Do the Work


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.

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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.
Buy Do the Work
Orientation: Enemies and Allies
  • Enemies:
    • Resistance
      • Fear, self-doubt, procrastination, addiction, distraction, timidity, ego and narcissism, self-loathing, perfectionism
      • Any act that rejects immediate gratification in favor of long-term growth, health, or integrity
      • Is invisible but can be felt
      • Is insidious - will take any form necessary to deceive you
      • Is always lying and full of shit
      • Is impersonal - doesn't care who you are and acts objectively
      • Is infallible - can navigate resistance by letting it guide us to that calling or purpose that we must follow before all others. The more important a call or action is to our soul's evolution, the more resistance we will feel toward pursuing it
      • Is universal and never sleeps, it never goes away
    • Rational thought
      • Comes from the ego
      • Want to work from the Self, from instinct and intuition, the unconscious
      • The deeper the source we work from, the better the outcome will be and the more transformative it will be for us and those we share it with
    • Friends and family
      • They know us as we are and the last thing we want is to remain as we are
  • Allies
    • Stupidity
      • Stupidest guys the author knows - Lindbergh, Jobs, Churchill
      • Ignorance and arrogance are the artist and entrepreneur's indispensable allies. Must have no idea how difficult the enterprise you are getting into truly is, and cocky enough to believe you can pull it off
      • Don't think. Act
      • We can always revise and revisit once we've acted. But we can accomplish nothing until we act
    • Stubbornness
      • We don't have to be heroes to be stubborn. We can just be pains in the butt
    • Blind faith
      • Our mightiest ally is belief in something we cannot see, hear, touch, taste or feel
    • Passion
      • Fear saps passion
      • When we conquer our fears, we discover a boundless, bottomless, inexhaustible well of passion
    • Assistance
      • Opposite of resistance
    • Friends and family
      • What we do and whom we do it for
Beginning - Stay primitive. Trust the Soup (your muse). Swing for the seats. Be ready for Resistance
  • Start before you're ready. Don't prepare. Begin
  • The enemy is our chattering brain, which, if we give it so much as a nanosecond, will start producing excuses, alibis, transparent self-justifications, and a million reasons why we can't/shouldn't/won't do what we know we need to do
  • "Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it." - Goethe
  • Limit self to only 3 books on your subject. No underlining, highlighting, no thinking or talking about the documents later. Let the ideas percolate. Let the unconscious do its work
  • Stay primitive. It is better to be primitive than sophisticated and better to be stupid than to be smart
  • Swing for the fences. Start playing from power. You can always dial it back later.
  • Don't overthink. Don't overprepare. Don't let research become Resistance
  • Break your outline into a beginning, middle and end
  • At the conception stage, the artist works on instinct. Is this your pure vision? Does it feel so right that you can dedicate the next X years of your life to realizing it?
  • Do you love your idea? Does it feel right on instinct? Are you willing to bleed for it?
  • Start at the end - work backwards. Begin at the finish. End first, then beginning and middle.
  • When you know what your project is about, then you'll know the end state. And when you know the end state, you'll know the steps to take to get there
  • If you have ever meditated then you know what it feels like to shift your consciousness. The vast majority of your thoughts are not thoughts. They are chatter. Don't think = don't listen to the chatter. Chatter is resistance
  • It takes our entire lives to attempt to answer the questions of where our own real thoughts come from, how can we access them, from what source does our true, authentic self speak?
  • The universe is not indifferent. it is actively hostile
  • We can never eliminate resistance. It will never go away. But we can outsmart it, and we can enlist allies that are as powerful as it is
  • Never underestimate resistance or fail to take it into account
  • Never do research in prime working time. Soak up what you need to fill in the gaps. Keep working.
  • After breaking anything into the beginning, middle and end, fill in the gaps; then fill in the gaps between the gaps
  • Get working drafts done ASAP. Don't worry about quality. Act and don't reflect. Momentum is everything
  • Blow off all self-judgment. Get something done, however flawed or imperfect
