I attended Nathaniel Talbott’s talk titled Fear of Programming at acts_as_conference 2009 in Orlando a few weeks ago. Nathaniel’s talk was about how we may have good ideas for a product or project but for some reason we rationalize why we can’t do them. I think we all have this type of behavior in one aspect or another in our daily lives. We tend to procrastinate about fixing the roof, writing that article, or working on that software idea.
During the talk Nathaniel mentioned a book he recommended called War of Art by Steven Pressfield, which is about inspiration and getting beyond those things that stop us from doing the things we really want to accomplish. I picked up a copy of this book from a used book seller associated with Amazon. The book is an easy read at only 165 pages.
From the author’s web site, the book is described as:
What keeps so many of us from doing what we long to do? Why is there a naysayer within? How can we avoid the roadblocks of any creative endeavor—be it starting up a dream business venture, writing a novel, or painting a masterpiece?
Bestselling novelist Steven Pressfield identifies the enemy that every one of us must face, outlines a battle plan to conquer this internal foe, then pinpoints just how to achieve the greatest success.
The War of Art emphasizes the resolve needed to recognize and overcome the obstacles of ambition and then effectively shows how to reach the highest level of creative discipline. Think of it as tough love . . . for yourself.
The book is really made up of three mini-books:
- Book One – Resistance, Defining the Enemy
- Book Two – Combating Resistance, Turning Pro
- Book Three – Beyond Resistance, Higher Realm
The pages of the book are not always filled with text but sometimes very short paragraphs with powerful ideas. The subject or character of the book is a force referred to as Resistance and the book defines what it is, how to recognize it and finally how to deal with it. I can’t clearly define what resistance is here, that is up to the book to convey. I can say in my mind resistance is more than one force but actually many forces which consist of one or more of the follow:
- Procrastination – can be a result of resistance
- Rationalization – giving ourselves reasons why we can’t or won’t do something
- Too hard – we thrive on instant gratification. If we think something is too hard to do or will take too long, we reason why we can’t do it.
I am guilty of these things myself. I have had software product ideas in my head for years and always seem to reason why NOW is not the time to start them. I often feel this way and this book hit the nail on the head, as they say, and touched upon many points that felt like Steven wrote just for me. The book also points outs various things that happen in life as key things to think about that I may not have thought very much about until now or until it effected me or my family.
One of the most interesting points made in the book, is when someone is diagnosed with a disease such as cancer
The moment a person learns he’s got terminal cancer, a profound shift takes place in his psyche. At one stroke in the doctor’s office he becomes aware of what really matters to him. Things that sixty seconds earlier had seemed all-important suddenly appear meaningless, while people and concerns that he had till then dismissed at once take on supreme importance.
I think we often asks ourselves what we would do if we only had 3 months to live but we never really consider the answer because it is not happening to us. So why shouldn’t we actually treat every day like it is our last and do the things that are important to us, to live out the dreams we have?
One of my favorite motivators is Gary Vaynerchuk who runs Wine Library TV and is an entrepreneur who is constantly telling everyone to get out there and hustle and do the things you really love, quit that crappy job and do something you want to get up and do everyday. He is right, as is Steven. Checkout Gary’s talk from Future of Web Apps – Miami for a 13 minute sample of exactly what I am talking about.
I found this book to be full of answers to some of the questions I looked inside myself to find but never could quite understand enough to find an answer. I am not suggesting this book should be followed blindly without first thinking about the implications but more as an explanation of the behavior you may have exhibited over the years, yet could not explain. The term Resistance is used throughout the book and explains so many thing with regard to explaining the why.
Remember, Resistance does not have a single definition or a single trait but comes from may angles and takes many forms. It really comes down to what we are afraid of; whether it be rejection, fear of failure at a job or something other unknown.
As I read this book I kept getting a recurring image in my mind, the Nike logo with the slogan of “Just do it”. This book can easily be summed up in those three little words. So if there is an idea you have to start a business, software project of something else you have been putting off, there is never a better time then now.
This book was an incredible read for me, well beyond most books I read. I get tips and techniques from books but not the sort of life changing guidance I got from this book. I cannot recommend this book highly enough to anyone, go out and buy it now.
2009 will be a life changing year for me. I am going to make positive changes in my work and the things I am going to get out of it. Stay tuned and thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to read what I have to say.