Thinking is Hard Work

Thinking is Hard Work

“Thinking is probably the hardest work there is, which is probably why so few engage in it.” – Henry Ford

When was the last time you stopped, turned off everything around you— your mobile phone, iPad, computer, TV, radio and everything else in this hyper-connected, hyper-distracted world—and took the time to just … think? Can you remember? I can’t. I’m always on – 25 x 7.


Last year 107 trillion emails were sent. Each day two-billion tweets are twooted (I know that’s not a word, but I like the neologism connotation) and one-billion pieces of content are posted on Facebook. Not to mention that 7,000 comments per second are posted on Facebook. That’s a lot of “doing” but most of it is “reactive.” Responding to the thoughts of others, who are probably reacting to the thoughts of others reacting to the thoughts of others.

How much thorough thinking do you think was thought in all that doing?


So, I decided to try it. Think that is. The first thing I noticed was weird. Really weird. It was a strange sound that I later identified as …


It was unnerving. To get past the unnerving weirdness, I decided to do some deep, thorough thinking on a problem I was having with a book I was writing.

Unprovided with original learning, unformed in the habits of thinking, unskilled in the arts of composition, I resolved to write a book. – Edward Gibbon

I quickly arrived at a conclusion. It’s much easier to do a lot of stuff than think. But that wasn’t the solution to the problem I was looking for. So I stopped to think again … and immediately ran into another conundrum. Thinking is hard work. I just couldn’t get started again with that deafening silence distracting me.

So, to help the process I decided to track down one of the nation’s foremost visionaries and leading authorities on thinking and marketing, Joey Reiman, and talk to him about the future of thinking, the business of thinking … or the lack thereof.


Joey Reiman is the bestselling author of several books, including Thinking for a Living, Success: The Original Handbook, and The Best Year of Your Life … Make It Happen Now! A world-renowned speaker, he provides listeners with the inspiration and foresight needed to become leaders of the future. Next year, Random House will publish Joey’s latest book, Business at the Speed of Molasses, which promises to speed up the ideas revolution by slowing business down so that it may be more purposeful, passionate and profitable.

Joey Reiman has it nailed. He’s won over 500 creative awards in national and international competitions, including the Cannes Film Festival. Joey also teaches a course on “Ideation” as an adjunct professor at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School.


And … Joey Reiman and his company, BrightHouse, charge between $500,000 and $1,000,000 per idea.


In 1994, Joey Reiman did something most would think unthinkable. He walked into a meeting with his Board of Directors and announced that he was shutting down his award-winning $100 million a year ad agency, to create an ideas company—to think for a living. His only product would be “ideas.”

“The world was ad rich and ideas poor.” – Joey Reiman

Joey Reiman was convinced that the marketing and advertising world had it all wrong. Their business model—built on the primacy of ideas, but only being paid for the execution of those ideas—was flawed. You see advertising and creative agencies get clients by pitching ideas and giving them away for free. They make their money in the execution of volume production, media spots aired, print ads sold, etc. They don’t get paid for where they create value—the idea. They get paid for the execution of those ideas.


Joey Reiman had a better idea. He shut down the advertising company, walked away from a $100-million-a-year advertising agency and started a new company he named BrightHouse. It’s considered the world’s first Ideation Corporation.

I wanted to talk to Joey not only about “Thinking for a Living” but also about walking away from a successful $100 million-dollar company. Think about that? It took a real conviction, commitment and some serious …


Steve Kayser (SK): What was going through your mind when you shut down your successful advertising company to start a new company selling ideas? That took a lot of guts.

Joey Reiman (JR): I think everyone has a Joseph Campbell moment at some point in their lives. You’re living what would be called an “ordinary existence” or what I would call doing the “day-to-day job,” and you’re somewhere in your career, and out of the blue, you get a call, just like Luke Skywalker got a call. His was a little more dramatic because he leaves his uncle and aunt to go out and save an evil empire; he got a call to go save a princess and the universe. We all get calls to save ourselves, our families, our companies and even save the world in our own way, but we don’t take the call because we’re sort of set in our ways.

We’ve become routinized, codified and structured and live out a fairly dull existence. But we don’t have to. Those of us who do get a call to do something bigger, better … some higher calling—it’s often to leave your job, to leave your career and follow your calling.

SK: Joseph Campbell called it “Follow Your Bliss.”


JR: Yes, he did. That’s what I’m talking about. I’m keen on teaching my students at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School on not going after a job or a career but a calling.

In 1994, after having a meteoric rise in the advertising industry, winning every possible award (over 500 of them), and really gathering all of the stuff that is supposed to make you happy, I recognized that when you got to the top of the mountain, what you find up there was what you brought with you. And those gold statues actually weighed me down on the hike up. Worse … having the gold statues up there really means nothing.


That’s when I had a “spear in the chest” moment. I recognized that all of the work I was doing on behalf of the advertising agency was really nothing else than selling people what they didn’t need. Then I started thinking about advertising as the grandest, social experiment in civilization that had failed.

SK: Why?

JR: Because we can’t get enough of what we don’t need. If you have any industry that’s a trillion-dollar industry focused on getting people what they don’t need, then to what end or benefit is that?

I thought the advertising industry had the smartest, most creative people on the planet, and I asked myself, can’t we do better? Can marketing move from marketing to seller to marketing to serve as a healer? This concept was very exciting to me.


I combed through history; I looked throughout civilization for the biggest ideas that served humankind and I found what I call “master ideas.” Ideas like:

We shall overcome

God is law

For better or for worse

All men are created equal

Very big ideas that were not necessarily factual, but that I recognized as truths.


The hypothesis was:

Can a company—a marketing company—actually look into other companies as we look through civilization, searching for the instructive sparks of fire that actually gave birth to the company, that gave the company a reason for being alive? To find the”why?”

If you found the DNA of the why, that instructive spark of fire, then you could actually rebuild a culture, wrap genuine value around it, be a more purposeful company and have that purpose drive strategy and tactics.


That notion was big enough for me to recognize a space that nobody had ever gone to in marketing. What I called it was from a word I borrowed from the psychiatric community—”ideation.” Now in the medical community, that’s not a very good word. It means to ruminate about suicide. But the second meaning of the word is the thought process—the thinking process. I combined that in with the notion of a marketing company that would call itself an ideation company that would deliver larger ideas for organizations with the hope that those ideas could help improve public life. And not just in the public perception of the brands, but the company whose advertising we’re supporting. To deliver real results for our clients.


And I thought “that’s pretty grand,” that should be in the executive branch of thinking. That, of course, would be in the White House. The White House turned into our company BrightHouse with the idea that I would attract the very best thinkers from around the globe in service of the globe and the people living on it.

“Ideals are like stars: You will not succeed in touching them with your hands, but like the seafaring man on the ocean desert of waters, you choose them as your guides, and following them, you reach your destiny.” – Carl Schurz

That was the vision to me years ago. Frankly, it was big enough of a vision. It’s kind of you to call it courageous, but the vision was more enlightening than courageous. It just wouldn’t let go of me. In all callings and in all purposes, when they’re given to you, they’re gifts. Once you acknowledge and hear it, it’s hard not to keep hearing it. Actually, it might take more courage to live a life that has not been lived than to fully recognize the power of the life you have inside you to be lived.

With that enlightenment, I put the word out and some exceptionally smart people came in. I fired all of my advertising clients except for Children’s Hospital, which I didn’t think was the right thing to do. That was 15 years ago, and BrightHouse has enjoyed a great journey helping other companies, other leaders, and other marketers hear their call and take their journey.

