Wearing a suit and tie was never my thing.
In fact, I can remember being in my late teens and swearing that I would wear nothing but jeans in my professional life (my personal rage against the corporate machine). Some dreams die-hard. While I succumbed to the standard business attire for a while (I'm back to jeans now), it wasn't until reading Richard Florida's 2004 best-selling business book, The Rise Of The Creative Class, when the concept struck me: a professional has little to with a university designation or cut of cloth one wears. A true professional is someone who shows up to the job everyday and turns it into the work that they were meant to do. A true professional thinks not about being another cog in the business machine, but focuses on delivering solutions and ideas that add true value to the company and the industry that it serves. Being a professional was much more about combining the notions of a hard work ethic with a spirit of creativity. This spirit was no longer just for creative vocations either. It wasn't about artists, authors and musicians anymore. Engineers, architects, scientists, lawyers and bankers have been morphing and evolving (as Florida theorized) to a place where the companies that prosper the most are the ones that engender the highest levels of creativity.
The problem in matching the creative class with the working class is that creativity doesn't keep office hours. Ideas can strike at any moment (and they often do at the most inopportune times). Over the past decade, these forces have begun to collide with business in ways in which we could have never imagined. A year before The Rise Of The Creative Class was published, Steven Pressfield released, The War Of Art - one of the most powerful books for creative types in need of breaking through the moments of doubt, blockage and procrastination. Pressfield introduced the concept of the "Resistance" (with a capital "R"). The famed author of The Legend Of Bagger Vance, many other best-selling pieces of fiction and screenplay writer for Above The Law, Freejack and others recognized that "it's not the writing part that's hard. What's hard is sitting down to write. What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance," as he described in The War Of Art.
Do The Work!
Last week, Pressfield released his latest non-fiction book, Do The Work!, which is the second release on Seth Godin's new book publishing imprint, The Domino Project (powered by Amazon). The book (clocking it at under one hundred pages) reads more like a manifesto than a piece of non-fiction. In Do The Work!, Pressfield continues to chop away at the "Resistance" and weaves one of the best business books I've read in a long while.
This book will leave you - and your business - with no other choice but to get down to doing the work! (as the title implies).
"These are the forms of self-sabotage that we as artists and entrepreneurs inflict upon ourselves," said Pressfield in an interview last week. "There is something that keeps our muse from communicating and inspiring us with ideas. This Resistance also keeps us from reaching towards those higher realms. In contemporary North American society, we live in this feel good world where evil or the devil doesn't exist, well in my world of trying to fill a blank page with something of value, there is definitely a malignant force at play. It's like The Terminator or Alien and it's trying to stop us from doing our work. Anyone who has done any type of creative work knows this.... It's a part of the human condition. I am a big believer in The Muse, so when you sit down each day at your craft and nothing comes, you should know that maybe on the third or fifth day, The Muse looking down at you will say, 'you know, this person is for real. They are committed and I am going to give them something... something good.' That intent and focus of intention is a mysterious and powerful thing that creates its own gravitational pull. That kind of focus and duration does create a magnetic field that draws good things into it. It doesn't make sense, it's counterintuitive, you can't prove it, but it works."
It's serious business.
Before thinking that Pressfield is nothing more than a hippie in artist's clothing, the former Marine (who has also written five historical novels about warfare) simply applies the warrior code he learned from his early days of boot camp indoctrination to the work that he was meant to do. In the end, Pressfield is quick to identify that it's not really a creative exercise to get the important work done, but a blue-collar work ethic of showing up everyday and punching the clock - no matter what - that makes great stuff happen. The irony is not lost on him.
So, what are you waiting for? Get to it (read the book and start doing the work!).
The above posting is my twice-monthly column for the Montreal Gazette and Vancouver Sun newspapers called, New Business - Six Pixels of Separation. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original versions online here:
- Montreal Gazette - A blue-collar work ethic makes great stuff happen.
- Vancouver Sun - Book leaves no choice but to get down to Do The Work!
Bonus: my entire audio conversation with Steven Pressfield will be published this coming Sunday (May 1st, 2011) as episode #251 of Six Pixels of Separation - The Twist Image Podcast. Make sure to download it and listen to it then.