Our guest this week is Steven Pressfield, acclaimed screenplay writer (The Legend of Bagger Vance, among others), bestselling fiction author (A Man at Arms, Gates of Fire) and, as you'll learn, a "servant to the Muse." But he's joining us to discuss his breakthrough efforts to help people walk through their fear to create and deliver their best work.
"The more important a project is to the evolution of your soul, the more Resistance you'll feel to it."
Our guest this week is Steven Pressfield, acclaimed screenplay writer (The Legend of Bagger Vance, among others), bestselling fiction author (A Man at Arms, Gates of Fire) and, as you'll learn, a "servant to the Muse." But he's joining us to discuss his breakthrough efforts to help people walk through their fear to create and deliver their best work.
In Part 1 of our two part interview we dig into Steve's ground-breaking book The War of Art to unpack the concept of Resistance--the almost mythical, but very real and pernicious, force that fights our desire to innovate and bring our new ideas to the world. In his trademark engaging and to the point style, Steve lays out how to overcome our self-doubt and self-sabotage to breakthrough ways we get stuck.
But first we give our hot-takes on the latest retail news, including a quick review of what earnings from Gap, Nordstrom, Macy's, and others suggest about the balance of the year. Spoiler alert: lots of markdowns. Bed, Bath & Beyond also announced (yet another) turnaround plan, which is long on cost cutting but falls short on what really ails them. And no episode is complete without a trip to the Wobbly Unicorn Corner where we unpack news from Klarna, TheRealReal and Peloton.
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Oprah's Super Soul Conversations
Unlocking Your Creative Genius with Steven Pressfield
Past podcast episodes referenced:
The Customer is the Channel with Tractor Supply's Rob Mills
Why Does It Take a Crisis for Retailers to Innovate?
Steven Pressfield is the author of The War of Art which has sold over a millions copies globally and been translated into multiple languages. He is a master of historical fiction with Gates of Fire being on the required reading list at West Point and the the recommended reading list of the Joint Chiefs. His other books include A Man at Arms, Turning Pro, Do the Work, The Artist's Journey, Tides of War, The Legend of Bagger Vance, Last of the Amazons, Virtues of War, The Afghan Campaign, Killing Rommel, The Profession, The Lion's Gate, The Warrior Ethos, The Authentic Swing, An American Jew, Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t, and The Knowledge.
His debut novel, The Legend of Bagger Vance was over 30 years in the making. He hasn't stopped writing since.
Steve lives and writes in California. You can following him on IG @steven_pressfield. Sign up for his weekly writing newsletter at stevenpressfield.com
"It is one thing to study war, and another to live the warrior's life."
Steve Dennis is an advisor, keynote speaker and author on strategic growth and business innovation. You can learn more about Steve on his website. The expanded and revised edition of his bestselling book Remarkable Retail: How To Win & Keep Customers in the Age of Disruption is now available at Amazon or just about anywhere else books are sold. Steve regularly shares his insights in his role as a Forbes senior contributor and on Twitter and LinkedIn. You can also check out his speaker "sizzle" reel here.
Michael LeBlanc is the Founder & President of M.E. LeBlanc & Company Inc and a Senior Advisor to Retail Council of Canada as part of his advisory and consulting practice. He brings 25+ years of brand/retail/marketing & eCommerce leadership experience, and has been on the front lines of retail industry change for his entire career. Michael is the producer and host of a network of leading podcasts including Canada’s top retail industry podcast, The Voice of Retail, plus Global E-Commerce Tech Talks , The Food Professor with Dr. Sylvain Charlebois and now in its second season, Conversations with CommerceNext! You can learn more about Michael here or on LinkedIn.
Be sure and check out Michael's latest venture for fun and influencer riches - Last Request Barbecue, his YouTube BBQ cooking channel!
Michael LeBlanc 00:06
Welcome to Remarkable Retail podcast, Season 5, Episode 9. I'm Michael LeBlanc.
Steve Dennis 00:11
And I'm Steve Dennis.
Michael LeBlanc 00:13
Oh, and Steven, I'm out of practice. Presented by our great friends at MarketDial. So, I want to get, I want to throw that one in. So, it's been a bit of time since you've been on the mic. Welcome, welcome back from your travels.
Steve Dennis 00:25
Yes. Travelling the wild, wild north of Canada.
Michael LeBlanc 00:30
The great white north in the summer is a is a great experience. And you, you had the chance to talk to our third amigo Carl Boutet, in Montreal. Yeah.