SK: By that you mean helping them find their bliss? Find their meaning? Viktor Frankl’s book The Search for Meaning spoke to this journey, but I think Joseph Campbell might have had a little better interpretation of it. Campbell said, “People don’t want to search for meaning—they want to experience meaning.”

JR: Yes. It’s a real search for the rapture of life. People are not necessarily searching for the meaning, but like you just mentioned, Joseph Campbell said they’re in search of the experience of meaning in life.


The privilege of a lifetime is to be who we are. In this society, we are not allowed to be who we are. The freedom to be who we are is often taken away from us at work. We are accountable not to our family, but to the company, and we don’t get to define successes in our terms.

Be who you are; it’s a privilege that’s exclusively yours.

So, what the power of purpose and the power of living our story is, autobiographically or with authority (the power of being the author), is that we get to write our own scripts, and that’s a cool place to be. I mean, I really love my work. I help people to make their lives work, and their companies work better than they do.

SK: So many people give into resistance. “‘I will do it some day. I will, I really will.” But then someday never comes. Resistance beats you. You came to a point in your life—a jumping-off point—where you just said you were going to do it. Was that because you were so comfortable already due to previous successes, or because you were so convinced that it was the right thing for you to do personally?


JR: It was the right thing for me to do personally. I could not have turned my back on it. In that sense, it was the courage to be who you are in the face of adversity which, at that time, everyone in the world was saying to me;

  • You can’t have a company based on ideas.
  • Why would you turn your back on the advertising industry that’s been so good to you?
  • Why would you give up the accolades, financial rewards and the comfort and security of an industry that’s been proven?

I believed marketing and advertising could do better. Since then, I think I’ve proven that it can.


SK: You created a thinking-process framework for BrightHouse by melding the experiences, processes and thoughts of many great thinkers; from Herman von Helmholtz and Csikszentmihalyi (I’ll never say that one on the radio) to Marshall McLuhan to produce your trademark Four I’s thinking methodology.


  • Investigate – Gather and analyze quantitative and qualitative data.
  • Incubate – Three or more weeks of thinking, daydreaming.
  • Illuminate – Big ideas don’t appear. They evolve. Look for the flash, the “AHA” spark of a BIG IDEA that will make a dent in the universe.
  • Illustrate – Visually portray and personalize the Big Idea.

How did the Four I’s concept evolve?

JR: I looked through all of the thinking frameworks throughout history. In the Anatomy of Thinking by Herman Von Helmholtz, a Berlin physicist, his framework is designed to suggest that there was an incubation period. He was a 19th-century physicist, so this guy was way-way ahead of his time.


When I looked further at the frameworks, especially in American business, there is no narrative time, no incubation time, no pondering or wandering time, so we actually put it into our model.

Albert Einstein was keen on thinking like a child and taking the time to daydream. I think the notion of daydreaming is critical, not only for thinking but critical thinking.


To think great thoughts, you have to create them. In order to create an environment for an unconditioned response, you need to schedule time to think, and this sounds like daydreaming to me—space-time or freebie time. That time is when we do our best thinking. It’s where intelligence has thought. The bottom line is that creativity is intelligence having thought. In order to do that, you have to make time.


“Four I’s see greater than two eyes. It’s my equation not only for marketing, but living, loving and life.” – Joey Reiman


SK: Most companies would probably look askew at scheduled daydreaming time at work.

JR: Yes. That’s a problem isn’t it. Where to think? I wrote a paper about the last five bastions of great thinking. It’s certainly not the office; it’s the:

  1. Car
  2. John (aka toilet)
  3. Shower
  4. Church
  5. Park

Turn off the noise. Listen to your mind. Get out of your cubic-hell. People who work in cubicles have jobs too small for the spirit, and that’s an American tragedy. They’re really cubic-hells.

“Face it, most of us have jobs too small for our spirits. “- Joey Reiman

SK: And that’s still the model you use, the four “I”s?

JR: It’s the methodology we use in order to identify a company’s purpose. What BrightHouse is known for is helping Fortune 100 companies:

  • Discover and articulate their purpose
  • Tell their story— and by doing so
  • Attract relationships and not necessarily customers


That’s very different from typical marketing that is focused on getting people to buy things. We’re focused on one thing, and that’s to buy into—not to buy things but to buy into things.

“You don’t buy an iPod, you buy into the Apple philosophy.”- Joey Reiman

This is all predicated on the notion that human beings crave meaning. If you’re not creating meaning, then why should people seek you out? But if you create meaning in a genuine, moral and ethical sense, then people will not just want to break down your door, they’ll want to live with you. I think this is really the most important thing as marketing moves from product-focused to customer-focused and gets into the power of relationships.


SK: Just a wild guess here, but I think you probably ran into some resistance and adversity when you tried to create BrightHouse. What was the biggest hurdle you had to overcome?

JR: I ran into a lot of people that said “No. Won’t work. Who’ll pay for an idea? “

SK: (That’s what I was thinking— boy was I wrong. But then again, refer to the opening cartoon.)

JR: And … “Really , who would pay for an idea? It’s not the way the world works.” That’s when the Coca-Cola Company and Coty Cosmetics stepped forward and tried it. We’ve never looked back. But, even to this day, fifteen years later, I still have to teach people a whole new way of thinking and sell the concept.

Our business is really Thinkonomics, and the work we do at BrightHouse is for visionary leadership. Though I’d like to think that every leader is visionary, you and I both know that’s not the case.


I search for people who are thinking forward into the next quarter century—not just the next quarter—for their shareholders. I think that stereoscopic vision where you’re focused on both the next quarter and the next quarter century is the kind of leader that hires BrightHouse.

“I paid Joey Reiman $1 million just to think!” – CEO Jim Adamson of the Advantica Restaurant Group

SK: Selling value. Selling the value of an idea. You actually charge $500,000 to $1,000,000 per idea?

JR: Yes. I think if you were to ask any of those CEOs “was it worth it?” they’d say yes. Many have been asked. There is a real sense of great value delivered. And value, in return, should be received for great ideas.


It’s something I feel strongly about and stand for. It’s just like grammar school. You don’t get credit for the answers; you get credit for solving the question. The questions could be a lot more important than the answers. These questions lead you to deeper thinking toward thoughtful solutions. We don’t need quick solutions. A quick solution often doesn’t work. Thinking more deeply, thinking more thoughtfully, thinking more long-term, takes a longer period of time, but it has greater generative effects.


We need to stop the doing and start thinking.

SK: Yes. Agreed. But it’s a little difficult for some managers and leaders to think you’re working when you’re at your desk thinking. For example, I tried that once.

And the boss caught me deep in thought, which I re-positioned as “I was hard at work.” My reward? A retro-pay adjustment. That belies the flawed notion of seemingly “doing something” means your working.

“Never mistake motion for action.” – Ernest Hemingway

Was there a point when you were creating BrightHouse and the “Thinking for a Living” concept that you questioned whether you could really pull it off?

JR: I’ve had times at BrightHouse where we took a step backward. I remember working with Delta Airlines and they wanted us to go back to doing their advertising. There was a lot of money on the table—a very lucrative opportunity. I did it, took the money, and it was a big mistake. So yes, I did question myself.

SK: How do you sell ideas? I know you can sell ideas with volume production and execution, but just the idea itself? It sounds to me like the epitome of the definition of a “Complex Sale.”

