The War of Art

One Sentence Summary:

  • The perfect book to help you get your head out of your ass, and then finally you off your ass to finally commit to pursuing that thing you know you should be doing but have chosen not to by making up all the self-deprecating and societal-blaming bull shit you feed yourself. 

Below are notes I've taken while reading the book. This is not a comprehensive summary but thoughts and ideas I've found valuable. I recommend reading these notes after you've read the book first to compare our thoughts. I can't stop you if you don't want to so I guess you can use the below as an idea of what you may get out of the book yourself if you read it... though if it ain't clear it's cause you didn't listen to me. 

Raw Notes:



The voice in your head stopping you from living the life you dream is "resistance." It's not easy to defeat resistance. If it was then there would be no need for alcohol, junk food, tobacco, drugs and even therapists. He refers to how Hitler was in Fine Arts school and Architecture school in Vienna but resistance beat him, hence: "it was easier for Hitler to start World War II than it was for him to face a blank square of canvas."

Most people realize resistance and face it after having faced death once. I think that is why there is tremendous importance in embracing death and actually accepting that fate of yours. Because only then can you clearly see the resistance blocking you from being the person you truly desire to be. 


Book One: Resistance. Defining the Enemy

"Resistance is always lying and always full of shit." -> All your bullshit excuses of inaction

"The more important a call or action is to our soul's evolution, the more Resistance we will feel towards pursuing it." -> Nothing worth having comes easy. So ask yourself "what is the thing you constantly dream of but never inch closer to pursuing?" That is probably what your priority should be. 

You have to fight resistance every day. It's a new battle today and a new one tomorrow. 

Resistance plays for keeps = Resistance wins when dreams remain just dreams. That is a life unfulfilled. 

Resistance feeds on fear so you must first learn to overcome it by defining the fear down to its first principles and realizing it is never a permanent negative impact. 

Resistance will be only triggered when we are looking to do that which is worthy of our time and will bring us genuine excitement. 

"Don't open that bag of wind." -> Odysseus was close to his homeland when the crew opened a bag of wind that shouldn't have been opened and it sent them years away from home. Resistance will be make a final assault when you think you are at the finish line so build systems to prepare for it and don't let up. It's like how you first overcome resistance to start a project and then you never end up finishing it because you got hit by resistance. 

"The best and only thing that one artist can do for another is to serve as an example and an inspiration." -> It's hard enough trying to fight personal resistance, you can' be thinking about playing hero to save everyone. The service you can do is act as the icon to inspire. 

"I'm going to start tomorrow." -> No. Fuck you, start now. 

"It's easier to get busted in the bedroom with the faculty chairman's wife than it is to finish that dissertation on the metaphysics of motley in the novellas of Joseph Conrad" -> Even forms of sex, and pleasures may not actually be love or lust but Resistance in action. That is why it feels so hollow for you. You'd rather do something completely stupid and damaging than do something that is good for you. 

"'Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?' chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death." -> I needed to hear this to fight all the self-doubt that's been brewing within myself. Thanks for the confidence. 

"The more scared we are of a work or calling , the more sure we can be that we have to do it."

"Resistance presents us with a series of plausible, rational justifications for why we shouldn't do our work" -> The reasons can actually be legitimate. Some may be forced rationalization, which may make it easier to laugh at and toss aside as an excuse. But a legitimate reason may make you pause and think harder about what you are about to do. However, that too doesn't mean shit. For if you continue to choose to be held down by a plausible and rational justification to not do something you will never be able to push past any boundary and resistance will ultimately win. You have to be willing to blow past rationalization. 

You can make all kinds of fucking excuses but people before you have done more with even more obstacles and resistance. Heck, women have been giving birth without the beauty of modern medtech for 50 million years. What bitchass reason of yours can withstand a woman shooting a person out of her with the risk of a painful death. 


Book 2: Combating Resistance. Turning Pro

"The amateur is a weekend warrior. The professional is there 7 days a week. The professional loves it so much he dedicates his life to it. He commits full-time." -> It's not just some hobby. To truly be passionate in something you have to love it so much that you show up to master it every day. Something you do on the weekends on the side just for fun with the fear that if you start earning money from doing it once you try to be pro at it means you're more afraid of finding out that which you thought you loved turns out not to have been as big a passion. Because if trying to earn money from it to do more of it makes you dislike it then you probably were mistaken about it in the first place.

You don't wait to work until inspiration hits you. You show up everyday to do your craft. Only when you consistently show up will inspiration attend your party. It's about showing up every day, showing up no matter what, staying committed for the long haul, having real stakes on the line, being compensated for your labor, you can laugh at what you do, you look to master the technique, and you get real world validation for the work you produce. It's about consistently staying committed to grow and work on your craft no matter what. You don't over-identify with it. You can complain and talk shit about the difficulty of achieving mastery. It's supposed to be a struggle.  

"So you're taking a few blows. That's the price for being in the arena and not on the sidelines." 

