Do the Work — Select Quotes
Below, you’ll find a selection of quotes from Steve Pressfield’s Do the Work. Which ones resonate with you? Tweet them using the #dothework hashtag. We’ll share a few from our @ProjectDomino Twitter account.
Where butts need to be kicked, we shall kick them. Where kinder, gentler methods are called for, we’ll get out the kid gloves.
In other words, any act that rejects immediate gratification in favor of long-term growth, health, or integrity.
Resistance cannot be seen, heard, touched or smelled. But it can be felt. We experience it as an energy field radiating from a work-in-potential.
Resistance is a repelling force. It’s negative. Its aim is to shove us away, distract us, prevent us from doing our work.
Resistance will tell you anything to keep you from doing your work. It will perjure, fabricate, falsify; seduce, bully, cajole. Resistance is protean. It will assume any form, if that’s what it takes to deceive you.
Resistance will reason with you like a lawyer or jam a nine-millimeter in your face like a stickup man.
Resistance has no conscience. It will pledge anything to get a deal, then double-cross you as soon as your back is turned. If you take Resistance at its word, you deserve everything you get.
Resistance is always lying and always full of shit.
Resistance is not out to get you personally. It doesn’t know who you are and doesn’t care. Resistance is a force of nature. It acts objectively.
Though it feels malevolent, Resistance in fact operates with the indifference of rain and transits the heavens by the same laws as stars. When we marshal our forces to combat Resistance, we must remember this.
Like a magnetized needle floating on a surface of oil, Resistance will unfailingly point to true North—meaning that calling or action it most wants to stop us from doing.
We can navigate by Resistance, letting it guide us to that calling or purpose that we must follow before all others.
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.
We’re wrong if we think we’re the only ones struggling with Resistance. Everyone who has a body experiences Resistance.
In other words, fear doesn’t go away. The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day.
Resistance’s goal is not to wound or disable. Resistance aims to kill.
Next to Resistance, rational thought is the artist or entrepreneur’s worst enemy.
Instead, we want to work from the Self, that is, from instinct and intuition, from the unconscious.
The problem with friends and family is that they know us as we are. They are invested in maintaining us as we are.
That last thing we want is to remain as we are.
Prepare yourself to make new friends. They will appear, trust me.
Our Allies: Stupidity, Stubbornness, Blind Faith, Passion, Assistance (the opposite of Resistance), Friends and family
Ignorance and arrogance are the artist and entrepreneur’s indispensable allies.
She must be clueless enough to have no idea how difficult her enterprise is going to be—and cocky enough to believe she can pull it off anyway.
A child has no trouble believing the unbelievable, nor does the genius or the madman. It’s only you and I, with our big brains and our tiny hearts, who doubt and overthink and hesitate.
Don’t think. Act.
Once we commit to action, the worst thing we can do is to stop.
What will keep us from stopping? Plain old stubbornness.
We’re in till the finish.
We will sink our junkyard-dog teeth into Resistance’s ass and not let go, no matter how hard he kicks.
Is there a spiritual element to creativity? Hell yes.
Our mightiest ally (our indispensable ally) is belief in something we cannot see, hear, touch, taste or feel.
Resistance wants to rattle that faith. Resistance wants to destroy it.
Picasso painted with passion, Mozart composed with it. A child plays with it all day long.
You may think you’ve lost your passion, or you can’t identify it, or that you have so much of it, it threatens to overwhelm you. None of these is true.
Fear saps passion.
When we conquer our fears, we discover a boundless, bottomless, inexhaustible well of passion.
When art and inspiration and success and fame and money have come and gone, who still loves us—and whom do we love?
Only two things will remain with us across the river: our inhering genius and the hearts we love.
In other words, what we do and whom we do it for.
Don’t prepare. Begin.
Remember, our enemy is not lack of preparation; it’s not the difficulty of the project, or the state of the marketplace or the emptiness of our bank account.
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.
Start before you’re ready.
Good things happen when we start before we’re ready. For one thing, we show huevos. Our blood heats up. Courage begets more courage. The gods, witnessing our boldness, look on in approval.
You’re allowed to read three books on your subject. No more.
Research can become Resistance. We want to work, not prepare to work.
The creative act is primitive. Its principles are of birth and genesis.
Babies are born in blood and chaos; stars and galaxies come into being amid the release of massive primordial cataclysms.
The most highly-cultured mother gives birth sweating and dislocated and cursing like a sailor.
The hospital room may be spotless and sterile, but birth itself will always take place amid chaos, pain and blood.
If you and I want to do great stuff, we can’t let ourselves work small. A home run swing that results in a strikeout is better than a successful bunt or even a line-drive single.
Start playing from power. We can always dial it back later. If we don’t swing for the seats from the start, we’ll never be able to drive a fastball into the upper deck.
Steve, God made a single sheet of yellow foolscap exactly the right length to hold the outline of an entire novel.
He meant don’t overthink. Don’t overprepare. Don’t let research become
Resistance. Don’t spend six months compiling a thousand-page tome detailing the emotional matrix and family history of every character in your book.
Outline it fast. Now. On instinct.
Discipline yourself to boil down your story/new business/philanthropic enterprise to a single page.
Is this easy? Hell, no.
At the conception stage, the artist works by instinct. What feels right? What does she love?
Is this her pure vision? Does it feel so right to her that she can dedicate the next X years of her life to realizing it?
Do you love your idea? Does it feel right on instinct? Are you willing to bleed for it?