Steve Dennis 00:39
Yeah. Nice. So, we got to have lunch with Carl Boutet, my daughters and I and, -
Michael LeBlanc 00:45
He gave us a little tour of the McGill campus, which was which was fun. So, (inaudible) of the north. That's what I've that's what I've heard keep dreaming I say but you know, that's fine. But yeah, it was it was great to, to catch up on (inaudible). Mostly holiday focus travels. Yeah, fantastic. All right. So, this is the first of actually a two-part episode with our fantastic interviews with author, screenwriter, philosopher, Steven Pressfield. Now you introduced me to Steven so to speak both in the written word and, and in person. Talk about how you came across Steven and why? You know, he's not, he's not a, if you're if you're trying to figure out the name is he is he running the Gap or something he's not, he's a, he's a, he's an author why and how did wind up in our, in our, in our podcast?
Steve Dennis 01:33
Well, I will, I'll fanboy a little bit here. Steven Pressfield is one of my favorite folks in the world. I have really, really learned a lot from his work over pretty much, I think close to 20 years.
‘War of Art’ is not a business book, it's really primarily directed towards artists to creative types, helping them break through creative blocks, or getting stuck. And over time, though, his work on this side, the nonfiction side, he's, as you mentioned, he's primarily a screenwriter and novelist.
On the nonfiction side is he's almost become like the self-help guru, trying to give folks ways to confront this concept that we'll, we'll dig into called resistance. And I have found it very, very useful in terms of the creative part of what I do, the writing and the speaking. But I also think it's incredibly relevant to anybody who's trying to innovate.
And as he's gotten into his later work, he's talked more not only about the, the musician, the writer, the, the painter, but also entrepreneurs and other folks in business. So, this has gotten him great success in terms of his writing. He's been on Oprah. He's developed ‘Now’, pod podcast, or excuse me, a blog and videos and a whole bunch of other things as kind of a side hustle so to speak to what he really does, which is, is great creative work as a as a writer of fiction.
So, I, I just think whatever you're doing whatever creative process you're engaged in big and small, his work is really, really inspiring. And really, to the point, that's the other thing I like about his style. So, it's like right to the point, not a (inaudible), not a lot of fluff and I think people will, will hear that in the interview.
Michael LeBlanc 03:25
Well, and, and I picked up his book, ‘The War of Art’, on both your recommendation and the fact we were going interview him. So, I wanted to know what he was all about. I read it on my vacation. And you're right about the, the straight to the point, a fantastic book. I'm, I'm terrible at, at writing, it takes me forever to get anything written. So, it was very helpful.
And the book itself, just as, as we'll put a link, of course, into the show notes, it's like 150 pages, like it's not this 400 page (inaudible) on the philosophy like he gets to the point, which I love. So, and you'll hear that and see that in our interviews coming up over the next two episodes.
All right, a couple quick things. We'll be in Vegas. So, a reminder to we're going to be at Groceryshop and there's a promo code and we got a busy September. You got a busy September and we'll be both a Groceryshop. Coming up in then we're going to go be at an NACS, what's NACS? Share that with the listeners?
Steve Dennis 04:17
That is the National Association of Convenience Stores. So, their annual event is taking us back to Vegas to the first week of October.
Michael LeBlanc 04:25
Speaking of travel, you just got back from visiting with the folks at Tractor Supply. And that gets us a bit of a hint that we're going to have the folks from Tractor Supply on the podcast later in the season. What were you doing in, what was it, Nashville?
Steve Dennis 04:41
Yeah, was Nashville, Hal Lawton, who is the CEO of Tractor Supply invited me to be on a panel as part of their annual partners events. So, this is all their vendors that come in and he does a CEO luncheon. So, the owners, principals, presidents of, of their top suppliers get to come to this exclusive luncheon. And I was on a panel with a woman from the Federal Reserve who is talking about kind of economic policy and how that's going to affect the economy and retail.
Yeah, this other guy, Ward Baker, who was a political consultant, talking about kind of what we might expect coming up in the US from the midterms. And I was really more to talk about the consumer and retail side. And it was a really, really interesting discussion, I think, Hal's idea to blend, the retail consumer side with monetary policy, with politics just created this great, great dialogue.
