Productivity Lessons From War of Art


Recently I read Steven Pressfields War of Art and I have to say that it was really good.

In fact, it was so good that I wanted to put up some notes of what really struck a chord:

1. Turn pro

This is the single most important lesson that I got out of the book.

Amateur is a person who does something when he feels like doing it.

Professional is someone who sits down every day working on something whether he feels like it or not.

He doesn’t worry about inspiration, or whether he even gets anything done.

The important part here is the mental shift: if you want to be successful at something, you have to ditch the mindset of an amateur and turn pro.

2. Comparison between a job and being a pro

When we have a job:

  1. We show up daily
  2. We stay on it through the day
  3. We are in it for the long-term
  4. Not showing up will have drastic consequences
  5. We don’t over-identify with our jobs

It’s highly similar to the idea of turning into a professional.

You employ yourself. You stop deluding yourself that being a pro in something will always be just fun and play.

3. On fear

Amateur thinks that he has to overcome fear, professional knows that the fear will always be there.

There is no such thing as a dread-free artist.

Professional also knows that once he gets into the action, his fear will recede and he will be ok.

4. Giving in to resistance

Steven coined the word “resistance” as the all-in-one term for every single thing that’s preventing us to work, including procrastination, fear and rationalization.

Professional knows that if he caves in to the resistance today, he will be twice as likely to cave in tomorrow.

He is also prepared everyday to confront his own self-sabotage.

5. Distancing from ones craft

It’s too easy to take what you do personally, especially when it comes to making art.

When you put something out there for people to give opinions about, it feels like you are putting part of yourself out there.

The professional disidentifies with his craft.

It’s what does, not what he is.

This also means disidentifying from both failure AND success.

We only have right to our labor, not the fruits of our labor.

The only thing that the professional can do is his craft, everything else is out of his control.

He is open to criticism when it comes to learning and growing.

6. Distancing yourself further with a company

Steven makes a great point about incorporating himself which has helped him to distance himself (further) from what he does.

This reinforces the idea of professionalism because it separates yourself from the result of your work.He even describes himself going through standard office chores to improve the illusion – kinda mad.. but genius.

Thinking ourselves as a corporation is easier to become less subjective and most of all, not take blows personally.

7. How do you turn pro?

It’s a decision that you have to make.

Start viewing yourself as a pro and just do it.

No mystery, just a change of mindset.

Also, here’s an interview of Steven from copyblogger (audio + transcript)

I highly recommend that you to a) read the War of Art and b) listen to his interview.


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