Do the Work: An Important Message for Labor Day

"You are the knight. Resistance is the dragon."

Posted Sep 02, 2012

As a career counselor/coach I listen to your ideas and dreams about the future. You have a project you long to do. It’s a screenplay, a book, or a song you want to write. You have an idea for a new invention or a new business you want to start. It’s that new job, diet or marathon training you keep thinking about. It’s that class you’d like to take or the commitment to something or someone important you’d like to make.

Doing any of these activities will likely enrich and enhance your life. And that’s probably why you’re not doing them.

You’ll tell me about self-doubt, procrastination, fear, perfectionism, a lack of support from family or friends, and even how rational thinking stops you from going forward. But Steven Pressfield, in his marvelous book/manifesto Do The Work: Overcome Resistance and Get Out of Your Own Way, will drive a stake through all of that and tell you it’s simply Resistance. With a capital “R.”

Following a powerful call-to-action foreword written by Seth Godin, Pressfield opens his book with the line:

“On the field of the Self stands a knight and a dragon. You are the knight. Resistance is the dragon.”

The battle has begun.

This quick-reading and witty guide moves along like some kind of weird kick-butt poetry that incrementally breaks down your barriers and builds momentum until you suddenly realize he has grabbed you by the throat, daring you not to do something-- anything-- with your dreams.

Pressfield has all kinds of descriptions of Resistance: invisible, insidious, infallible, universal and impersonal.

Noting that Resistance is also indifferent he writes,  “Though it feels malevolent, Resistance in fact operates with the indifference of rain.” Ponder that for a moment. The indifference of rain. Resistance really doesn’t care if you don’t get anything done. Do you?

Resistance, he writes, never sleeps, and it will tell you anything to keep you from your work. And Pressfield is quick to point out that “the more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.”

What works to combat Resistance? Pressfield offers a lot of contrarian advice that works. Here’s just a small sampling:

  1. Stay stupid. Many of us spend too much time researching an issue, seeking input from others, all to the detriment of actually doing what needs to be done. We can always justify searching for more information.
  2. Trust the soup. The “soup” refers to the mystery, the unknown.
  3. Start Before You’re Ready.

And his book contains a promise, “Slay the dragon once and he will never have power over you again.”

“Do the Work” will help you move forward on whatever path you choose. Part coach, kind mentor, and disciplinarian, Pressfield promises, “Where butts need to be kicked, we shall kick them. Where kinder, gentler methods are called for, we’ll get out the kid gloves.”


Take a moment and think about that idea, project or ambition you have.

Picture yourself immersed in it--- actually doing it.

Picture yourself having achieved it.

What does your life look like?

How do you feel? How do you look?

Now Do the Work.

 ©2012 Katharine Brooks. All rights reserved. Find me on Facebook and Twitter.