Steve Dennis 04:49
So, I learned a lot. Hopefully I added a fair amount. They were nice enough, the folks at Tractor Supply were nice enough to give my book to everybody who attended. So, they're just I've had some experience with Tractor Supply in the past, spoke to their senior team. When Greg Sandford, their prior CEO, was there. Some folks have been listening to the podcast for a while know that we had Rob, their CTO, on in our first season.
And I think we may have alluded to this already. But Hal Lawton, the CEO is going to be joining us on the podcast early in November. So, stay tuned, but really a fantastic company, great culture, amazing performance. And looks like they got a lot of good momentum going forward, which is, (inaudible) well, I guess talked about in the news is not true. With every retailer at the moment.
Michael LeBlanc 06:31
Well, that's a good segue, professional segue you did there for us. So, let's get into news and we're not going to you know, it's been a couple of weeks. So, we're not going to go through two weeks of news. But in quick summary, let's start with earnings, Macy's, Dick's, Best Buy, Gap, Lululemon today. What's, what, what, say you let's say you have reading the tea leaves of the earnings?
Steve Dennis 06:52
Well, yeah, very quickly, we're coming to the end of retail earnings season. So, we've gotten a pretty good picture of, of what's going on, at least based from a quarterly financial performance. And really, for the most part, I would say it was more of the same. Macy's, Dick's, Best Buy, Gap all pretty much had anywhere from tepid sales to not great sales, and declining profits. And generally, they all worried about these very high inventory levels. So, you know, this picture of increasing pressure, going forward, a lot of concern about consumer demand, and just the pressure on margins and profits from having to move all this inventory. A little bit better story from Nordstrom, Ulta, and Lulu, their financial results were pretty positive. All of them, though, I think pretty much still concerned about the level of inventory, I think Lulu's inventory was up like 85%, year-over-year. Now they were careful to say that they were very short on inventory a year ago because of supply chain issues. So, it's not a great (crossover talk), -
Michael LeBlanc 08:04
Year-over-year stuff, yeah, -
Steve Dennis 08:05
Yeah, it's not a perfect comparison. But from, from the earnings, and frankly, the conversation, we had at Tractor Supply. I mean, I think it's pretty clear that generally speaking, a deceleration in consumer spending, inflation's probably going to start to improve a little bit but will be with us for a while. And overall, most retailers just have a lot of inventory to move through. And that's going to be (inaudible) put a lot of pressure on, on margins for probably at least the next two quarters.
Michael LeBlanc 08:39
Bed Bath & Beyond dominated the news for a whole bunch of reasons. And they came out with some store closures and a turnaround plan. I guess my question to you is, how many times can you do a turnaround plan like this is like they're doing they're almost 360 degrees, you know it's just a third, fourth turnaround plan? What were you thinking about the latest in Bed Bath & Beyond?
Steve Dennis 09:01
Well, I think I think it's just sad. Honestly, I think it's very unlikely to work. I've had a couple of conversations with, with reporters, and, and actually some folks when I was at the Tractor Supply event, and maybe this is a whole separate episode, but I think that, you know, for a long time, the so called category killers, you know, that was one of the most powerful models in retail, you know, the mid 80s and 90s, you had all sorts of category killers. And they were the really the first, the first kind of new innovation that put a ton of pressure on a lot of traditional retailers.
But this idea of having a lot of stuff, pretty much for everybody in a big store with lots of locations. That's a business model that's, you know, been failing frankly, for 10 or 15 years you know, if you go back, we've seen a lot of the category killers you know, the Circuit City's, Good Guys Fries and Consumer Electronics, Linens 'N Things, one of Bed Bath & Beyond competitors, a lot of consolidation in office supplies. And, and most of the kind of category killers that are still reasonably successful either have the advantage of a really different kind of customer base like Home Depot and Lowe's, which, you know, most of what they sell really requires a large physical store that the contractor business, or some of the PetGuys or Best Buy, which have really evolved more into services and just focusing more.
So, I think in the in the age of so much physical competition, in your, a lot more, specialized categories. And you know, the internet, being pretty good at selling commodity products, it's really hard to imagine what you know, what a Toys R Us could have done and what a Bed Bath & Beyond can do. And as I've said many times I say in my book, you're not very likely to cost cut, and store close your way to prosperity, when your business model is fundamentally broken. And your issue is relevance and differentiation.
So, I didn't really, I heard some smart moves. Arguably, to conserve cash to get their balance sheet in better shape. I heard some smart moves in terms of more focus in the merchandising strategy and kind of going back to basics. But when the dust settles on that, what is the powerful reason for a lot of shoppers to go shop at Bed Bath & Beyond? I haven't seen that yet, and they don't have much time to get it right.
