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Quick Overview

Who should read it: Anyone who wants to do anything interesting and difficult.

The main idea: Whenever you reject immediate gratification to do something that will result in long-term growth, you will be met with a force called Resistance. Resistance will do anything it can to stop you from moving forward. To defeat Resistance, you must mentally become a professional of your craft.

Favorite Quotes:

  1. “We fear discovering that we are more than we think we are. More than our parents/children/teachers think we are. We fear that we actually possess the talent that our still, small voice tells us.”
  2. “Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.”
  3. “I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at 9am sharp.”
  4. “The amateur believes he must first overcome his fear; then he can do his work. The professional knows that fear can never be overcome. He knows there is no such thing as a fearless warrior or a dread-free artist.”
  5. Tomorrow morning the critic will be gone, but the writer will still be there facing the blank page.

What is Resistance?

One of Pressfield’s central premises is that writing is actually not that hard. It’s sitting down to write that’s hard. What stops us from sitting down to write is Resistance. Resistance is so evil because it traps us into being less than we were born to be.

According to Pressfield, Resistance comes up with any act that rejects immediate gratification in favor of long-term growth. That means writing, working out, not eating junk food, meditating, not checking your phone, and pretty much everything else you want to do but don’t actually do.

Let’s look at an example of how Resistance works. You’re supposed to write an essay over the weekend. In theory, you really want to write it and are looking forward to it. But when the weekend comes around, you spend your time rewatching a TV show you’ve already seen 11 times. That’s Resistance. You probably didn’t watch TV because you just love it so much. Resistance repelled you from your work toward TV, which was the easiest alternative.

This Resistance comes only from you — not your family, society, the “elite,” the President, or anyone else.

The thing is, as Pressfield so eloquently puts it, “Resistance is always lying and always full of shit.”

Have you ever genuinely regretted a workout? Writing an essay? Reading a book? Probably not, right? You know this to be true, but when the moment comes, you opt to do things you do frequently regret, like binging on food or TV. Why? Because Resistance repels us from our higher callings and keeps us trapped in lower domains.

The most diabolical part is, the more important something is to our evolution, the more Resistance we’ll feel. That gives us a useful heuristic: whatever you really don’t want to do is the thing you must do.

I’ll leave with this:

Resistance aims to kill. Its target is the epicenter of our being: our genius, our soul, the unique and priceless gift we were put on earth to give and that no one else has but us.

How Does Resistance Manifest?

The key sign of Resistance is a feeling of emptiness after doing something you thought you wanted to do. It’s the feeling of overeating, drinking, or shopping, and then wondering why you did it immediately after.

As a result of this dissonance, you’re in a constant state of “low-grade misery.”

You’re always bored, restless, or unsatisfied and you’re not sure why. This misery drives you to commit the cardinal sin: criticizing other people. As Pressfield says:

If you find yourself criticizing other people, you’re probably doing it out of Resistance. When we see others beginning to love their authentic selves, it drives us crazy if we have not lived out our own.

The critic hates most that which he would have done himself if he had the guts.

Resistance also attacks from the opposite side — irrational confidence. Someone who walks into the room and tells you they’re going to build a billion dollar business in the next six months? Amateur. The professional tells you it’ll be a 10+ year journey that may or may not work. Jeff Bezos gave Amazon a 30% chance of succeeding! Setting these unrealistic expectations gives you an easy out. If it doesn’t work right away, you can just quit. That’s what Resistance wants.

Every Sunday night in high school when I decided I was going to start sleeping early, going to the gym before school, stop watching TV, not check my phone while doing homework, start meditating, stop eating cookies, and start reading again? Resistance.

I would maybe do it all for a day, and inevitably crash. Resistance knew I couldn’t sustain that level of intensity with no build-up. It knew I’d crash, and I did. Had I chosen two of those tasks, worked on them for a few months, and then chosen two more, I’d probably be doing all of those things right now. But I was over ambitious and unrealistic, so I still sleep late.

How to Beat Resistance

It’s always simple, but it’s never easy. Just go do it.

Overcoming Resistance doesn’t necessarily entail creating a masterpiece. It just requires doing something.

How many pages have I produced? I don’t care. Are they any good? I don’t even think about it. All that matters is I’ve put in my time and hit it with all I’ve got. All that counts is that, for this day, for this session, I have overcome Resistance.

In reality, you beat Resistance by doing that which isn’t easy and what scares you.

You do this by becoming a professional. Here’s how Pressfield characterizes professionals:

  • We show up every day
  • We show up no matter what
  • We stay on the job all day
  • We are committed over the long haul
  • The stakes for us are high and real
  • We accept remuneration for our labor
  • We do not over-identify with our jobs
  • We master the technique of our jobs
  • We have a sense of humor about our jobs
  • We receive praise or blame in the real world

Further, being a professional doesn’t require a big commercial success. It requires at least one real failure. You don’t need a book deal to be a professional writer, but you do need to get rejected by a publisher.

Once you’ve failed, you’re in the arena. That’s when the fun starts.

To sum it up:

“I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at 9am sharp.”

Interesting quotes I couldn’t work into a narrative

  • We don’t just put off our lives today; we put them off till our deathbed.
  • Never forget: This very moment, we can change our lives.
  • Editors are not the enemy; critics are not the enemy. Resistance is the enemy. The battle is inside our own heads.
  • Tomorrow morning the critic will be gone, but the writer will still be there facing the blank page.
  • Eternity is in love with the creations of time. – William Blake
  • Again, they’re (dreams) common as dirt. So is the sunrise. That doesn’t make it any less a miracle.
  • For the artist to define himself hierarchically is fatal.
    • When the numbers get too big, the thing breaks down. A pecking order can only hold so many chickens.
  • When the hack sits down to work, he doesn’t ask himself what’s in his own heart. He asks what the market is looking for

Sound Interesting? Check the book out on Amazon.