JR: I couldn’t sell something unless I believed in it—passionately. It’s very similar to consultants. There are two kinds of consultants: the experts and the advisors. The experts I can get in the phonebook. But the advisor is different. In past times, the king would rely on his advisor, not the expert. The advisor was always stacked above everyone else next to the king.

That’s what we sell at BrightHouse. I’m not selling expertise. Those in advertising, they’re experts at communicating. We’re advisors. I do think people will pay for a point of view because anyone can have a point of view.


But to have a:

  • Point of view
  • Noble purpose
  • Live that purpose
  • Look at the world through a prism of purpose that magnifies everything

… that people will pay well for … very well; millions of dollars.

SK: What do you look for in a person when BrightHouse hires a thinker?

JR: Well I used to put out a “For Hire” sign, but it was spelled “higher;” the notion being that we were looking for people with a higher form of thinking. Beginning at BrightHouse is pretty hard. There are some interviews, a number of case studies, a number of cases, and I don’t look for anything close until I look into the eyes of the person.

I look for passion because I can teach anyone just about anything, but I can’t teach will. I need will much more than I need skill. If I see will in your eyes, I don’t care what your skills are like; that can be taught. But the will is a gift. That’s what I look for.

“Will is more important than skill. Thinking can be taught. But will is a gift.” – Joey Reiman

SK: Who are some of the luminary thinkers you’ve attracted to BrightHouse?

JR: We’ve created the largest and most distinguished Luminary Network on the planet. We engage these top scholars and expert advisors on all of our projects to provide divergent, unprecedented thinking and insights. It’d be easier if people just went to our website and clicked on “Luminaries” to check them out. But they include:

  • Dr. Philip Kotler, Distinguished Professor of International Marketing at the Kellogg School of Management
  • Dr. Edgar Mitchell, the sixth astronaut to walk on the moon and the pilot of Apollo 14
  • Robert Watson, former CEO of the Salvation Army
  • Horst Schulze, founding president of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company
  • Dr. Kary Mullis, the 1993 Nobel Prize winner in chemistry
  • Dr. Allison Druin, Director of the human-computer interaction lab at the University of Maryland
  • Sam Keen, noted philosopher and author. Bill Moyers profiled him in the 60 Minutes PBS special “Your Mythic Journey.”

Among many others.

SK: Back to thinking for a living. What do you think of a genius-type like Nikola Tesla who got the call to change the world through his inventions? He did change the world but died alone and penniless, mainly because his call didn’t include business smarts. He believed himself to be a “Planter of Seeds,” of great ideas for the benefit of our world. Thomas Edison on the other hand invented for one purpose: to sell a product. If he couldn’t sell it, it wasn’t worth inventing. The businesses he created still exist today, and he died fabulously wealthy.

JR: When so many artists and great inventors get the calling, there is not a checkbook. Larry Barkin said, “Infinite patience produces immediate results.” What he meant by that is that if you have a calling of something great, you need to heed it. Edison beat Tesla in sales. Plain and simple. It was his call. Not Tesla’s. But I think if people follow their dreams, try to live them every day, then their dreams will come true. Those of us who have them every day get to live a better life than those who are living without the dream, which is, I think, a nightmare.

Aspirations are different.

What do you aspire to? Is it money? Will you be happy with money? I don’t think most are. Life isn’t printed or lived on dollar bills even though a lot of people think it is. I know a lot of unhappy rich people. I know more happy people without a lot of money but have great hearts, and the dream in their heart is what sustains them.

I wish for everyone to be a Tesla and not an Edison.

SK: If Tesla were alive today, would it be any different?

JR: Yes. Because he’d be working with BrightHouse. His soulful passion would be nurtured and rewarded.

Passion + Purpose = Profit


About Joey Reiman

As founder of BrightHouse, the world’s first Ideation Corporation™, Joey Reiman decided to offer companies a revolutionary way of thinking that promised to change the way they did business forever. Over the past 25 years, Joey has emerged as one of the nation’s foremost visionaries and leading authorities on thinking and marketing. He is the bestselling author of several books, including Thinking for a Living, Success: The Original Handbook, and The Best Year of Your Life … Make It Happen Now! A world-renowned speaker, he provides listeners with the inspiration and foresight needed to become leaders of the future.

Contact: Atlanta 790 Marietta Street P: 404-240-2500 Atlanta, GA 30318 F: 404-240-2501

The New Employee… Partner in Purpose?

The New Employee… Partner in Purpose?

Comes a time in everyone’s life to move on. Whether it’s a relationship, job or life itself.

Sometimes it’s easy. Sometimes not. I’ve done it recently myself and found it to be a wonderful breath of fresh air and a new way of life.

I just started a company called Kayser Media’s “Creative Strokes,” which will have a business model similar to the Navy’s Seal Team Six combat model. The best, most highly-trained and experienced people will be assembled into a team to work with small-to-medium businesses for specific high-impact business development projects, whether it be with marketing, PR, SEO,  social media, content creation, publishing, TV, or radio – or the complete menu or services. Or even running a complete PR or Marketing Department on an interim basis until the company fills critical leadership vacancies or decides what business model (in-house vs. external) it wants to use.

Employee –  Employer Relationship

In creating this new business venture I was forced to think of not only the skills and capabilities of the people I wanted to work with – but the employee vs employer relationship.  This triggered a serious re-thinking of my past assumptions.

The workplace (and even the very definition of work) and job opportunities are radically transforming before our eyes. Dramatically. This also means the mindset of the employee and employer will have to change as well – especially mine.

And it has.

But this post isn’t about Creative Strokes.

It’s about people looking for meaning and purpose in work. The type of work I want to do. And, the people I want to work with in the future.

I’m throwing this out there more as a question than anything else.

What Type of Employee Would You Want?

What kind of employee would YOU want to help you in a startup? Or in growing a business? A struggling business? A dying business?

Certainly someone with drive and…

A Car

In “Outliers: The Story of Success,” by Malcolm Gladwell, a section of the book talks about three requirements that allow us to be happy and fulfilled with the work we do. They are…


What does that mean- complexity? Pretty simple. The work engages your mind. It allows you to dream, create, re-create, and be responsible for decisions and directions. This type of endeavor is in direct contrast to work that treats you like a human machine. A cog with no purpose besides function. That type of work environment creates GoMo’s … people who go through the motion but are not engaged.

GOMO = Goes through the Motions


Autonomy is incredibly important.  You need to be able to work and create without a Napoleonic Overlord looking over your shoulder nitpicking or micro-managing.

Great works are born in chaos, confusion and high energy … not in a micro-managed work environment.

A relationship between effort and reward.

Think about that. How many jobs have that now? The harder I work, the more I make?

How many people have seen “across the board cuts” in jobs or budgets, no matter how well the person or group was doing? Penalizing all, instead of praising and raising the performers?

Who does not respond to a direct relationship between effort and reward?

I like Gladwell’s CAR … although he didn’t call it that. I needed something to remember it by, hence the acronym. But his CAR is missing something. A…


I interviewed Guy Kawasaki a while back about his book “Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions .” Guy has an excellent vision of creating fulfilling and meaningful work FOR employees. It’s called a MAP.


Give employees the right skills, abilities and time to gain complete dominion over their job. Allow people to go off the farm and continually learn about new things, new ways to do their job. This works, with one small caveat. The person has to be motivated and an auto-didact. Have the energy and gumption to teach themselves on their own time – and enjoy it.