Michael LeBlanc 11:26
Let's take a trip. Now let's journey to the wildly unicorn part of our podcasts.
Steve Dennis 11:33
This is the first side of the zoo.
Michael LeBlanc 11:35
So, let's start out with Klarna and Affirm who was it, I think it was you said buy now, pay never so what's going on with the, (crossover talk), -
Steve Dennis 11:43
Well, it turns out, yeah, there's some people that are that are buying now and not paying and having spent some time in the credit business, that's, that's not a good outcome. Yeah, we heard from Klarna and Affirm you know, really this consistent pattern. I don't want to beat a dead horse or kick a wobbly unicorn when it's possibly going to go down. But yeah, sales continue to grow profits continue to get worse.
Many of these companies I think the, some questions about how much money they need to raise to keep, keep things going. So, so, watch that. My other favorite story of, of the wobbly unicorn universe was, and I think we talked on this because I think their earnings are talked about this on an earlier episode because I think their earnings had just come out. But The RealReal, which is in the high-end retail business, they reported again, you know, sales, not, I think going up pretty nicely, but profits going down. And then the CFO who I guess is relatively new, made a really strong statement, which is in order for their profits to improve. They're going to have to get their sales up and their expenses down.
Michael LeBlanc 12:54
Wait, what kind of (crossover talk), -
Steve Dennis 12:56
(Inaudible) let me say that more slowly. So, people and my, my favorite I, I you know, (crossover talk), -
Michael LeBlanc 13:02
I got to get a pen, sorry, wait, okay, go ahead.
Steve Dennis 13:05
Well, my favorite comment from somebody was and, and some people may have heard this before where sportscaster John Madden famously said, "If we score more points than the other guy, then we're going to win the game". Thank you, -
Michael LeBlanc 13:21
Thank you, -
Steve Dennis 13:21
Einstein. Well, you know, when you're new in the job, you got to, you got to, you got to put a stake in the ground. You got to, you got to, you got to, you know, that's a signal to the employees or something. So, now the other the other interesting news, it was kind of dominating that part of the of the news is Peloton, who, you know, has been gyrating and moving about what they, they made an interesting move at Amazon.
Steve Dennis 13:42
Yeah, well, they, I know we talked about one of the episodes, they announced cost cutting and store closing and, and so forth. But they're another one of these DTC type of brands that are taking the D out of DTC as our friend Simeon likes to say, and they are going to sell a selection of their products on Amazon. You know, some folks think this is brilliant. Others think this is a sign of desperation. I think they're at a point where they need to expand their, their reach and their distribution pretty quickly because the situation is quite dire there. So, it does, it would probably be more in the desperation camp. If you really want a Peloton, you probably can find it without having to go to Amazon.
Michael LeBlanc 14:27
Steve Dennis 14:28
So, it's not obvious that this is all that additive. It's certainly runs the risk of being dilutive, in some ways, but I think they've kind of backed themselves into a corner. So, it might be a good short-term strategy to move some inventory. I'm not sure that this is where they're likely going to end up longer term, but who knows where they end up longer term? It's, it's a pretty messed up business unfortunately at this point. Yeah, I mean, and it's funny because it would make me think of Amazon is now their role is the, the retailer of last resort. Some news from our friends at the Gap and their wonky relationship with E-Z and he's, he's singing he's singing a little Fleetwood Mac ironically, tell me about that?
Steve Dennis 15:10
Yeah, he's going to go his own way. Apparently, yeah, he's had this partnership, which we talked about how some of the presentation was pretty widely mocked on social media. Now, apparently, he's not too happy with how things are going at the Gap. And he's talking about opening his own stores. So, that could, could be interesting.
Michael LeBlanc 15:31
Yeah. Yeah, I don't know he can e-, e-, I don't know why he would open a store, you just have to open up a ginormous container and just throw all this stuff in. And then people can just walk through the container and maybe take that concept to where, where it belongs (inaudible) anyway, -
Steve Dennis 15:45
While these are the bold visual merchandising ideas that so many people turn to on the Remarkable Retail podcast
Michael LeBlanc 15:51
Next, he will be on Amazon. Now let's, let's get to the first part ever interview with Steven Pressfield. But first, a word from our presenting sponsor.
