted by Anton Katunin on 5 June 2020
Tags: books, 3 stars

This is short (2 hours) motivational book. It’s written in an engaging style. The main idea if you want results you should do the work.

The author encourages to distance yourself from your own bad habits and lack of discipline. I think that’s an interesting idea which might yield better results.

This book feels like more like a summary essay of the author’s previous book "The War of Art". I haven’t read it yet, but even the foreword makes it very clear.

Below are my highlights.

Orientation: Enemies And Allies

The book introduces the concept of Resistance:

any act that rejects immediate gratification in favor of long-term growth, health, or integrity.

Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it

Don’t think. Act. We can always revise and revisit once we’ve acted. But we can accomplish nothing until we act.

What will keep us from stopping? Plain old stubbornness.

Fear saps passion. When we conquer our fears, we discover a boundless, bottomless, inexhaustible well of passion.

1. Beginning

Key principles:

  1. Stay primitive

  2. Swing for the seats

Here’s a trick that screenwriters use: work backwards. Begin at the finish.

Start with the theme. What is this project about?

2. Middle

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.

Any project or enterprise can be broken down into beginning, middle, and end. Fill in the gaps; then fill in the gaps between the gaps.

It progresses in two stages: action and reflection. Act, reflect. Act, reflect. NEVER act and reflect at the same time.

Our job is not to control our idea; our job is to figure out what our idea is (and wants to be)—and then bring it into being.

And then we hit the wall.

Seven principles

  1. There Is an Enemy

  2. This Enemy Is Implacable

  3. This Enemy Is Inside You

  4. The Enemy Is Inside You, But It Is Not You

  5. The “Real You” Must Duel the “Resistance You”

  6. Resistance Arises Second

  7. The Opposite of Resistance Is Assistance

What comes first is the idea, the passion, the dream of the work we are so excited to create that it scares the hell out of us.

Resistance’s Two Tests. Each question has only one correct answer.

  1. Test Number One: How bad do you want it?

    • Dabbling
    • Interested
    • Intrigued but Uncertain
    • Passionate
    • Totally Committed
  2. Test Number Two: Why do you want it?

    • For the babes (or the dudes)
    • The money
    • For fame
    • Because I deserve it
    • For power
    • To prove my old man (or ex-spouse, mother, teacher, coach) wrong
    • To serve my vision of how life/mankind ought to be
    • For fun or beauty
    • Because I have no choice

Crashes are hell, but in the end they’re good for us.

3. End

Because finishing is the critical part of any project. If we can’t finish, all our work is for nothing.

Read next:

The Mythical Man-Month

by Fred Brooks