Pretty much the same as Malcolm Gladwell.

You need the freedom to learn and the freedom to fail.

The freedom to pick yourself up after a disaster and move forward, without some nitpicking Napoleonic beaurocrat bugging you.

If you tell people where to go, but not how to get there, you’ll be amazed at the results. – General George S. Patton

But some people truly don’t like autonomy. They need structure to tell them what to do, how to do it and when to do it. This is the mindset of the past. It worked for the industrial age. But not for this meltdown of an economic job-shedding mess we’re in.

The future belongs to energetic autodidacts. Ones that need only be pointed in the right direction – and then they ask you not to block their way.

People that will create new processes, new businesses, new breakthroughs and ultimately new industries – if you only stay out of their way.


If you combine mastery of the job with autonomy, you’re doing pretty good. If you’re living that life, it’s a pretty good gig. But the missing ingredient, according to Guy, is purpose. Being a part of something bigger than yourself. Making a difference in the world.  A dedicated, fire-breathing believer in something that matters.

This, I think, is the hardest part. Particularly in these times. What if you have;

A job that sucks?

A job with low pay, no advancement possibilities, or toxic work environment?

A job that is ruled by sycophantic drones that only have their position because of nepotism?

And you’re treated like a mindless automaton or smart, but ultimately meaningless serf?

Whatever you are, be a good one. – Abraham Lincoln

That’s tough. But you can do it. Simply focus on doing the best you can at what you do while planning your escape from the soul-sucking situation.

I Don’t Want Employees

You don’t need employees these days. Relegate that serfdom term, employee, to the dustbin of mediocrity.

You need people who want to drive the CAR with their MAP to work passionately.

Partners in Purpose

These are not employees.

These are partners in purpose.

What could be better?


Flickr Photo courtesy of  H.Kopp Delaney License Some rights reserved

AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works

How to Create and Finish Anything

How to Create and Finish Anything


International bestselling author, screenwriter and renowned military historian Steven Pressfield  has a book called Do the Work.  It’s about how to create and finish anything. A business. A book. A song. A philanthropic venture.

Whatever point  you are at on your life’s journey –  take the time to read Do the Work.  It’s not work. It’s a joy. It’s not long. Takes about an hour to read – if you’re slow like me. It’s not dull, it’s brilliance, wrapped around hard-earned knowledge,  deep inside timeless wisdom.

I met Steven Pressfield in  2007 when I interviewed him for an article called How to Defeat Your Inner Deadbeat.Since then I’ve had the pleasure of doing a couple other articles with him; “Non Vi Sed Arte – Not by Strength, by Guile,” and “The Power of Resistance.” The breadth, depth, and clarity of Steven’s ideas and writing are unparalleled in today’s world. They don’t teach this stuff in school. I don’t think they can. Some things are just ineffable.


To that, Steven would say, “Bull-Shiitake,” and laugh when he said it. Then he’d say, “You can do it too – just DO THE WORK.” He’s one of the true renaissance writing geniuses of our times. Why do I say that?

I don’t.


Steven Pressfield has written or co-written 34 screenplays, and is the author of international bestsellers “The Legend of Bagger Vance” (also a movie),; “Gates of Fire, An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae,”; “Tide of War,” ; “The Afghan Campaign,”;“Virtues of War,”; “The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Creative Battles,” “Killing Rommel,”; “THE PROFESSION,”; “Do the Work”; The Warrior Ethos,”; and his latest book, “The Lion’s Gate,” which film rights were recently aquired by Basil Iwanyk, who backed ‘The Expendables.’


I first became aware of Steven – not from any of his famous books or movies – but because a writer friend of mine gave me his book War of Art.” Anyone that has ever met me knows, “art” is not the first word that comes to mind when describing my reading fare. Not the first word, but maybe right after the last word. However, my friend was dogging me out for always spouting off about what a great book should be – short, clear, emotionally powerful, life-changing – and he said “War of Art” was right up there with my all-time favorite, Viktor Frankl’s “Search for Meaning.”

I didn’t believe it. I only read the “War of Art” so I could refute, belittle, and humiliate my well-meaning, but almost-always-wrong, friend about the absurd deficiencies of the book in comparison to “The Search for Meaning.

I read “The War of Art.“  I was wrong. Completely. Utterly. Embarrassingly. It was just as good in a different kind of way.

The Search for Meaning was about finding a way to survive in any environment – even a death camp  – and how to find meaning in it.

The War of Art is about how to find a way to create in any environment – even a boring or bad one – and how to experience meaning while doing it.

Do the Work is a companion to The War of Art. A workbook. A shut up and do-it guide. It treads some of the same turf  as the War of Art. It fights the intractable, implacable, insidious foe of mankind  – Resistance. But it’s also an indispensable guide to winning at business or  life.



The lessons in Do the Work are not taught at any business school. Couldn’t be. This is  wisdom of the elders secret knowledge type of stuff passed on only by someone who has experienced it. Someone who has seen further, accomplished more, experienced more because they DID THE WORK.


Do the Work is a 1-2-3 type process of getting a project accomplished, a book completed, a business started. Music, science, business and writing all seem to follow a similar three act structure.

Musicians (which I don’t claim to be but hack around at it) have the Sonata form which consists of a statement, development and recapitulation.

Scientists use the hypothesis, inference and verification method.

Philosophers use hypothesis, anti-thesis, synthesis (Hegel’s dialectic).

Writers focus on three acts; the beginning, middle, and end.

Do the Work shows you DaVinci, the Vietnam Memorial and Facebook – in three acts.


What school or teacher would tell you …

  • To start before you’re ready?
  • To stay stupid?
  • To be stubborn?
  • To stay primitive?
  • To go on a research diet?
  • To swing for the seats?
  • That the problem is not you … the problem is the problem?

These gems are like master ideas. Once you get them, you never forget. But these ideas and lessons are necessary to get your work done. Any work. They’re also necessary because the creation of any great thing is born in chaos. Not ease.

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. – Steven Pressfield


When I was writing “The Greatest Words You’ve Never Heard: True Stories of Triumph,” and mentioned it to Steven he had the perfect comment to me … and it led to me actually finishing the book (you’ll have to read the intro to see what it was.) I thanked him in the intro of the book for his inspiration and help through the years. But, there’s one thing that he said, and I heard but didn’t hear. Didn’t understand it until I finished.

We must do our work for its own sake, not for fortune or attention or applause.

That’s hard. Really hard. But when you do that you will become the consumate pro. You will concentrate on making meaning … you won’t have to search for it.

So … how do you create and finish anything?

Work the DO

Do the WORK.



Robert McKee’s “Principle of Creative Limitation,” Stays Inside the Box

Robert McKee’s “Principle of Creative Limitation,” Stays Inside the Box

Out of the box thinking

How often have you heard that? It’s overused. Trite. Cliched. Boring.  It’s  been boring since the 90’s. A terrible trope.

What does it mean?

It’s supposed to connote creative thinking. To see things differently. Create new ideas and new ways to solve problems. And not be boring.


But it is boring.

It seems to apply to almost every problem people haven’t figured out. If you really had some out of the box thinking going on you’d never use the phrase, out of the box – at least not to anyone able to fog a mirror.

Here’s some thinking that comes from inside the box.

