Tag Archives: Steven Pressfield

The Artist’s Journey: The Wake of the Hero’s Journey and the Lifelong Pursuit of Meaning by Steven Pressfield

Summary
  1. The artist’s journey begins with the hero’s journey, it is merely the beginning and it allows us to begin living authentically, to self-actualize. It is the gift you get from going through the often painful hero’s journey, it is what you do with your gift, how you help the world and those around you.
Key Takeaways
  1. The artist’s journey is personal, solitary, mental, an evolution, a constant, about self-discovery (as opposed to self-expression), yet universal
  2. The Hero’s Journey has 11 steps:
    1. The call to adventure
    2. Refusal of the call
    3. Meeting the mentor
    4. Crossing the threshold
    5. Tests
    6. Approaching the innermost cave
    7. Ordeal
    8. Reward/Bliss
    9. The road back
    10. Resurrection
    11. Master of two worlds
  3. Subject
    1. We are all born to find our “subject”, it finds us and not the other way around. It is our calling, what we are meant to do. It is terrifying to try to find which is my so many people put it off. Once we find it, we can’t turn away from it but it takes a risk to act on it
  4. Voice
    1. We have to find our voice, how we best express ourselves
  5. Point of View
    1. Once the artists develops their “point of view”, they can answer any question about any aspect regarding their work, they know what “movie” they’re making and what it takes to get there – they have the hologram in the head
  6. Medium of Expression
    1. The artist must determine the medium for the message.
  7. Style
    1. Every artist has a style that they must develop over time. Hemingway didn’t write with short, simple words because he didn’t know more complicated ones – it was because it was his style
    2. Your style must blend seamlessly with the medium
    3. Style is inseparable from voice, it evolves out of subject and point of view and blends seamlessly with medium of expression.
  8. Subject, voice, point of view, medium of expression, and style are all different ways of thinking of your gift, which is the same as asking the question, “who am I?” Finding the answer to these questions is not a rational journey, it cannot be rushed or planned, we are born with all of these but they are out of our normal consciousness and it takes time, suffering and persistence to find them. We must give up our control, our ego, to find them. Once you discover your gift, you become an artist. To the outside, nothing may seem to change but internally everything changes. Everything in your life which is “not artist” falls away. Externally, your life may look boring with no drama, binges, disrespecting your gift/voice/talent, the artist is now on a mission and her life has acquired a purpose. Your life is now about following their muse, about becoming who you really are, and this journey will take you through the rest of your life
  9. An artist is in touch with their time, they speak of and to their time
  10. In this journey, all enemies are mental and self-generated. But, on the flipside, same with all strengths
  11. All progression is made by increments and is done by accessing the unconscious, your muse. Everything you create as an artist comes beyond your conscious awareness. Artists do not know what they’re going to do before they do it, and often don’t know what they’re doing while they’re doing it. This “second” you is the real you and it is much smarter than the “you” you normally associate with
  12. The artist’s journey lasts the rest of your life
  13. Resistance (fear, distraction, temptation, etc.) is a mini refusal of the call. You can get over this by meeting with the mentor – it can be external but even better you become your own mentor, helping yourself get past the Resistance. The aim is to make ourselves Masters – not just of our crafts, but of ourselves
  14. Index of basic skills acquired during the Artist’s Journey
    1. Learns how to start
    2. Learns how to keep going
    3. Learns how to finish
    4. Learns how to hang on
    5. Learns how to let go
    6. Learns how to be alone – learns how to gain energy from her work alone, and need for third party validation attenuates
    7. Learns how to work with others – would rather produce something better with others than they otherwise could have alone than get credit
    8. Learns emotional distance – learns how to detach from the judgment, their emotional needs
    9. Learns how to handle rejection
    10. Learns how to handle praise
    11. Learns how to handle panic
    12. Learns how to give up
    13. Learns how to go beyond what you know
    14. Learns how to be brave – run towards what scares you
    15. Learns how to keep the pressure on
    16. Learns how to kill – either the Resistance wins or you do, which will it be?
    17. Learns how to help others and how to be helped
    18. Learns how to steal good ideas
    19. Learns how to how the marketplace works
    20. Learns how to gain perspective on their work
    21. Learns how to learn from history
    22. Learns how to learn from the masters who have come before them
    23. Learns how to be humble
    24. Learns how to self-validate
    25. Learns how to self-reinforce
    26. Learns how to self-evaluate
    27. Learns how to commit for a lifetime
    28. The amateur is one who does not have any of these skills – they are not mentally tough, they don’t have persistence
  15. A better name for the unconscious is the superconscious. You must develop the ability to go from the conscious to the superconscious and back again often and effectively. Most people are afraid of finding out what’s truly in us, of what we really have, of finding out who we are
  16. The artist believes in a different reality and shuttles back and forth between realities
  17. How the world works – The universe exists on at least two levels – the material world (physical world) and the ethereal (the higher realm, the soul, it cannot be seen or summoned but can be felt, it is the plane we are trying to access as artists). An artist’s skill lies in shuttling between the normal mind and the higher mind. They cease direct thinking and shift to a more intuitive, non-linear mindset, this is what makes the process addictive
  18. All art is about the recognition of beauty and the articulation of empathy and compassion for the other – the artist is a force for unity
  19. Mankind’s original sin, what got Adam and Eve cast out of Eden, is identifying with the ego
  20. Daimon = genius. It is us, yet it is separate
  21. The secret that every true artist knows is that the profound can be reached by focusing on the mundane. Sit down at the keyboard, stand before the easel, you have to show up
  22. The mysterious flow of creativity can be prompted, primed like a pump, by emotionally and physically creating a habit and a space where you want that energy to flow
  23. Who you are is what you produce, what you write/produce/paint…
  24. The artist’s journey is the hero’s journey of the human race
  25. How do you know when you’re ready? You decide. You act
What I got out of it
  1. The artist is one who can shift between the normal everyday world and the higher plane where inspiration hits, where the daimon resides, and being able to translate this higher plane into art

Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield

Summary
  1. The Battle of Thermopylae told from the point of view one of the Spartan soldiers. This battle and story was popularized by the movie 300
Key Takeaways
  1. At the time of death, many fear separation from loved ones more than death itself
  2. Tells in vivid detail the brutal conquering of his town by Argos
  3. He is later caught steeling and is put up on a cross to be killed. His friends save him but his hands are ruined and he’s devastated as now he cannot become a soldier. A god appears and tells him he shall become an archer instead which his hands can handle
  4. He comes under the tutelage of a Spartan and recounts the brutal training and way of life of these warrior people
  5. The Spartans made fear a science and were so machine like in war that just their formations, singing and smiles pre war unnerved their enemies
  6. He described the war against the Persians so vividly you feel like you’re there. From the smells, emotions, weapons and after effects. It must have been one of the most intense and surreal experiences man can endure
What I got out of it
  1. Incredibly well written novel about the Battle of Thermopylae. Really good insight into Spartan life, culture and how brutal and life altering warfare at the time was

Don’t miss out on Pressfield’s Do the Work and The War of ArtBoth are fantastic

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

Summary
  1. Pressfield tells his story of how in writing he encounters his most extreme resistance and this is part of why he does it.
Key Takeaways
  1. It’s not the writing part that’s hard, it’s the sitting down to write. Overcoming this resistance is absolutely vital to growth and happiness
  2. Defining the enemy, this resistance, is key and often the road you need to take (Pair with The Obstacle is the Way)
  3. Master the fear and you conquer resistance
  4. Resistance is strongest near the finish line
  5. Resistance feels like unhappiness and manifests in eating, drinking, drugs, sex, any distraction
  6. Only as free as the extent of your self mastery 
  7. The opposite of love isn’t hate, it is indifference
  8. Rationalization is resistance’s right hand man
  9. Must know the difference between what is urgent and what is important. Then do the important first (pair with Eisenhower’s matrix)
  10. Commitment to turn pro is epochal. A pro shows up every day no matter what and is in it for the long haul
  11. An amateur is directly tied to the success of his work. A pro, the process. A pro has skin in the game and is not afraid of criticism or failure 
  12. Pro does not let the actions of others define his reality 
  13. Thinking of self as a business helps you gain perspective
  14. The ego fears the true self as it likes how things are and hates change. Living up to the true self is daunting as this means we actually have to live up to the best version of ourselves
  15. Never compare yourself hierarchically as this kills motivation and makes you focus on the wrong things
  16. The hack caters to the audience instead of his heart
  17. Can find your “territory” by figuring out what you would do if you were the last person on earth (Stevie Wonder’s territory is the piano)
What I got out of it
  1. Go towards and embrace the resistance. Doing this will lead you in the right direction towards success and happiness

Do the Work by Steven Pressfield

Do the Work

Summary
  1. “This book is designed to coach you through a project (business venture, ballet, philanthropic enterprise) from conception to finished product, seeing it from the point of view of Resistance…those junctures where fear, self-sabotage, procrastination, self-doubt, and all those other demons we’re all so familiar with can be counted upon to strike.”
Key Takeaways
  1. Your enemies include resistance, rational thought and at times friends and family
  2. Your allies include stupidity, stubbornness, passion, blind faith, assistance and friends and family
  3. The book is broken down into 4 parts – beginning, middle, middle part 2 and end
    1. Beginning – Stay primitive. Trust the Soup (your muse). Swing for the fences. Be ready for Resistance
    2. Middle
      1. Seven Principles of Resistance  there is an enemy; this enemy is implacable; this enemy is inside you; the enemy is inside you, but it is not you; you are not to blame for the resistance you hear in your head; the “real you” must duel the “resistance you”; resistance arises second; the opposite of resistance is assistance
      2. Two Tests – How bad do you want it? and Why do you want it?
    3. Middle part 2 – Expect a big crash and don’t take failure personally
    4. End  – finishing is the critical part of any product; Fear of success is the essence of resistance; Stay stupid. Trust the Soup. Start before you’re ready.
What I got out of it
  1. I like the message that Pressfield is sending – expect to encounter resistance, trust the “soup” (your muse) and once you overcome resistance you will have the confidence to tackle it again and again in the future. This book is for anybody, in any field, at any point in their lives who wants to get better at breaking through this daunting barrier.