Do the Work is a 2011 book written by Steven Pressfield about productivity, procrastination, and getting things done. It is a follow-up to his much more well-known book titled The War of Art. Like The Obstacle is the Way, this book is largely about re-contextualizing everyday challenges.
Do the Work begins with a quote which sets the fluid and poetic tone which is carried throughout:
"On the field of the Self stand a knight and a dragon. You are the knight. Resistance is the dragon."
Resistance is something that we all face. In many cases, the more important a task is, the more staunchly we resist the completion of that task. Projects started and never completed, commitments begun but never fulfilled, and so on. Although the title of this book is starkly simple, its content is imaginatively described.
Our own reluctance to follow through is described as resistance, and takes the form of procrastination, uncertainty, and a fleeting sense of priority. In no way is this resistance to be taken lightly or underestimated, as Pressfield clearly and repeatedly states that "resistance's goal is not to wound or disable. Resistance aims to kill."
Slay the Dragon in 109 Pages
The knight and dragon metaphor used throughout the book is about going directly through the obstacle that prevents you from completing any given task. It is the no-nonsense "get it done" mentality that underpins the colorful anecdotes that this book is composed of. This interesting combination of simple action-based instruction and vivid imagery is easy and fun to read, which makes this 109-page book fly by in a single sitting.
"Start before you’re ready. Good things happen when we start before we’re ready. For one thing, we show huevos. Our blood heats up. Courage begets more courage. The gods, witnessing our boldness, look on in approval."
"If you’re writing a movie, solve the climax first. If you’re opening a restaurant, begin with the experience you want the diner to have when she walks in and enjoys a meal."
"Resistance is not the towering, all-powerful monster before whom we are compelled to quake in terror. Resistance is more like the pain-in-the-ass schoolteacher who won’t let us climb that tree in the playground. But the urge to climb came first. That urge is love."
"Navy SEAL training puts its candidates through probably the most intense physical ordeal in the U.S. military. The reason is they’re trying to break you. SEAL trainers want to see if the candidate will crack. Better that the aspiring warrior fails here—at Coronado Island in San Diego—than someplace where a real wartime mission and real lives are at stake."
"When we experience panic, it means that we’re about to cross a threshold. We’re poised on the doorstep of a higher plane."
The forethought and mindset required to effectively complete the tasks that you commit yourself to is invaluable. At just over one hundred pages, it's hard not to recommend this book because the energy investment that it asks is low while the potential bounty is enormous. I enjoy Steven Pressfield's no-nonsense writing style and found this book to be more impactful than I thought it would be. I think it's likely that I'll read this again when I'm mired in the trenches of some major challenge.
Amazon link: Do the Work