The Principle of Creative Thinking

I interviewed Robert McKee, the best-selling author of “STORY” and legendary guru of Hollywood storytelling, several years ago. Robert is is the most widely known and respected screenwriting lecturer in the world today. His STORY Seminar has been taught to over 55,000 screenwriters, filmmakers, TV writers, novelists, industry executives, actors, producers, directors, and playwrights. But, teaching is easy. Results are hard.  Robert McKee’s STORY and the stories delivered by his students have garnered;

  • 35 Academy Awards (165+ Nominations)
  • 170 + Emmy Awards (500 + Nominations)
  • 30 + WGA Awards (180 + Nominations)
  • 25 +DGA Award (50+ Nominations), Pulitzer Prizes & Whitbread Prizes

His former students’ accomplishments are unparalleled. Stories written, directed, or produced by students of Robert McKee include:

“Iron Man,” “Angels & Demons,” “WALL•E,” “Lord of the Rings I, II, III,” “A Beautiful Mind,” “Desperate Housewives”, “CSI, Law & Order,” “Cinderella Man”, “Gates of Fire” (novel), “The Daily Show,” Grey’s Anatomy,” “The Simpsons Movie,” “The DaVinci Code,” “Cars”,” Shrek.” “X-Men 3,” “Million Dollar Baby,” “Ratatouille”,”Finding Nemo,” “Paul Blart: Mall Cop,” “The Last Mimzy,” “Bobby,” “Quantum of Solace,” “The Color Purple,” “Crimson Tide,” “The Deer Hunter,” “The Elephant Man,” “ER,” “Forrest Gump,” “Gandhi,” “M*A*S*H,” “On Golden Pond,” “Saving Private Ryan,” “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves,” “Sleepless in Seattle,” “The X-Files,” “A Time to Kill,” “Toy Story I and II,” and more.

Robert McKee knows STORY.

He wrote the book.

But there is no STORY without creativity – and what he says about creativity is extraordinary. It’s his “Principle of Creative Limitation.” No out of the box thinking here. It’s  inside the box –  a smaller box. Makes it tougher.

The PowerPoint Box

In our interview, we were talking in the context of the B2B Complex Sale. Creatively telling your story, or your company’s story, in a large business sale (usually over $150,000) presentation – where PowerPoint is the box.

Excerpt: Robert McKee Interview

STEVE: Could you talk about “The Principle of Creative Limitation?”

ROBERT McKee (RM): It’s exactly the subject we’re talking about. The PowerPoint presentation is easy, that’s why people do it.

Creative limitation means instead of doing something the easy way, you do it the hard way. You take a method that is much more difficult to accomplish. As a result of your struggle as a “salesman” to accomplish the presentation in the form of a story, you are forcing yourself to be creative.

The more difficult you make it for yourself, the more brilliant the solutions you will have to come up with or you fail. And when you come up with brilliant creative solutions to the presentation, the results for the people, for the audience, are stunning.

RM: The principle of creative limitation forces you to do it the hard way. Story is more complicated than PowerPoint there is no question. You have to have a real talent for it.  And you have to do it really well, or you will look like a fool.

Steve: So… limit yourself.  Don’t go out of the box –  make the box smaller?

RM: Yes. That is why people avoid it because they;

  • Don’t have the talent
  • Don’t do the research
  • Don’t have the knowledge,
  • Don’t know how to present creative ideas in a living, breathing way.

Why is whistling not a Beethoven symphony? 

Because whistling is easy. 

A Beethoven symphony is hard.

But when you take on the challenge of writing a symphony, the creative solutions are amazing, overwhelming. Whistling is something you can do on the street. The more difficult the technique, the more brilliant the solution.

Another analogy, golf is harder than ping-pong. It’s not that ping-pong isn’t good, it’s a lot of fun, and at the highest levels, it’s wonderful. But ping-pongers are not Tiger Woods,


Because the golf swing is infinitely more difficult than hitting a ping-pong ball. Touch football is not tackle.

When you make things easy, the results are boring.

When you make things difficult the creative solutions, the concentration, the practice, and the work that has to go into it, forces you to be creative. The results are all the more stunning.

Excerpt Ends:

Do you want to be a whistler or a Beethoven? Challenge yourself.

Forget the box. If you are in a box, make it smaller. There you will find creativity.


For more information on STORY and the art of storytelling, visit the Robert McKee website Feature Flickr image courtesy of deichgnu -LicenseAttributionNoncommercialShare Alike Some rights reserved

I’m a Recovering Jerkaholic… Sorta

I’m a Recovering Jerkaholic… Sorta

I’m a jerk. And might even be a Jerkaholic. Least I’ve been told that by more than one person lately. Undeservedly so I believe.

Introspection Needed

But sometimes you need to do a little introspection – take a timeout – to see if what the prevaricating, blasphemous, smellfungus ninnyhammer all-foam no-beer mooncalves are calling you just might be true. Steve-and-Donkey-Hammocks5 Introspective Break Over

That’s long enough. Not interested in paralysis by analysis. They’re wrong. Completely. Mostly completely. Mostly. Okay, I might have been a little off base once when I gave out my Radio co-host’s personal cellphone number on the air – saying it was mine – and anyone that wanted to could call me at any time, 24 x 7. And happened to mention we had forty well-paying jobs available that they might get the inside track on by calling me as much, and as often, as possible – because we were looking for persistence and stick-to-it-iveness in job candidates.laughing_hard That’s not really jerkaholic material. That’s just a radio host trying to generate buzz.


I might have been a little jerky when a good friend asked me to watch his house for two weeks while he was out of the country on vacation with his wife and children. And I took that time to go into his house, take his size 12 expensive dress shoes and replaced them with identical ones … size 10 1/2.



Benny Hill Would Have Understood

Does no one remember Benny Hill? That was a Benny Hill moment. I commiserated and empathized with my friend for two weeks. He was sure he was dying of some circulatory disease that was painfully swelling his feet and causing him immense problems walking – and soon after that, working. So he had to take off work. And watching him walk? It was a Benny Hill of a Mona Lisa. What a hoot. All-time classic. He was quick as a corpse. Who would have ever believed that he’d take it so seriously? He got all psychosomatically sick.  I know this because he couldn’t work … until I told him what I’d done. What a psychosomatic man.

But he wasn’t upset at all. I know this because if he were, he would have said something and he hasn’t talked to me since.

A Moaning Lisa

And who would have ever believed his wife (Lisa, ironically enough) would’ve gone so ballistic on me?



Have you ever seen the show SNAPPED? The show that features women going ballistic against males they think deserve it? That was my buddy’s wife. Lisa. She stalked me. I had to get a restraining order against her. Was there any cause for that? Just because her husband couldn’t work and they couldn’t make their mortgage payments and had to sell their house? And truth be told, they didn’t really have to sell their house like they blamed me for. I hooked them up with a banker friend, and they worked some kind of deal out with their bank to just take the house back. Do you know how hard it is to sell a house in this market? But did I get any thanks for that? Noooo. So who’s the jerk there?

Project Recovering Jerkaholic

However, upon some honest introspection, I tentatively concluded there might be a nano-smidgen of almost imperceptible truth to the “jerk” allegations. I decided to speak with Guy Kawasaki on the Radio show to see if he could help me out.

A Jerk in Business & Life

“Some cause happiness wherever they go, others whenever they go.”

The first thing he recommended was trying to be more likable, because if my friends (ex-friends now) were telling me I was a jerk,  imagine what my business contacts be thinking? So …

Becoming More Likable

I told Guy I was hoping some of the info in his book “Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Actions” would help prevent me from going to Jerkaholic rehab. ‘Did he think he could help me?”


