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.
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?
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 …
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).
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 …
“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
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.
“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?
Steven: 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 …
“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 …