Get your idea down on paper. We can always tweak it later.
Figure out where you want to go, then work backwards from there.
Chatter is your mother and father’s well-intentioned expressions of caution, seeking to shield you from hurting yourself. Chatter is your teachers’ equally well-meaning attempts at socialization, training you to follow the rules. Chatter is your friends’ regular-joe buddy-talk, trying to make you like them and to follow the rules of the pack. Chatter is Resistance.
Where do 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.
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.
One rule for first full-working drafts: get them done ASAP.
Don’t worry about quality. Act, don’t reflect. Momentum is everything.
Get to THE END as if the devil himself were breathing down your neck and poking you in the butt with his pitchfork. Believe me, he is.
The inner critic? His ass is not permitted in the building.
This draft is not being graded. There will be no pop quiz.
You are not allowed to judge yourself.
Suspending self-judgment doesn’t just mean blowing off the “You suck” voice in our heads. It also means liberating ourselves from conventional expectations—from what we think our work “ought” to be or “should” look like.
Stay stupid. Follow your unconventional, crazy heart.
If your notion violates every precept I’ve set forth in these pages, tell me to go to hell. Do what that voice says.
Ideas come according to their own logic. That logic is not rational. It’s not linear.
We may get the middle before we get the end. We may get the end before we get the beginning. Be ready for this. Don’t resist it.
Nothing is more fun than turning on the recorder and hearing your own voice telling you a fantastic idea that you had completely forgotten you had.
Spew. Let ‘er rip. Launch into the void and soar wherever the wind takes you.
Forget rational thought. Play. Play like a child.
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.
When an idea pops into our head and we think, “No, this is too crazy” … that’s the idea we want.
When we think, “This notion is completely off the wall … should I even take the time to work on this?” the answer is yes.
Never doubt the soup. Never say no. The answer is always yes.
The universe is also actively benevolent. You should be feeling this now. You should be feeling a tailwind.
The opposite of Resistance is Assistance.
A work-in-progress generates its own energy field. You, the artist or entrepreneur, are pouring love into the work; you are 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.
I ask myself, again, of the project: “What is this damn thing about?”
Ask yourself what’s missing. Then fill that void.
And then we hit the wall. Out of nowhere, terror strikes. Our fragile confidence collapses. Nighttime: we wake in a sweat.
That “You suck” voice is back, howling in our head.
We’re poised at the brink of a creative breakthrough and we can’t stand it. The prospect of success looms. We freak. Why did we start this project? We must have been insane. Who encouraged us? We want to wring their necks. Where are they now? Why can’t they help us?
The first principle of Resistance is that there is an enemy.
There is an enemy. There is an intelligent, active, malign force working against us.
Step one is to recognize this.
This recognition alone is enormously powerful. It saved my life, and it will save yours.
You can board a space ship to Pluto and settle, all by yourself, into a perfect artist’s cottage ten zillion miles from Earth. Resistance will still be with you.
The enemy is inside you.
The fourth axiom of Resistance is that the enemy is inside you, but it is not you.
What does that mean? It means you are not to blame for the voices of Resistance you hear in your head.
If you’ve got a head, you’ve got a voice of Resistance inside it.
On the field of the Self stand a knight and a dragon. You are the knight.
Resistance is the dragon.
The only intercourse possible between the knight and the dragon is battle.
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 frightened, petty, small-time ego to the brave, generous, magnificent impulse of the creative self.
Resistance is the shadow cast by the innovative self’s sun.
It means that, before the dragon of Resistance reared its ugly head and breathed fire into our faces, there existed within us a force so potent and life-affirming that it summoned this beast into being, perversely, to combat it.
Resistance is not the towering, all-powerful monster before whom we are compelled to quake in terror. Resistance is more like the pain-in-the-ass schoolteacher who won’t let us climb that tree in the playground.
The opposite of fear is love—love of the challenge, love of the work, the pure joyous passion to take a shot at our dream and see if we can pull it off.
The dream is your project, your vision, your symphony, your startup. The love is the passion and enthusiasm that fills your heart when you envision its completion.
The Big Crash is so predictable, across all fields of enterprise, that we can practically set our watches by it.
Our ordeal is harder. Because we’re alone.
Crashes are hell, but in the end they’re good for us.
Whatever the cause, the Big Crash compels us to go back now and solve the problem that we either created directly or set into motion unwittingly at the outset.
Our greatest fear is fear of success.
When we experience panic, it means that we’re about to cross a threshold. We’re poised on the doorstep of a higher plane.
That our project has crashed is not a reflection of our worth as human beings. It’s just a mistake. It’s a problem—and a problem can be solved.
No matter how great a writer, artist or entrepreneur, he is a mortal, he is fallible. He is not proof against Resistance. He will drop the ball; he will crash.
It takes balls of steel to ship.
Fear of success is the essence of Resistance.
When we ship, we’re exposed.
I was forty-two years old, having given up everything normal in life to pursue the dream of being a writer; now I’ve finally got my name on a big-time Hollywood production starring Linda Hamilton, and what happens? I’m a loser, a phony; my life is worthless and so am I.
That was when I realized I had become a pro. I had not yet had a success. But I had had a real failure.
Slay that dragon once, and he will never have power over you again.
I always deliver. I always ship.
You have done what only mothers and gods do: you have created new life.
Then get back to work. Begin the next one tomorrow.
Trust the soup.
Start before you’re ready.