GUY KAWASAKI: If I can help YOU I need to charge more for my book!

STEVE: My friends often call me prickly – without the “ly.” They said they were considering a jerk intervention on me. They’re wrong of course. But say they weren’t, how could someone be less of a jerk and become more enchanting?

GUY: Let’s start off with the basics, assuming some people don’t know they have to be likable. You would think that would be obvious but based on the people I know, it isn’t. Some people actually criticize the beginning of my book saying that it starts off too basic, but you know what? If a majority of the people in the world were likable and trustworthy, would have skipped those first two chapters. It’s just not so. The start of likability is …

A Smile

You need to smile. This smile means you not only use your jaw but you use your eyes. The great smilers of the world have crow’s feet. Crow’s feet is good, Botox is out. You want to have crow’s feet because it adds that extra sparkle to your smile.

STEVE: I think I have that one nailed. But … I don’t really trust people so much that smile, I think they’re up to something. I’ll probably skip that step. The other thing is the eyes. All my friends say I have serial killer eyes. I don’t know where that comes from but…

Dress for a Tie

GUY: The second thing is you need to have the proper dress. You shouldn’t dress way above your audience because they might think you’re trying to put them down, you make more money or have better taste. You shouldn’t dress way under them because then they’ll think ‘this punk thinks he can wear a t-shirt and jeans when we’re in business attire because he has no respect for us.’ You should dress as peers; try to dress approximately the same as how they are dressed. Dress for a “tie.”

STEVE: See, I get this. But this is beginning to look like a challenge more for others than for me. People never dress for a tie with me. I’m a Kommando Kilt-Wearing King Kayser.  They should also try to walk a mile in my kilt every once in a while. They’d realize how utilitarian and classy a manly Kilt can be. If more people wore kilts I’d probably be recognized as the Dana Carvey of the business world.

Oddly, There was  dead air at this point … no idea why.

GUY: The third factor is the perfect handshake, and this is where I put in the 20 variables formula for the perfect handshake that came from the University of Manchester. So no tax dollars from the U.S. were wasted on that. The gist of it is firm handshake, cool, dry, smooth hands, make eye contact, use the smile with 2 muscles, about 2 seconds long, and not too close, not too far. Those are the keys.

STEVE: Got that one nailed too. I’m pretty good with the handshaking stuff.

GUY: The next thing I’d advise is to use the right words when speaking to people. Words are the facial expression of your mind. They communicate your attitude, personality and perspective.

Big Words Seldom Accomplish Big Deeds – Danish Proverb

Your words need to be short, sweet and swallowable. Common and unambiguous. The wrong words can immediately give the wrong impression.

STEVE: No problem. Whenever I talk to the prevaricating, blasphemous, smellfungus ninnyhammer all-foam no-beer mooncalfs that have been calling me a jerk … it’s short, sweet and palatably unswallowable.

Dead Air … Again?

GUY: A journey of a thousand miles requires at least ONE step.


Guy Kawasaki has a lot more to say about being likable and becoming “enchanting” in his new book.  Things like accepting others, projecting your passion and purpose, and creating win-win situations.

Let’s Make this World a Little Better, One Jerk at a Time

Now  … I’m a recovering jerkaholic work in progress. So if you see me out and about, and you’re not a prevaricating, blasphemous, smellfungus ninnyhammer all-foam no-beer mooncalf … strike up a conversation! Let’s chat! You’ll be participating  in “Project RECOVERING JERKAHOLIC” and making this world a little bit better … one jerk at a time.


How to Defeat Your Inner Deadbeat?

How to Defeat Your Inner Deadbeat?

Featuring an interview with Steven Pressfield, international bestselling author of The War of Art,” “Gates of Fire,” “Killing Rommel,” and “The Legend of Bagger Vance,” among many others.

In every person’s life, there is a still, small voice that tries to guide you to a wonderful calling − a destiny.

Your destiny.

A calling that you, and only you, were put on this earth to fulfill. Near silent, this voice is powerful enough to lift thoughts, dreams and visions to a higher ground. In ancient Rome, this inner voice was called “genius.” A tutelary inner-mentor to guide your aspirations forward − to be the best writer, politician, businessman, inventor, doctor, lawyer, painter, dancer, father, mother or whatever calling you were placed on this earth to fulfill.

Right or Wrong?

Each of you reading this right now has someplace you’d rather be; some job you’d rather have; something else you’d rather be doing. Your dreams and aspirations of bygone years are mingled with fond, longing memories of an unrealized life.

Right or wrong?


Hear it?

That small, still inner voice?

Sadly, for most people, this voice is muted, or completely silenced − sometimes for a lifetime. Silenced by an unyielding, implacable, despicable and evil, yes evil, force. Instead of listening to this inner voice and striving to achieve something great, you end up doing something totally different than you hoped or dreamed, or were put on this earth to do. How did it happen?


You drifted into boring and safe. That’s right. You drifted into doing something boring and safe that ensnares you. It sucks you in and imprints upon your consciousness the message that you’re too boring, lazy, incompetent, or incapable of reaching out for and capturing your dream. Boring becomes your life − not a dream but a dreary, monotonous, unending circle of boring. You take a boring job
, make some boring money, pay some boring bills, and boringly exist.

Boring is a Force.

But it’s not “THE FORCE.”  Yes, “THE FORCE” is what’s really holding you back. And what we’re talking about is the …

Inner Deadbeat Force

We all have it. It infects everyone.

Every time you start, or try to start, to listen and change your life for the better, this evil scourge kicks in. Your Inner Deadbeat. It manifests itself in many nefarious ways: Rationalization, procrastination, drugs, alcohol, depression, and despair. Any weaselly
way out works just fine for the Inner Deadbeat, as long as you remain mired and mucked-up in a life unfulfilled and unlived. The Inner Deadbeat fights, no holds barred, down and dirty, to win.

How to Win?

Are there ways to overcome this diabolically evil force? Are there ways to break on through to the other side − the better side?

To not only search for meaning in life, but experience a meaningful life?  Are there ways to battle resistance and win, in your life of business and business of life?


And an honorary citizen of Sparta and bestselling author of The War of Art:
Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, Steven Pressfield, will guide us to some of these answers. “The War of Art” has been hailed as …

“A vital gem … a kick in the ass.” – Esquire

Yes, The War of Art is hell. But Steven Pressfield is our Clausewitz who shows how you too can battle against The Four Horsemen of The Apologetic: sloth, inertia, rationalization and procrastination. Shakespeare, Rembrandt and Beethoven all are proof of what you can do with talent and General Pressfield.” – Frank Deford, Author and NPR Commentator

But First …

I’m a deadbeat.

A real doofy-doozy, ding-a-ling-dinger deadbeat.

You are too (probably, or have suspicions) if you’re reading an article titled “How to Defeat Your Inner Deadbeat.” But stick with me. We’re going to learn and have some fun.

Oh No … Not Him Too!

I have this great novel in me. I use the word “great” humbly, not pompously or arrogantly, but quite conservatively. It’s a bestseller for sure. Not the “Great American Novel” but the “Great Global Novel.”  Harry Potter potential all over it. Nothing will get in its way. NOTHING! Except …

May the Force Be With You … NOT

Every time I try to start writing, a force holds me back; an all-powerful force that kicks me back like a horrified donkey getting sucked up in an F-5 tornado. I’ve battled this force unsuccessfully for over a year now (okay maybe two or three years) and I’m losing ground fast. So, as any person with worldly ambitions and initiative would, I sought expert counsel and guidance. I went down to the …


… to meet with a couple of nattering nabobs of n’er do-wells (friends). Not much dining ever goes on at the Whiner Diner, just whining, drinking, and mostly non-visionary, rectal-polyp thinking.

