I recently finished reading ‘Do The Work‘ by Steven Pressfield. The book is, in a nutshell, encouragement to see your way through a project. To take on an enterprise and see it through to the bitter end. Pressfield uses the example of a novel because he’s an author, but it could apply to any kind of endeavor, creative or otherwise.
Some of my favorite quotes start right at the beginning:
“Don’t think. Act. We can always revise and revisit once we’ve acted. But we can accomplish nothing until we act.”
Even if we’re not sure of what we’re doing we should just take a ‘leap of faith’ and do it anyway. We can always go back and adjust later, but we can’t adjust anything until we actually do something. You can’t tweak a sales pitch if you never give one, you can’t adjust your fly ball if you never throw one, etc. Don’t overthink it, just go out and do it. Think about how you’re going to do it later.
“Get your idea down on paper. You can always tweak it later.”
To get our idea written down, we have to first look at the end result – what should this look like when all’s said and done. “Figure out where you want to go and work backward from there.” And to figure out where you want to go, you need to answer the question – ‘what is this idea about?‘ Once you know what it’s about, then you’ll know the end. But remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect right out of the gate, “you can always tweak it later.”
But as you move through your project, hard times inevitably come your way. When they do Pressfield has this advice:
“A professional does not take success or failure personally…That our project has crashed is not a reflection of our worth as human beings. It’s just a mistake.”
This strikes a chord with me because I always need to be reminded that I’m separate from my work. I am not ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ – it’s just a problem and problems can be solved. “It’s not us. We’re not worthless or evil or crazy. We’re just us, facing a problem. Work the problem.”
The final section of the book talks about ‘shipping’ your final product – sending it out into the world.
“When we ship, we’re exposed.”
You’re sending your hard work out into the world to be judged, to be criticized and critiqued. When we ship, we can be humiliated. We can fail. It is very hard to ship.
I’ve been sitting on my first novel, afraid of editing it, afraid of getting it one step closer to ‘shipping.’ Because I’m afraid of judgment; because I’m afraid I’ll fail. If I never try, I’ll never know, and I’ll always have that potential. I’ll always have the dream without the pain of reality.
But that’s not how you live. You have to ‘ship’ eventually. After all, then what was all the hard work for? If you’re just going to end up sitting on all your efforts, you might as well save everyone the time and not go there in the first place.
But, whaddya know, you do ‘go there’, and make a go of a thing. And people are there to support you and love you through it all. Yeah, you may kiss the dirt a few times along the way, but it’s really worth it when all’s said and done. Because even if things don’t turn out exactly as you planned, you still did something, and that’s more than a lot of people can say.
I thought the book was interesting. Like Pressfield’s other books in the same series, it’s short but meaty. There’s lots of content packed into less than a hundred pages – something you could probably read in a day. I recommend picking it up as a way to revitalize your current project, or before you start your next. Either way, it’s an excellent read.