Esquire called it "a vital gem" and "a kick in the ass." Many entrepreneurs who've read it call it one of the most important books they've ever read. Steven Pressfield's 2002 book The War Of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles is a favorite among artists and writers, but its sage advice is just as applicable — even more so, perhaps — to entrepreneurs working to build their companies.
Any entrepreneur knows that building a business from the ground up is more art than science; more creativity and intuition than precision. Many also know the self-doubt and enormous sense of responsibility that so many founders feel.
In the book, Pressfield — who first found fame for his fiction novels, including The Legend of Bagger Vance — begins the book by defining "Resistance" (with a capital R throughout the book) as anything that keeps a person from pursuing a creative idea. In his case, the creative pursuit is writing. "It's not the writing part that's hard. What's hard is sitting down to write. What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance," he says. Resistance, he posits, is every internal thought and struggle standing in the way of greatness.
Throughout the book, Pressfield goes on to identify numerous types of Resistance, most of which are rooted in fear. He talks about internal obstacles (Why do we procrastinate on tasks that are so important? Why does something we love, like a business, sometimes make us feel like we hate it?) and then offers tactical advice for how to acknowledge, deal with, and overcome the "Resistance" standing in the way by moving on. His instantly-implementable ideas can help creators of all kinds push through even the most difficult roadblocks and come out on the other side more energized, more focused, and more confident.
Pressfield also talks about "the Muse" — that seemingly-divine entity credited with ideas that seem to appear out of thin air — and how to elicit more ideas, more often.
Perhaps the only fault of The War of Art is that it isn't long enough. Thankfully, Pressfield has followed it up with two equally-stirring "sequels" of sorts: Do The Work and Turning Pro. Fans of The War of Art will appreciate both follow-ups, which also offer tips for finding success in the face of Resistance.
Screenwriter Robert McKee, who penned the foreword for the book, perhaps sums up the power of this must-read book best: "As I closed The War of Art, I felt a surge of positive calm. I now know I can win the war. And if I can, so can you." Grab a copy, read it today, and re-read it often. The war is yours to win.
What's on your "must-read" list for entrepreneurs? Share in the comments.