The War of Art By Steven Pressfield [Book Summary & Outline]

What's the Difference Between the Books "The Art of War" and "The War of Art?"

While “The Art of War” is a 2,500-year-old Chinese treatise on military strategy, “The War of Art” is living author Steven Pressfield’s manual for overcoming procrastination or, as he calls it, “resistance”, in order to finish projects and achieve your creative & professional goals.

Struggling to get started on that project or endeavor? Does something seem to always get in the way?

Steven Pressfield, the author of “The War of Art,” shines a light on the various forms that resistance takes to prevent, stall, or stop our progress on anything meaningful. But he doesn’t leave us there.

He arms us with a solution to this problem and arms us with the tools to win the battle against resistance to finish what we started.

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What Is “The War of Art” About?

“The War of Art” reveals the many faces of resistance, unmasking the enemy of creativity for all to see and recognize in themselves. Pressfield then presents an effective plan to win the war against this villain within us so creators of all stripes can successfully overcome obstacles to achieve their meaningful goal. For the finale, Pressfield shows us how to stimulate our creativity to ward off future attacks by the evil one.

How Can Entrepreneurs Benefit From Reading “The War of Art”?

“The War of Art” is a useful guide for anyone struggling to make headway toward their goals such as starting a business, losing weight, writing a book, painting a picture, or running a marathon. As Robert McKee says in the foreword, “Resistance, that destructive force inside human nature, rises whenever we consider a tough, long-term course of action that might do for us or other something that’s actually good.”

“The War of Art” helps you identify what’s stopping you from making progress toward your goals. Then Pressfield provides a distinct path to follow to remove roadblocks and gives you an understanding of what causes these obstacles to develop. Having a clear mission in your day-to-day work is critical to manifesting the vision of the person you are meant to become.

Ultimately, Pressfield’s book is a necessary wakeup call and kick in the pants to get you moving on unfulfilled goals, incomplete projects, and stalled initiatives.

For entrepreneurs, strategic thinking of all kinds can be highly beneficial. If you’re interested in how you can apply other methods of high-level thinking, check out our review of “The Art of War”, a 2,500 year old Chinese military manual with surprising insights for modern business.

Who is Steven Pressfield, Author of “The War of Art”?

Steven Pressfield author of The War of Art

Steven Pressfield has experienced and overcome his share of struggles and resistance throughout his writing career. He wrote for 27 years before publishing his first book, “Legend of the Bagger Vance,” working at various jobs to pay the bills and even living out of the back of his car along the way.

Since then, Pressfield has written many books and screenplays, including historical fiction like “Gates of Fire,” required or recommended reading at institutions like West Point and the Joint Chiefs. Other titles he is known for include “Turning Pro,” “Do the Work,” and “Virtues of War.”

Pressfield so desires to help others overcome resistance, that he even offers a free course and other materials so people can learn from his experiences. As he says on his site, “We can’t control the level of talent we’ve been given. We have no control over the nature of our gift. We can control how hard and how smart we work.”

Speaking of our own innate natures and the way we work with ourselves and others, you might be interested in our review of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts” by Susan Cain. In “Quiet”, Cain discusses research and offers insight into how extroverts and introverts can better understand one another and work together in business and social settings.

Beyond the great advice offered by Pressfield on doing your own work, and in Quiet about working around others with complementary natures, you can also check our review of the classic “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie, about positively influencing people around you to help achieve your goals and theirs simultaneously.

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Winning the Battle Against Resistance and Ascending to Victory

As Pressfield states that, “Any act that rejects immediate gratification in favor of long-term growth, health, or integrity. Or any act that derives from our higher nature instead of our lower, will elicit Resistance.” And Resistance is the enemy we must overcome.

The book is divided into three sections discussing the enemy, a battle plan to defeat our opponent, and how to rise above this struggle in the long run by enlisting our allies.

Part 1: Resistance  Defining the Enemy

You can’t win a battle against an unknown adversary. So, Pressfield starts by clearly defining the enemy of our creative endeavors. He declares, “Resistance is the enemy within. It is an engine of destruction, programmed from the factory with one object only: to prevent us from doing our work.”

Pressfield goes on to give us a Rule of thumb “The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.” He says that Resistance is most likely to appear when “we seek to pursue a calling in the arts, launch a new business, or evolve to a higher station morally, ethically, or spiritually.”

