Someone close to me was recently taken to the emergency room with some pretty scary symptoms, and this person is someone who, except under the worst circumstances, would not voluntarily ask to be taken to the ER on a Sunday afternoon. I ended up spending most of the next couple days at the hospital with them, as they went through the usual tests to make sure that something terrible hadn’t happened, or that something worse wasn’t on the verge of happening.
While there, I had plenty of time to read. I love reading; there is rarely anything on television that can distract me like a good book can. Over the course of a couple of hours, I was able to read The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield, in its entirety. Reading this text is not a monumental feat; it is short and able to be read in one or two sittings pretty easily, which is one reason I believe you might be able to find it immediately valuable.
I’m not going to do a full review. The book is geared towards anyone who is a creator, in any sense of the word. Artists and writers immediately come to mind, but anyone who is using their skills to create a product can use this text to gain insight into their craft and how they can maximize it. Lawyers, salespeople, doctors. I believe it can be applied to anyone. The book is broken into three parts, and discusses how to overcome what Pressfield believes to be what holds most creators back from achieving their potential: resistance.
Simply put, resistance is anything that stands in our way of achieving what we are destined to become. It is a negative force, an aura or energy-field. It is sum total of every excuse, distraction, and interruption. Resistance is the reason you don’t achieve things you set out to do.
He talks about resistance from a practical, and spiritual point of view. It is a simple, thorough, and distilled book that really cuts deep. To be honest, this book is the reason I logged back into my blog and began posting again after I wrote my introduction back in November of 2016. I knew I had to overcome resistance and take control of something I said I wanted to create. I really can’t recommend enough taking a few hours and reading this book.
Now, this book helped motivate me to create again, but it also helped me with my day job. I’m in sales, and there was one section that truly turned my performance at work on its head. When Pressfield wrote about Territory Versus Hierarchy, a light bulb went on in my head.
My day job is where, at this point, almost all of my income comes from. It is from this income that I am building capital and working to increase my savings rate, and to begin investing in other areas to create passive income. The nice thing about sales is that I am able to have a direct influence over my income, to an extent. There are caps and commission structures that ultimately limit me to a degree, but I can make large swings in my income simply from maximizing my performance.
Pressfield talks about how most of us operate in a hierarchy. This is exemplified clearly in the sales profession; you are trying to sell more and rank higher than all of your peers. Smash the quota, win awards, and do it all with a smile that makes the whole thing look easy. The problem, according to the book, is that when you work or create within a hierarchy mindset, you are really doing the work to impress or outperform others, instead of doing the work for the sake of the work itself.
Instead, a shift towards operating within a territory brings a whole different mentality to art and work. Take this example from the text:
“What would Arnold Schwarzenegger do on a freaky day? He wouldn’t phone his buddies; he’d head for the gym. He wouldn’t care if the place was empty, if he didn’t say a word to a soul. He knows that working out, all by itself, is enough to bring him back to his center.”
See the difference? Arnold doesn’t work out for other people; he works out for the sake of his creation, for his bodybuilding. He doesn’t seek or need the approval from anyone about what he is doing with his exercise routine.
I could drone on and on about this one point towards the end of the book. I’m having one of my most productive and competitive months at work, and I completely attribute it to the fact that when I go to work, I am now putting myself into a territorial mindset. I do everything on purpose, and I do it for the sake of producing the best product and brand for myself that I can. I don’t set out to compete with my peers, but the quality I am producing is inherently competitive.
If you haven’t already read this book, and you are interested in maximizing your potential, I definitely recommend it. I’m going to close with the same question Pressfield asked that made me question how I was working every single day:
What’s your territory?