Updated on 05.21.11

Review: Do the Work

Trent Hamm

Every Sunday, The Simple Dollar reviews a personal finance or other book of interest. Also available is a complete list of the hundreds of book reviews that have appeared on The Simple Dollar over the years.

A while back, I reviewed Steven Pressfield’s wonderful book The War of Art. In it, Pressfield discussed not only the challenge of creating something new, but the challenge inherent in earning money from it.

The core of Pressfield’s argument is that earning money isn’t a matter of simply having a great idea. You have to add work to the equation – and, often, it’s a lot of work that needs to be added.

That’s the idea behind this short book by Pressfield, one which I quite enjoyed. You only succeed at what you want to do if you actually buckle down and do the work. Thinking about it isn’t enough. “Positive thinking” about it isn’t enough. You have to do the work if you want success.

The book is filled with a lot of great ideas, but they’re delivered in very short bites. This is a book that’s wonderful to pick up and dip your toe in if you’d like (or dive in quite deep), but it’s not a good one to discuss in a chapter-by-chapter form (because it’s not in a chapter form). Instead, I just pulled out a few pieces from the book that I found particularly thought provoking.

The three dumbest guys I can think of: Charles Lindbergh, Steve Jobs, Winston Churchill. Why? Because any smart person who understood how impossibly arduous were the tasks they had set themselves would have pulled the plug before he even began.

Most tasks that we have before us in our lives seem almost overwhelming. Dig out from under a mountain of debt? Write a novel, revise it, and get someone to publish it? Launch your own business? Rise to the top of the hierarchy at work?

We’ve all got big mountains to climb in our lives, and it’s often very easy to just say they’re impossible and that we’ll never climb them. They’re not impossible, though. One only has to search for a little bit to see that it is possible to climb that mountain. Someone is the boss. Someone has published a novel. Someone has reached debt freedom.

You’re next – if you’re willing to work.

Don’t prepare. Begin. Remember, our enemy is not lack of preparation; it’s not the difficulty of the project or the state of the marketplace or the emptiness of our bank account. The enemy is Resistance. The enemy is our chattering brain, which, if we give it so much as a nanosecond, will start producing excuses, alibis, transparent self-justifications, and a million reasons why we can’t/shouldn’t/won’t do what we know we need to do. Start before you’re ready.

It’s incredibly easy to give into resistance whenever we meet it. It’s much easier to do nothing. It’s much easier to criticize the works of others than to produce your own. It’s much easier to pass the work off to someone else.

It’s hard to accomplish that thing you’re facing. It’s hard to produce your own thing. It’s hard to simply do the work yourself.

Yet, who’s rewarded in the end? The critics or the doers? The people who do nothing or the people who accomplish something? The people who take on the task or the people who look for a way to pass it on?

Stephen King has confessed that he works every day. Fourth of July, his birthday, Christmas. […] How much time can you spare every day? For that interval, close the door and – short of a family emergency or the outbreak of World War III – don’t let ANYBODY in. Keep working. Keep working. Keep working.

I have a novel in my head. I have a piano piece I need to learn. It’s so easy to put them off.

Instead, I think I’ll just shut the door for an hour each day and see if I can make these things happen.

When we ship, we’re exposed. That’s why we’re so afraid of it. When we ship, we’ll be judged. The real world will pronounce upon our work and upon us. When we ship, we can fail. When we ship, we can be humiliated.

The single scariest thing about starting The Simple Dollar was the criticism. It can be very hard to hear the negative statements of others.

Over time, I’ve learned that you only get those negative statements if you’re doing something of worth. Negative statements either come from people who genuinely care enough about your work to contact you or from people who are jealous enough of your work (or insecure enough in their own work, having little or nothing to do with you) to waste their energy firing at you instead of making their own dreams come true.

Embrace the criticism. Don’t use it as an excuse not to do whatever it is you dream of doing.

Is Do the Work Worth Reading?
If you’re having a hard time getting started on that big thing you’re wanting to accomplish, Do the Work is like putting gasoline on the bonfire and handing you a match. It’s pure “get out and do it” motivation with a lot of strong ideas mixed in there for getting it started.

The core truth of this book is very simple, though. You can’t succeed at anything if you don’t do the work, and there’s no better time than right now to get started.

Check out additional reviews and notes of Do the Work on Amazon.com.

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  1. deRuiter says:

    “The three dumbest guys I can think of: Charles Lindbergh, Steve Jobs, Winston Churchill. Why? Because any smart person who understood how impossibly arduous were the tasks they had set themselves would have pulled the plug before he even began.” No, Lindbergh and Churchill were brilliant, BRAVE men who courageously faced obstacles which were enormous. So did all the soldiers who fought, on both sides, in World War II. They were all amazing men, and some women, who faced death, enormous odds, and fought for what they knew was right. Pressfield calls them “dumb” because he is a product of our feminized society which turns a blind eye to danger which threatens us and thinks that by “dialog” we can keep people from killing us. Freedom has been bought for us in the blood of soldiers, warriors, not by Liberals or feminists. Dithering around about a “peace process” for tiny Israel with its handful of Jews when Israel is surrounded by a huge majority of Muslims whose only plan is to anihilate Israel and kill every Jew in the world is a characteristic of a feminized society. The Muslim society, by the way, is a masculine society. Sympathizing with the perpetrator of a savage crime is another sign of our feminized culture, worrying “why” he murdered, raped, tortured innocents, while losing sight of the victims, that is a sign of our feminized society. Steve Jobs, he is not in the same league as Lindbergh and Churchill. Steve Jobs is creative, a visionary, a hard worker, but there was is no bravery involved in a computer company. The Facebook Crew, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mr. Dell, smart men, visionaries perhaps, but brave, no, not brave like soldiers, not like Churchill, not like Lindbergh.

  2. getagrip says:

    You can read the whole “book” via the link to Amazon.

    The idea in the book of being “stupid” is that you aren’t thinking, analyizing to the Nth degree, trying to scope out every angle before you begin. His recommendation is start, get rolling, get doing, and things will open up for you as you’re moving forward.

    Don’t know that I’d call it being “stupid” or that I completely agree with that idea but that’s the point I took from what he said. I’ve seen it both ways, people who start something, get it rolling only to have it grow so out of control they lose hold of it and things crash spectacularly. On the other hand I also see folks forever “planning” their novel, their home business, their next project, yet never getting started in doing the actual work that will produce the product.

  3. Andrew says:

    How on earth did Charles Lindbergh “fight” for anything? He prepared well for his flight across the Atlantic, but it was essentially a stunt, which didn’t change anything for anybody other than himself.

    He certainly didn’t “fight” for freedom–he was perhaps the loudest voice in the USA in favor of aappeasing and accomodating Hitler. After he thus managed to shred his reputation, he spent the rest of his life living peacefully in Hawaii, enjoying the money his wife Anne made through her writing, and having no impact on anybody.

  4. ejw says:

    And don’t forget the the other obstacle that Lindbergh faced, keeping your other family secret for over 30 years while being considered a hero.

  5. AnnJo says:

    deRuiter, I believe Pressfield meant that statement ironically, not literally. At least, that’s the way I took it on first reading.

  6. Johanna says:

    I think deRuiter’s stopped even trying to make sense. But I want to address one point from her(?) post, because I think it’s important: “Brave” and “stupid” are not opposites. A person can be both brave and stupid, and indeed many people are.

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