My old “Shoot the Donkey” co-writer friend Donkey O’Tee was in town. He was finishing up his bestselling book tour for “Pompously Obfuscating on Purpose.”
Unfortunately, since I arrived later than normal, Donkey O’Tee was pretty much in his hooves (tipsy). I explained my problem. A terrible force was preventing me from writing my masterpiece. I asked Donkey O’Tee how he broke through the creative blocks (not to mention typing with hooves) to write his book? Though his speech was somewhat brayed (slurred), his only lucid suggestion was to “get in touch with my inner donkey.

In Touch With Your Inner Donkey?

Good advice. I thought about it. But no, it didn’t really apply. I’m pretty much always in touch with my inner donkey …. both of them.

I turned to my other friend at the table; a person known far and wide in the business world as the most exasperating, frustrating, obdurately obnoxious, perfidious perorating purveyor of corporate gobbledygook in known human history − and probably most unknown history too. He could unleash a tornadic swirl of immeasurably long and undecipherable words lasting upwards of five minutes without taking a breath, or making any sense whatsoever. Not even a minuscule pause, which, in my opinion, is always his most singular accomplishment, as I usually have no idea as to what he’s trying to say. He has the most impressive repertoire of corporate gobbledygook I’ve ever heard and uses every acronym known to mankind and possibly most extraterrestrials; a corporate gobbledygook automaton of epic proportions.  Because of this talent, I dubbed him  …

 “CAL 9000” (Corporate Automaton Linguist − with 9000 pre-programmed acronyms for release  upon the slightest provocation (such as breathing).

However, CAL 9000 should not ever be confused with HAL 9000 (Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer) of “2001 Space Odyssey” fame.

Hal had a personality.

I politely asked Cal 9000 how his new company was coming along. (He was recently named CEO and quickly thereafter Chairman of the Bored.)

“You mean my market-leading, universal, enterprise-content application tool with extensible, real-time, interactive, scalable, sorta seamless, multi-alphanumerical particularities supported by multi-colored platforms?”

Note to Reader: To translate the above corporate gobbledygook, please take a deep breath and visualize …typewriter-full
“Yes,” said I.

“Well, the market is a little slow right now. I’m repositioning our positioning to position our repositioning for future retro-strategic growth. But let’s get back to you. This force, this thing holding you back; it probably comes from your Inner Muse. It’s trying to alert you that what you’re trying to do is crap. You? Write a novel? HA HA HA! − Crap. The more powerful the force or resistance is, the more you ought to back off. Do something else. I mean when I bought this new company, there was absolutely no resistance − internal or external; I knew it. A deal made in heaven.”

“Thanks for the insight and non-support.”


“Let’s drink and increase our deep thinking,” said Cal 9000.

“No. I’m trying to accomplish something. Don’t try to get me inebriated. I have this vision. I need to bring it to life.”

“Well, if you’re going to be an ultra-ugly, gluteus maximus cranium about it, why don’t you find someone like you? Someone that’s been through some of the same experiences as you, but has actually accomplished something − unlike you. Ask the person how they did it.

Donkey O’Tee brayed assent.

“Yes. Find an ex taxicab driver, basketball player, truck driver, farm worker, bartender, oilfield worker, fruit picker, New York ad agency copywriter that had an epiphany when he was writing a dog food ad that in turn led him to be a novelist and screenwriter,” Cal 9000 said, in less than one second.

“That’s pretty close to me… not. The likelihood of there being a person alive such as that is about the same odds as Warren Buffet and Jimmy Buffet being related
. Or maybe Jerry Lee Lewis, Mickey Gilley and Jimmy Swaggert being cousins.

But – guess what? 

I was wrong. There was a person out there almost exactly like Cal 9000 described. And he was going to help us define, defeat, and

shootdonkey1out of our Inner Deadbeat.

The term “Shoot the Donkey” refers to a classic scene in the movie “Patton” (based upon a true event) where the Third Army convoy gets critically held up in battle on a bridge, by a cart-pulling donkey that has stopped and refuses to budge, totally blocking the bridge. Enemy aircraft is strafing the convoy. Life and death are at stake. An MP struggles with the donkey and the owner, trying to get them out of the way, but makes no headway.

The entire Third Army halts for this recalcitrant donkey.

General George Patton roars up, leaps out of his jeep, whips out his ivory-handled pistol, shoots the donkey, and immediately has it hurled off the bridge, removing the obstacle. That classic scene not only revealed Patton’s character in a cinematic way, but also embodies the great leadership principle of taking decisive action to remove all obstacles to fulfill one’s mission.

ENTER: Steven Pressfield

Steven Pressfield has been a New York City taxicab driver, truck driver, US Marine, oil-rig worker, bartender, fruit picker, and a $150-a-week copywriter for a New York City advertising agency, Benton & Bowles. One day while rewriting the “just-add-water” text for the back label of Gravy Train dog food, Mr. Pressfield asked himself, “Shouldn’t I be doing something a little more worthwhile?”  What followed? International bestselling books and screenplays.

Mr. Pressfield has written or co-written 34 screenplays, and is the author of international bestsellers “The Legend of Bagger Vance” (also a movie), “Gates of Fire,
An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae,” “Tide of War,” “The Afghan Campaign,” “Virtues of War” and “The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Creative Battles.”

Gates of Fire, An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae, has been included in the curriculum of the U.S. Military Academy and the U.S. Naval Academy and is on the Commandant’s Reading List for the Marine Corps.

In September 2003, the city of Sparta made Mr. Pressfield an honorary citizen.

Steve Kayser (Steven K): Welcome! Great to talk to you.

Steven Pressfield: Thank you.

Steve K: Great first name. Anyway, I’m looking for some help. In your book, the “War of Art,” you name “Resistance” (with a capital “R”) as a force, an implacable foe. Evil. Toxic.  It sounds like the same thing I’m struggling with right now, but I call it my Inner Deadbeat. I’m sure it’s the same thing. How do you define “Resistance?”

Steven: Just the way you described it above. Instead of “The Force Be With You” it’s “The Force Be Against You” anytime you try to achieve something positive. The self-sabotaging force we all seem to have. Resistance stops us from living our dreamed-of life. Resistance is particularly strong in creative and business people. The person that dreams of writing a great novel, starting a great business, losing weight or breaking away from corporate boredom to serve a greater cause, all struggle mightily with resistance.

Steve K: About the “novel writing” thing; I’ll want to follow up with you later (at the end of this interview). I have an idea on that. What are some examples of activities that bring out Resistance?

Steven:  How about a list in no particular order?

1) The pursuit of any calling in writing, painting, music, film, dance, or any creative art, however marginal or unconventional.

2) The launching of any entrepreneurial venture or enterprise, for profit or otherwise.

3) Any diet or health regimen.

4) Any program of spiritual advancement.

5) Any activity whose aim is tighter abdominals.

6) Any course or program designed to overcome an unwholesome habit or addiction.

7) Education of every kind.

8) Any act of political, moral, or ethical courage, including the decision to change for the better some unworthy pattern of thought or conduct in ourselves.