"The more you love your art/calling/enterprise, the more important its accomplishment is to the evolution of your soul, the more you will fear it and the more Resistance you will experience facing it." -> It's going to be so much harder than being a weekend warrior but the payoff for each accomplishment and win you get will be so much sweeter. No weekend warrior will be able to relate or experience that. 

There are no fear-less warriors. Just those who act in the face of it. 

"The field is level, the professional understands, only in heaven," -> There is no fair fight. Also, nothing will go according to plan. 

"The professional cannot take rejection personally because to do so reinforces Resistance." -> ugh, I know this but it's just so hard. 

"The professional self-validates." -> Focus on the process. That which you can control. Stick to the internal scorecard to measure constant growth. Don't get married to a feedback or result. They are just guides and single data points. Their only value is in helping you grow and learn. 

It's always better to be stomped in the arena than be looking onwards from the stands. Spectators are those who've given into resistance and have chosen to live off the superficial view of those living the life they desire. Sometimes those in the arena can play the role of inspiring spectators to join the arena. To do that, the artist must still focus on his own battles. 

"The professional learns to recognize envy-driven criticism and to take it for what it is: the supreme compliment. The critic hates most that which he would have done himself if he had had the guts." -> The critic is a gutless pro. They will always be unhappy someone is doing the things they were too afraid to do. 

Build a team. If you want to scale. 

Don't be afraid of continuous career changes for it's the required process to continuously reinvent yourself. It only means you are growing.

Be the corporation of yourself. It will help you become less subjective, take blows less personally but also be able to charge objectively like a business. Also, actually "being" the professional you intend to be is an essential mindset shift that can help you battle resistance. 

"We make up our mind to view ourselves as pros and we do it. Simple as that." 


Book 3: Beyond Resistance. The Higher Realm.

If you finish your craft. Great, quickly celebrate then get back to work. 

"This alone is denied to God: the power to undo the past." -> time.

"Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it. Begin it now." - W.H. Murray -> Seems boldness and  courage gone sour will look like foolishness in hindsight but gone well will seem as genius. 

Psychologist Tom Laughlin works with cancer patients and he discusses how people who find out they have terminal cancer immediately shift their focus from the "ego" that makes them do the things that don't actually mean much to them to their "self", the intrinsic motivators that are real. He then discusses how those who choose to go do the activities and pursuits that they've always wanted actually go through remissions at times as well. I think there is validity here. I do believe that cancer may have been created in the body not from bad luck but actually from living a life so miserable you've verbally said you felt like dying or constantly thought about it. I think constantly reinforcing that thought practically wired your body and brain to create cancer to allow you to die faster. Then once you realize this you go seek what you dreamed of doing. When you do this you love life and you want to live. You say this aloud and think it daily and this makes the brain tell the body to put the cancer into remission. Like this the mind and body are connected. I truly believe this. 

"We lose friends. But we find friends too, in places we never thought to look. And they're better friends, truer friends. And we're better and truer to them." -> You will outgrow your friends. You will naturally gravitate to others that have similar beliefs and values as yourself and be not afraid of it but actually seek it out. Make it a purposeful effort to surround yourself with a group that can support you in your growth, not keep you in the status quo or take you down the path you don't care for.

Focus on the intersection of passion and strengths. Only thing stopping you are the rules and stigma built up by the people before you and if they are majority they should be ignored. 

"If we were born to overthrow the order of ignorance and injustice of the world, it's our job to realize it and get down to business." -> Took me by surprise. It so closely resembled what I believe my mission in life to be. 

"We thrash around, flashing our badges of status (Hey, how do you like my Lincoln Navigator?) and wondering why nobody gives a shit." -> This kind of shit only works in small hierarchies. In the small groups that care. That's why people gravitate to niches. You find a small pond and try to be a big fish in that pond because it's too hard to play hierarchy in a massive scale. This also made me think about how the value of a "brand" is only relevant to a niche. Afterwards, it spreads to the rims around that niche. So if you want others to appreciate the career capital you've built, then you're better off showing it off to those who are part of your niche and understand the hierarchy you played in. For you'll both have similar ideas of the journey and effort and value of what you've earned. 

Think territorial. Not hierarchical. Find your niche. Find it by trusting on doing what you want. Do what excites and interests you. If it doesn't, it probably won't achieve the success you want. Let your limbic brain guide you and no need to rationalize it, it's all bullshit anyways. Just think of rationalizing how you'll break the rules and constraints set by people before you and around you. 

You turn something into a territory by putting in the work. Then the territory will give back to you with a place that sustains you. It's how I feel in conversations about career and learning, at the gym, analyzing businesses and people. 

Think of creating good art for the sake of creating good art. For creating good art you can actually be proud of. Not for it's financial gain or for ego that feeds from the external. It's like a parent raising a child. You don't give birth to one thinking about all the things it could do for you. 

"If I were the last person on earth, would I still do it? So, if you'd still pursue that activity, congratulations. You're doing it territorially." -> You have to get the sustenance from doing the act itself and not from the impression it makes on others. Intrinsic vs extrinsic. You know if your work is terriotorial instead of hierarchical if you would go to that place if you were freaked out. Would I show up to the gym even if I was the last person on earth? Yep.