I was lucky enough to have been given this book by Casey McPherson, who as it happens is an amazing musician who I have no doubt soon enough will be famous. The book is “the War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles” and it’s packed with fantastic insight that applies to art, music, the entrepreneurial undertaking in any shape, form or fashion.
Steven Pressfield, author of this book is also the author of “The Legend of Bagger Vance” and several astounding fiction books including his latest “The Afghan Campaign” which is garnering rave reviews.
What does the War of Art have to do with business?
No matter what you aspire, whether it be to be a world famous musician, artist or entrepreneur you have to overcome your own Resistance. You have to decide to go from amateur to professional in your aim to achieve your goal.
Steven was kind enough to speak with me about the differences between being an amateur and a professional in your endeavor to leave your own unique mark on the world.
If you’re waiting to launch that new business, write that novel, put down the first note of your symphony, then at least spend a bit of time reading this book and you’ll find you’re well on you way to overcoming Resistance.
Nettie: In your book, you talk about the difference between being a professional and an amateur? Being a professional helps you overcome resistance?
Steven: You bet, one of the focuses of the book is defining what resistance is and how you overcome it. I put forward my ways of overcoming resistance which is what I call “turning Pro”. This is what worked for me, and it was just an attitude change, a shift inside of the brain. So instead of being an amateur in your mind, you become a professional and it doesn’t mean you literally have to start doing your thing for money, but it means that you have to have a completely different attitude toward it.
Here’s a story I didn’t put in the book as an example of going pro.
I had a friend named Debbie who took up golf at age 35 and two or three months later we went and played together. She showed up and she was dressed like a touring pro, but she was still a lousy golfer. She’d only started. And I asked her, “What’s the deal with the clothes etc.?”
She said, “You know I’ve just decided that I’m not going to just be some hack out there. I’m going to take this seriously and really learn this game. That means I’m going to dress right and take lessons. I’m going to show up on the range and keep practicing.”
And sure enough, within a year she was a really great player. And all she had really done was just adopt that professional attitude.
Nettie: So what’s the difference between an amateur and a professional?
Steven: An amateur does something as an avocation, but a professional does it as a vocation. An amateur is like a weekend warrior that just shows up when they feel like doing it. But a pro shows up every day. We’re all in our jobs, if we have a job, we’re all professionals at that every day and we can use that as a model.
An amateur comes up with all kinds of excuses of “why” they’re not going to do something. A professional athlete for example, knows they always have to play hurt. They always have to play. They play with pain, something wrong with their knee or back or whatever it might be, but they get on the field no matter what.
A pro has a real sort of lunch pail, hard hat attitude. It’s raining, it doesn’t matter how cold it is, how dark it is, you get up and you go to work and that attitude has worked for me, because it’s so down to earth.
So for example, when I sit down to write, I wear work boots and I think of myself as a carpenter on a job. I don’t wear a hard hat, but it’s almost as close. To me it takes the preciousness out of it. I figure I’m just a craftsman, I’m just the guy who shows up at your house to remodel your kitchen. That takes a lot of pressure off. I don’t feel like I’m competing with Beethoven or someone like that, I’m just a guy going to work.
Nettie: So it seems that it takes the ego out of it that can be so damaging to the process?
Steven: Exactly right. The ego is another form of resistance demon. Being overly concerned with our own self-importance and how bad we’ll feel if we fail, or if we’ll embarrass ourselves, is an absolute killer to the work.
Nettie: On the ego — can you talk about “a professional recognizes his/her limitations” or “professional reinvents himself”? How do those work and aren’t they very difficult to do?
Steven: Dan Kennedy has this concept for entrepreneurs — each entrepreneur has this unique ability — that one talent that makes them great and he thinks the way to build a business is for that entrepreneur to focus on that one ability and hire everyone else to do the rest. There’s one thing that we all know we really do well, and you should focus on that and not try to micro-manage all the other things because they really are forms of resistance.
Nettie: You also say “A professional must reinvent himself?” What about reinvention?
Steven: That follows a long career, how you continue to be a writer, an artist, an entrepreneur for lengthy span of time. You think about Bob Dylan or the Beatles, they were constantly reinventing themselves. A professional does this, they know that creativity keeps flowing through. They are open to reinventing themselves to get to the new.
Nettie: Can you talk about your Chevy van and how you used to have dig your typewriter out from underneath a pile of stuff?
Steven: My life used to be incredibly chaotic. I used to live in a van down by the river. That lifestyle was really a form of resistance. It was in a way an experience, and I was getting out on the road, etc. but it was also a form of total resistance. When I knew that I had to get serious, I had to create order. For me to thrive I have to stay away from chaos. It’s focusing on the work and not letting clutter or chaos get in the path of your true work. A professional needs order, seeks order.
Nettie:: Thank you for the interview.
So readers, go and unclutter your desk, your shelves, your workspace and watch your entrepreneurial magic grow.