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Steve Dennis 16:36
Well, Michael and I are so excited to welcome Steven Pressfield to the podcast. Steve, how are you?
Steven Pressfield 16:43
I'm great, Steve, thanks for having me here. It's, it's great to get together with you after both of us being friends of Seth Godin for years and years. And finally connecting in person almost.
Steve Dennis 16:54
Well, I, I as we were talking off mic, I'm, I'm pretty sure it was Seth that introduced me who introduced me to your work, I think, way back when the ‘War of Art’ came out. We'll talk about that a little bit more in a second.
And I also shared that, Seth, at one point when I was early, I believe in my blog writing career, told me that I wasn't enough of a professional. And I was very offended by that. I consider myself a professional in many respects. And when I was obviously had my feelings hurt, he said no. I mean, being a pro, like Steven Pressfield, talks about and so maybe we'll get into that as well what we mean by, by turning pro, whether that's in part one or part two.
But in any event, welcome. Welcome, welcome, welcome. And before we jump in, you've done so many things, in your, in your professional personal career, maybe you could just give us a minute or two on who you are, what you've been up to, and how you got to be both this incredible fiction and nonfiction writer,
Steven Pressfield 17:57
The nutshell version of my career is that it took me I think, like 27 years, from the time I first left the job to try to write until I actually had something published. And I worked a lot, a lot, a lot of jobs in between that. So, I was one of those guys, that was an overnight success. You know, 30 years after, after he started, I've just done a lot of jobs. And it was my dream always to be a writer. And I, I never had a kind of a plan B just kind of had to keep plugging and keep plugging and finally got to the point where, you know, things finally started to work for me.
Steve Dennis 18:36
And what was it about writing that was, was the attraction for you?
Steven Pressfield 18:39
You know, I don't even know, Steve. It's like the way it started for me was my first job was in advertising in New York, I worked for Benton & Bowles, in New York. And I had a boss named Ed Hannibal, who wrote a novel, and it was an overnight success. And he became like a star instantly and he quit. So, I thought to myself, I was like, 22 years old, I thought, well, why don't I do that, too. And, of course, I had no business doing that at all in the sense of I had no clue what you know, the writing profession was about, and my life sort of spiraled and spiraled out of control after that. And I guess I just felt like the only way I can get back out of this is to sort of write my way out of it. That's how it happened. I was it wasn't like I ever dreamed about it as a kid. You know, it wasn't one of those guys that wrote short stories or anything like that. I just sort of fell off a cliff and spent, you know, 20 years trying to get back up. something yeah, 20 years ago, -
Steve Dennis 19:36
Well, one of the reasons we wanted to have you on the podcast because maybe it seems a little bit weird or, or out of left field to have someone like you on a retail strategy podcast is really this idea that we come back to a lot of, of needing to innovate, to, to fight through all the reasons that something might not work, to actually try stuff. And I think that's what, in the beginning really resonated with me about your first nonfiction book, I guess, The War of Art, which was, what, 20 years ago now, (crossover talk), - something like that. And in it, you talk about this concept of resistance. Can you just tell us, you know, number one, what first led you to, to write The War of Art and get away from? Because at that point had, had Legend of Bagger Vance already, -
Steven Pressfield 20:25
Yeah, (crossover talk), yeah, yeah, -
Steve Dennis 20:27
It's not like you remember the timeline, (crossover talk). So, -
Steven Pressfield 20:30
Yeah, yeah, yeah, -
Steve Dennis 20:32
So, you're having some real success as a novelist and a screenwriter. And then you take this little diversion, which has turned out I guess, to be a pretty big side gig for you, of writing this book, ‘The War of Art’ and talking about resistance. How did you get started on that path? And how did this whole idea of resistance?
Steven Pressfield 20:36
It's a great question. I mean, if, if you're a writer, I'll just stick in that, you know, in that metaphor here, and you sit down every day in front of the blank page, you become aware instantly, that there's this negative force, working against you constantly, that it's a not a level playing field. When you sit down at that blank page, stuff is fighting you that you have to overcome.
In my writing career, simply learning how to deal with that what I call resistance, where the capital R, that took me probably seven or eight years, and just to get to the point where I could actually sit down and do the work, you know, whether it was any good or not, that was a whole other story. After you know, writing a bunch of other stuff. Well, here's, here's kind of how it happened.
