January 28, 2023

Steven Pressfield’s “Do the Work!”


Seth Godin doesn’t look much like Magic Johnson but he sure is playing like Magic. There’s something really special about those people who like to pass the ball and take pride in making their teammates better. That was the gift of Magic Johnson, and it’s what’s setting Seth Godin and the Domino Project apart from everyone else.

Out here in the rust belt the good ideas really do matter. We’re playing for keeps. Thanks to the Domino Project, Steven Pressfield’s “Do the Work!” is out as a followup to his “War of Art” and the central theme attacks again the need to overcome resistance and get out of your own way.

In Eric Greiten’s “The Heart and the Fist,” he tells the story of crossing the equator. I loved the Navy chaplain’s quote about the importance of believing. There’s an equator in our heads, a line of resistance that everyone has to cross emotionally if they are going to go all in. That “crossing the line” is what Pressfield means when he describes the voice of Resistance.

When you come from a city (Flint, MI) the New York Times just described as more violent than Baghdad, this enemy called Resistance isn’t some high concept stuff for screenwriters with writer’s block. My job requires that I drive around 40,000 miles a year and what I see in the big cities and small towns is at times just ruinous.

Pressfield writes that “Resistance is a repelling force. It’s negative. Its aim is to shove us away, distract us, prevent us from doing our work.”

Then he adds: “Resistance will reason with you like a lawyer or jam a nine millimeter in your face like a stickup man.”

“Resistance is always lying and always full of shit.”

Isn’t that the truth.

We had a project at Nielsen where we had to track customers as they shopped through the stores. One of the stores selected as a sample was a store in Flint and another was fifty miles away in a growing suburb. We were to track customers as they moved around the stores for twelve hours a day, seven days a week, all year round. As the project progressed and costs increased, sample stores were continually dropped from the list. By the end of the project, the Flint store was one of only a few on the list that was still being observed twelve hours a day, seven days a week. A choice of stores nationwide and this store in a town described as more dangerous than Baghdad stays on the list all the way to the finish.

So what was the difference between the Flint store and the store in the growing suburb?

The same as it is everywhere there is defeat and victory. Where there’s defeat, the You Suck Voice, as Pressfield explains it, is howling. In Flint, it was HOWLING.

Pressfield writes: “The last thing we want is to remain where we are.”

In the defeated neighborhoods, people are pummeled to stay where they are. The only “trainers” in their corner are the liquor store clerks (as the NY Times reporter noticed) and the lottery reps (which the reporter failed to notice).

Nielsen’s Claritas devised several social groups based on demographics and one of the social groups for Flint is Micro-City Blues. “Surveys show they excel in going to movies, playing basketball, and shooting pool.”

The most positive spin on succumbing to Resistance ever written.

On her show, Rachel Maddow talked about a controversy in Benton Harbor, Michigan and she noted the beauty of Lake Michigan just a short distance away from this hard hit area. That’s the amazing thing about Benton Harbor. You’re driving through a very destitute, down on its luck area, the You Suck Voice just screaming through the boarded up homes and abandoned buildings, and suddenly wham! You’re looking at this incredible beauty of Lake Michigan staring right back at you through the windshield. You’re thinking, wow, how did that happen?

Resistance is strongest at the finish. Some of the most hard hit areas are right at the finish line, right at shore of some of the most beautiful scenery in the country.

On the opposite end of the state, right on the tip of the thumb, is another store we do for Nielsen. A girl with an obvious disability came in while I was there and she bought several lottery tickets with I assumed to be money from a disability check. Instead of leaving the store, she stood right there in front of everyone and scratched off one losing ticket after another, her disabled brain trying to compute “loser, loser, loser” with each scratch off.

Shortly after she left, in came the state lottery rep with a “sell, sell, sell” sales pitch. There was an exclamation point to his message, like Pressfield’s “Do the Work!.” Only his message was You Suck. I left the store and went only a few yards to the finish line and took this picture. Both Steven Pressfield and Seth Godin say ship it. Your ship isn’t in this picture. Only a lighthouse. The ship’s inside you.



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