  • Blowing off also means liberating self from conventional expectations
  • Ideas do not come linearly. Be ready for this. If the middle comes to you before the end, work with it
  • Progress comes 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
  • The idea that pops into your head that you think is too crazy is exactly the idea you need to work on. Never doubt the soup. Never say no
  • While the universe is actively hostile, it is also actively benevolent. A work-in-progress generates its own energy field. You pour your love into your work and suffusing it with passion and intention and hope. This is serious juju. The universe responds to this. It has no choice.
  • Assistance is the universal, immutable force of creative manifestation, whose role since the Big Bang has been to translate potential into being, to convert dreams into reality.
  • Keep working. Keep working. Keep working. Stephen King works every single day
  • Take pauses and ask yourself "What is this damn thing about?" Keep refining your understanding of the theme; keep narrowing it down. It is pure hell to answer this question
    • Can do this with your life. Do not let anything in that does not fit your "theme"
  • Also ask yourself, "What's missing?" Then fill that gap
  • Things can be going extremely well and suddenly you hit a wall, self-doubt creeps in and you come to a halt. The prospect of success looms and we freak out. We know we're panicking but we can't stop. We can't get a hold of ourselves. We have entered the belly of the beast
  • Seven Principles of Resistance - govern and underlie everything you experience while in the belly of the beast
  • There is an enemy
    • Despite our conditioning, evil exists. There is an enemy that is intelligent, active and working against us
  • This enemy is implacable
    • Its aim is not to obstruct or to hamper or to impede. Its aim is to kill
  • This enemy is inside you
    • Resistance is not peripheral. It does not arise out of bosses, spouses, children, terrorists, etc. It comes from us
  • The enemy is inside you, but it is not you
    • You are not to blame for the resistance you hear in your head
    • You are blameless and retain free will and the capacity to act
  • The "real you" must duel the "resistance you"
    • There is no way around it. It is a battle
  • Resistance arises second
    • 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 is the response of the scared, petty small-time ego to the brave, magnificent impulse of the creative self
    • This urge that comes first is love. Love for the material, love for the work, love for our brothers and sisters whom we will offer our work as a gift
    • The opposite of fear is love - Love the challenge, love the work, the pure joyous passion to take a shot at our dream and see if we can pull it off
  • The opposite of resistance is assistance
    • The dream is your project, your vision, your symphony, your startup. The love is the passion and enthusiasm that fill your heart when you envision your project's competition
  • What could have brought Lindbergh through everything? It can only have been the dream. Love of the idea
  • Two Tests
    • How bad do you want it?
      • Scale - Dabbling, interested, intrigued but uncertain, passionate, totally committed
    • Why do you want it?
      • Babes, money, fame, I deserve it, for power, to prove someone wrong, to serve my vision of how life/mankind ought to be, for fun/beauty, I have no choice (last two are the only correct choices)
  • Must have pure love for the work, will to finish and passion to serve the ethical, creative muse
Middle (Part 2)
  • The big crash is so predictable that you can practically count on it. It's going to happen
  • Crashes are hell but in the end they're good for us. A crash means we have to grow. It means we have to learn something. It means we're improving and getting better at our craft
  • The crash compels us to go back and solve the problem we either created or directly set into motion
  • Panic means we are on the verge of stepping onto a higher plane
  • Don't take failure personally. The problem is the problem and then work the problem
  • Finishing is the critical part of any product which is why Godin places so much emphasis on shipping
  • Resistance is strongest near the finish. Do whatever you need to do, no matter how unorthodox to finish and be ready to ship
  • Fear of success is the essence of resistance
  • When we ship we open up ourselves to judgment by the entire world. Nothing is more empowering
  • Slay the dragon of Resistance once and you'll know how to slay it every time after that
  • Once you've shipped, give yourself a standing ovation. Be proud. You deserve it. Then, get back to work. Stay stupid. Trust the Soup. Start before you're ready.

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