Born in the late 19th century in Austria, there was a man who dreamed of being a professional artist, often working on paintings. To make this dream a reality, he applied to the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna in both 1907 and 1908. He failed, twice.
Persistently, he spent the next six years trying to make a living through his art by selling paintings and postcards. He eventually gave up this project and joined the forces for World War I in 1914. Throughout the war, he continued with this passion and spent his hours of free time drawing and painting.
To no avail, he never made it as an artist. He was rejected twice from art school. He couldn’t earn a living through his art. Professionals considered his artistic future to be hopeless.
Later, he changed his path to politics and eventually started one of the largest and most destructive political movements in the history of mankind.
This man was Adolf Hitler.
Steven Pressfield tells Hitler’s artistic story in his groundbreaking book, The War of Art. In it, Pressfield calls out the evil force that limits our beliefs, the heartwrenching power that forces us to fall short on our aspirations, a spirit not unlike the devil itself: Resistance.
Resistance (with a capital “R”) gets in the way of just about anything you strive to do that will improve you or the world around you. Starting a workout. Writing a blog. Making a cold call. Showing up to volunteer. Getting down on one knee to propose.
It’s that pit in your stomach that makes you scared. That voice that says “maybe you should get a snack instead. Or take a nap. Or just take the whole damn day off.” The voice that tells you you’re not meant to be an entrepreneur, an artist, a marathoner, in love.
How destructive is Resistance?
“It was easier”, as Pressfield points out, “for Hitler to start World War II than to stare at a blank canvas.”
Resistance is deadly, but it can b defeated,
“It is one thing to study war and another to live the warrior’s life.”
– Telamon of Arcadia
Resistance is an enemy within. It’s all in our head. The bright side of that means that we have the power to defeat it.
And what do most of us do in the face of Resistance? Procrastinate.
As soon as we sit down to write, we think “Well, I can’t write now. My room is a mess. And I need to do laundry. And go to the grocery store.” Hours later, not a word has been written.
That happens to me almost every week.
Fight the urge to procrastinate because if procrastination becomes a habit, you end up pushing your whole life until “someday”.
That may seem like an over-exaggeration. It’s not.
While artistic endeavors can be seen as more lighthearted journeys, Pressfield, a former Marine, compares them to war: “The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day.”
Every day the warrior gets up and, like it or not, gets to work. He does whatever duties he’s responsible for. Some days are better than others but you can bet your house that the warrior will show up day after day.
The artist (or saleswoman or weightlifter) does the same.
Each day, she fights the urge to stay in bed for an extra hour. She doesn’t just think about it. She gets up and writes. One word at a time.
“If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.”
– Steven Pressfield
Resistance doesn’t discriminate.
It doesn’t give a shit your age, race, gender or economic status.
It’s an equal employer and hasn’t taken a vacation in centuries.
It’s a force that should be respected and not underestimated.
But you can defeat it.
All you have to do is pick up that paintbrush.
Pick up the phone to call that customer.
Lean into the significant other on the other side of the bed.
Live the warrior’s life and you will defeat Resistance, one day at a time.