9) The undertaking of any enterprise or endeavor whose aim is to help others.

10) Any act that entails commitment of the heart. The decision to get married, to have a child, or to weather a rocky patch in a relationship.

11) The taking of any principled stand in the face of potential reprisal.

“Any act which disdains short-term gratification in favor of long-term growth, health or integrity. Any act that derives from our higher nature instead of our lower. Any act of these types will elicit Resistance.” –  – Steven Pressfield, War of Art

Steve K: How does Resistance operate?

Steven: Resistance is a liar. Resistance is relentless. Resistance is destructive. Resistance is creative. It finds ways − reasonable ways − for you to avoid doing the very thing you should be doing.

Steve K: How does it do that?

Steven: One way is rationalization. Coming up with all kind of reasons not to start. Waiting for your health to get better, the right moment, the right opportunity, the right partner, etc. This leads to procrastination. Procrastination serves its devious agenda. Rationalize and Procrastinate. They become bad habits.

Steve K: What are some of the ways Resistance manifests itself?

Steven: Remember I said it’s evil. Toxic. Protean − a shape shifter. It can manifest itself in many ways. Depression. Despair. Alcohol and drug abuse. Overeating or overindulging in any short-term pleasure at the expense of long-term positive growth.

Steve K: You have a rule of thumb …

The Resistance Rule of Thumb

“The more important a call or an action is to our soul’s evolution,  the more resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.

Steve K: How did you come up with that?

Steven: Life experience. Lots of it. For example, I was a screenwriter in LA when the idea for “The Legend of Bagger Vance” came to me. As a book, not a screenplay. Remember I was a screenwriter. But not just any book … a book about golf. My first novel. First novels usually take forever to get published and realize very little financial gain, if any. Not much chance of success there. Resistance fired up the fear engine.  But … the Muse grabbed me. So I did it.

Steven K: And …
it ended up being a bestseller, both commercially and critically acclaimed, and later made into a movie.

Steven: Yes.

“Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example. ” –  Pudd’nhead Wilson (1894)

Steve K: You state in your book that Resistance only strikes in one direction.

Steven: Yes. Down. Never up.

Steve K: Resistance wants you to take the low road? Example?

Steve: Yes. If you’re working to find a cure for a disease, or to eradicate poverty, and decide that you’d rather be driving a cab in Cincinnati, Resistance won’t stand in your way.

“Resistance only strikes in one direction … down.”

“Take the low road!” – Resistance

Steven K: How do you start to overcome resistance?

Steven: Facing death is one way.

Steven K: Uh …  I’ll pass on that one. But, what do you mean?

Steven: How about this example: a woman finds out she is going to die of cancer in six months. She quits her job immediately. She goes to a hospice (or – insert any life long dream here), and volunteers to help other dying people.  She’d always dreamed of helping others. Everyone thinks she’s crazy, friends and family alike. But she’s happier than she’s ever been. And P.S. …

Steve K: P.S. what?

Steven: Her cancer goes into remission.

“When we finally know we are dying, and all other sentient beings are dying with us, we start to have a burning, almost heartbreaking sense of the fragility and preciousness of each moment and each being, and from this can grow a deep, clear, limitless compassion for all beings.” – Sogyal Rinpoch

Remember Tom Laughlin? He starred in the movie “Billie Jack.” He now works with cancer patients. I heard him speak once, and he said (paraphrasing), The minute a person finds out they have cancer, everything changes. What was important seconds ago to them now no longer is. Everything changes.

When it happens, people think back to unrealized dreams. Think back on their unfulfilled dreams of being a musician, painter, farmer, or dancer. Maybe cancer is caused by not following your path − your dreams − what you should have, or should be doing.

“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.” – – M. Scott Peck

Steve K: How do you defeat resistance? Defeat this Inner Deadbeat? How do you start?

Steven: By starting. There’s no magic in the answer. But there’s magic in the start.

Wonderful things happen when you just do it. Mysterious things happen. Ideas pop up from nowhere. Happy accidents occur. People appear in your life at the very right time.

It’s a beautiful thing.

It’s like tapping into this vast collection of creative possibilities just waiting to be discovered. Those possibilities are already out there. Right now. Waiting for you, or someone like you, to discover them. 

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.  It is the source of all true art and science.” –  Albert Einstein

Steve: Just start? That’s it? That’s all there is to it?

Steven: Yes. But you have to be a professional. Not a weekend warrior. Do it as a profession, not an avocation. Not a weekend warrior. Have a hard hat, hard-head, lunch-pail mentality. Think like a professional. It’s an attitude shift. Show up for work every day. Rain, sleet, snow, sunshine. Then work every day. It doesn’t matter that you haven’t collected a check yet. Just keep at it. The money will come. But be prepared for adversity, failures, and criticism along the way. It will come too.

Steven K: Example?

Steven: The first screenplay I had made into a movie was “
King Kong Lives
.” I thought it was going to be a box office smash.

Steven K: And?

Steve: Variety magazine reviewed it like this, “We hope writers Steven Pressfield and Ronald Shusett are not their real names … for their parents’ sake.”  I learned from it. Don’t take it personal. Move on. 

“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” –  Sir Winston Churchill

Steven K: How do you do it? Write?

Steven: I put my boots on to write. I say a prayer and invoke the Muse, as the ancient Greeks did, humbly asking for aid to open up the creative channels. Then I just do it.

The hardest part is sitting down.

Let me say that again. The hardest part is sitting down.

I keep at it until I’m done for the day. It can be good … or bad. The main thing is to just do it

Steven K: Final thoughts?

Each person is destined to do something specific that only they can do. Follow your inner voice; just do it.

“Hide not your talents, they for use were made. What’s a sun-dial in the shade?”  – Benjamin Franklin

Steven: If you don’t, you’re not only hurting yourself, your hurting others by not helping enrich our world. By not sharing your gift. Do it and don’t quit no matter what. 

None of us will ever accomplish anything excellent or commanding except when he listens to this whisper which is heard by him alone.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Steve: “The War of Art” (also available in MP3) by Steven Pressfield, is a timeless classic. Eloquent, elegant, quick, slick, easy to read, transformatively easy to understand. I very rarely rave about a book, but this book is raveable.

One last thing, Steven, Let me run this book idea by you I mentioned earlier.


(funny thing about silence … it can be real quiet.)  

“Here begins homo ignoramus” – Immanuel Velikovsky – “Worlds in Collision”

Steve: My bestselling, “great global novel” concept. It’s about this tortured soul who finds redemption and meaning in a baskagolf tournament.


I’m sure the continuing silence indicates he’s impressed with the depth and breadth of my shallowness.)

Steve: Baskagolf. It’s a new game I invented. A combination of basketball and golf. (Hitting a little white ball doesn’t take much skill and really, it’s not very manly now is it?) I’ll admit, I may have slightly cribbed the title from you, it’s called … 


Steve: So what do you think?
Steve: Hey! Would a real Spartan do something like that?

“Although extraordinary valor was displayed by the entire corps of Spartans and Thespaians, yet bravest of all was declared the Spartan Dienekes. It is said that on the eve of battle, he was told by a native of Trachis that the Persian archers were so numerous that, when they fired their volleys, the mass of arrows blocked out the sun. Dienekes, however, undaunted by this prospect, remarked with a laugh, ‘Good. Then we’ll have our battle in the shade.'” – Herodotus Histories

Steve: Huh? What’s that sound? Uh-oh …