Then Pressfield reminds us that the closer we get to completing a project, the fiercer the opposition because it “marshals one last assault and slams us with everything it’s got.” And that Resistance takes many different forms including self-sabotage, procrastination, alcoholism, addiction, illness, fear, and rationalization.

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Part 2: Combating Resistance  Turning Pro

Pressfield believes the best way to win the war against Resistance is to start managing your time like a professional. As he explains, “The amateur does not love the game enough. If he did, he would not pursue it as a sideline, distinct from his ‘real’ vocation. The professional loves it so much he dedicates his life to it. He commits full-time.”

He believes that the work is what is important and that you should give it all you’ve got.

Then, Pressfield goes on to define the characteristics of a pro as:

    1. Shows up every day.
    2. Shows up no matter what.
    3. Stays on the job all day.
    4. Is committed over the long haul.
    5. Knows the stakes are high and real.
    6. Accepts remuneration for their labor.
    7. Don’t overidentify with their jobs.
    8. Master the technique of their jobs.
    9. Has a sense of humor about their jobs.
    10. Receive praise or blame in the real world.

By contrast, Amateurs are the direct opposite of Pros.

Pressfield discusses all of these attributes throughout the second section to provide us with sufficient clarity around each concept.
Then he reminds us that the more you love what you are doing, the more important its accomplishment becomes, and the more you will fear it, causing you to face even more Resistance.

He points out that one way that becoming a ‘pro’ helps in the battle against resistance is working for money. This produces the proper professional attitude that makes you show up for work every day, regardless of how you feel, because it is your main focus.

He suggests, in the chapter titled “You, In.,” that “Making yourself a corporation reinforces the idea of professionalism because it separates the artist-doing-his-work from the will-and-consciousness-running-the-show.” And that becoming a pro is an effective way to win the battle against Resistance because we increase our focus on the work at hand, making us less easily distracted.

Finally, Pressfield indicates that being a professional is a state of mind when he states that all it takes to turn pro is to, “make up our mind to view ourselves as pros. Simple as that.”

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Part 3: Beyond Resistance  The Higher Realm

Pressfield refers to resistance as a battle between the self and the ego. He believes that calling on a higher power to intervene as we engage in our creative endeavors gives us reinforcements against resistance.

Although he refers to the muses from Greek mythology, to God, and to angels or allies, he says that we should think of whatever higher power we are comfortable with. He explains that “The point is that there are forces we can call our allies. As Resistance works to keep us from becoming who we were born to be, equal and opposite powers are counter-poised against it. These are our allies.”

Pressfield talks about the importance of simply sitting down to work and making the effort is the important part. He proposes that this enlists unseen forces in our cause and that “When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete.”

He reminds us that our mind doesn’t stop working after we have finished our workday and left our desk. Your brain keeps working to solve problems and deliver creative ideas even when you are relaxing or taking a walk because your head is clear. He states, “Clearly some intelligence is at work, independent of our conscious mind and yet in alliance with it, processing our material for us and alongside us.”

At the end of “The War of Art,” Pressfield reminds us that acting is essential if we are to accomplish our purpose or goals. Otherwise, we hurt ourself and everyone else if you don’t do it. He explains, “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.”

Unmask the Enemy and Start Accomplishing More Now

“The War of Art” clearly reveals Resistance by showing us all the forms this enemy takes. It is only then that you can recognize it and overcome the roadblocks it throws in your path as you set out to accomplish a lofty endeavor.

Pressfield arms us with the tools to win the war against Resistance by turning pro. Taking your goals and future enterprises seriously, then making a focused effort to advance toward their accomplishment is the only way.

If you are struggling to overcome obstacles, you are likely dealing with Resistance. “The War of Art” is a kick in the pants to get you to take action and the antidote to your Resistance challenges that will get you unstuck, moving forward, and advancing to your desired destination.

You can find out more about the book and read other reviews, or purchase your own copy on Amazon, or listen on Audible.

Did you enjoy this book review? Make sure to check out the full list of 44 Best Business Books for Entrepreneurs, Startups & Small Business.

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A special high five to Margot Howard for her outstanding research and contributions to this article. We love working with and supporting like-minded entrepreneurs who are passionate about business success strategies. Thank you Margot! ❤️

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