How to Create Your Life's Work

The War of Art and Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield

Last week in The Denial of Death, we talked about how we often shirk away from living our greatest life out of some fear that it would expose us to some form of psychological destruction. It would rip us apart.

But even if we recognize that and want to try to create and do whatever kind of work is most authentic and fulfilling to us, we still get in our way.

So… how do we get out of our way? That’s what today’s episode is about. How do we find and do our life’s work? 

And while many books cover this issue, this is one of my favorites and one of the most often recommended by any creative or entrepreneur.

Technically, it’s two books. The War of Art and Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield. But they are so deeply intertwined that I really think they should be read as one.

So today, I’m going to share some of my best ideas from these two books on how you can get out of your way, find your calling, and create the work you were born to create.

As always, if you want to listen to the audio, subscribe to the Nat’s Notes podcast on YouTube, Spotify, Apple, Amazon, or anywhere else you listen to podcasts by searching “Nat’s Notes.”

This edition is sponsored by Readwise!

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Do you know you were meant for more?

“Late at night have you experienced a vision of the person you might become, the work you could accomplish, the realized being you were meant to be? Are you a writer who doesn't write, a painter who doesn't paint, an entrepreneur who never starts a venture? Then you know what Resistance is.”

Sometimes our closest friends and family subconsciously hold us back.

“Often couples or close friends, even entire families, will enter into tacit compacts whereby each individual pledges (unconsciously) to remain mired in the same slough in which she and all her cronies have become so comfortable. The highest treason a crab can commit is to make a leap for the rim of the bucket.”

We’re brainwashed to search for easy answers.

“We're doing exactly what TV commercials and pop materialist culture have been brainwashing us to do from birth. Instead of applying self-knowledge, self-discipline, delayed gratification and hard work, we simply consume a product.”

You already know what your calling is.

“If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), "Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?" chances are you are… Remember our rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”

Don’t wait for inspiration, summon it.

"I write only when inspiration strikes," he replied. "Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o'clock sharp."

Beware of shadow callings.

“Sometimes, when we're terrified of embracing our true calling, we'll pursue a shadow calling instead. That shadow career is a metaphor for our real career. Its shape is similar, its contours feel tantalizingly the same. But a shadow career entails no real risk. If we fail at a shadow career, the consequences are meaningless to us.”

Don’t let your ego get in the way.

“the amateur's self-inflation prevents him I from acting. He takes himself and the consequences of his actions so seriously that he paralyzes himself.”

What it means to turn pro.

“What happens when we turn pro is, we finally listen to that still, small voice inside our heads. At last we find the courage to identify the secret dream or love or bliss that we have known all along was our passion, our calling, our destiny.”

Thanks for reading and listening! As always, make sure to check out Nat’s Notes YouTube, Spotify, Apple, Amazon, or anywhere else you listen to podcasts by searching “Nat’s Notes.”

I’ll be back with another great book next week!