When you're working writer, friends come to you, and they say, ‘Oh, I've got a book in me, you know, I want to tell my grandmother's life story’. Or ‘I've got some, whatever’. And so, you wind up, or I wound up, you know, staying up till two in the morning with various friends, trying to psych them up, so that they could actually do what they were going to do. Because I could see that they were in the throes of their own resistance, right. They were coming up with a million excuses why they couldn't do it, they were procrastinating. They were full of self-doubt, etc., etc. And so, I would stay up with them till two in the morning, just trying to kind of psych them up and telling them about this force called resistance that they might not think is real, but it's absolutely real.
And the first thing you got to learn how to do is to get past that. And of course, nobody ever listened to me. Nobody ever did that book, you know, they all totally blew it off. But at one point, I sort of said, ‘you know, I'm tired of doing this till two in the morning’. So, I'm, I had about a two-month period, that it was free, and so, I wrote it. I wrote the book. And I said, you know, from now on, if anybody asked me that question, I'll just say, here read this.
When the ‘War of Art’ first came out, I thought in my mind that it was only for writers, I thought only writers really deal with that stuff. And to my amazement, all sorts of creative people, and particularly entrepreneurs, were also dealing with the same force, you know, because people would write me and say, ‘Oh, thank God, you know, you've given a name to this force, it's been kicking my butt for years’. So, that's sort of how that, that came about Steve. And it just, then I've written other kind of follow ups to it over the years.
Michael LeBlanc 23:05
You know, what I love about and, and Steven and I read your book, poolside, Ste-, it was, as I said, in the opening of the podcast, that it was Steve Dennis that introduced me to your, to your work, and, and it really resonated with me, and I want to pull on that thread for a little bit. Because initially, at one level, it's about writing and being creative. But you know, one of the, the central threads of, of the podcast is and, and Steve's work and, and our thinking, is this idea of creativity, and fighting against, you know, why does it take crisis to change kind of thinking and, and talk a little bit more, let's dig into a little bit more that, that idea that, you know, this isn't a book or a concept resistances is, is not just for creative types, but it's for, again, as you said, entrepreneurs, corporate executives, how do you, how do you step back and say, okay, how do, how do you coach people with that take, take us down a little bit deeper into the idea of a resistance and overcoming resistance the way you the way you start, and almost scratch the surface, but in other ways get really into it in the War of Art?
Steven Pressfield 24:08
That's a great question. I mean, I do think that it does take a crisis a lot of times. And the reason is that resistance is, first of all, it's so strong. And secondly, it's so nuanced and so devious. I mean, I believe that it's a force that it has an active intelligence, you know, it's not just some blunt instrument that bludgeoned you. It's a, it's a, it's like the devil, you know, it's in your mind.
And, for instance, let me just give you sort of what the voice of resistance is a voice that you hear in your head. And here's what it says to you. It says something like, ‘this new idea that you have, this is a really stupid idea. It's been done a million times, and it's been done a million times better than what you're going to the way you're going to do it. And by the way, who do you think you are to have this new idea’. I mean, you are, (crossover talk), -
Michael LeBlanc 25:03
It sounds like an imposter. Like, I hear that articulated as, as what do they call it, imposter complex as well, right? Is, (crossover talk), that something (inaudible) to be good, (crossover talk), -
Steven Pressfield 25:12
Impostor sort of internal monologue that you get. ‘Who do you think you are to do this, you're too old to, you know, too educated or not educated enough’, that, that sort of thing. That's one aspect of resistance that, that is in your head. And that's why I do think it takes a crisis a lot of times, because that voice defeats us.
You know, if you're an entrepreneur that has a new idea, you know, you want to expand your business or whatever it is, you, you know, that voice will go in your into your head, and say, ‘this is a really dumb idea, Joe Blow tried this down the street, he went out of business, etc., etc., etc.
Then the other half of, of resistance is self-doubt, self-sabotage, a tendency to procrastinate, a susceptibility to distraction, you know, you'll get on to go down a rabbit hole on the internet, or whatever it is, or you'll, you know, to, the voice in your head will say, ‘you know, that's a great idea that you have, but let's not do it today. You know, today is a day where we really have to deal with this warehouse issue or whatever’, blah, blah, blah.
So, resistance, we'll come up with a million reasons. And a lot of them are really plausible reasons why you shouldn't do it today, or why you shouldn't do it at all. And so, usually, in my experience, it's a little bit of like quitting drinking, you almost have to hit some kind of a crisis moment, where, where you sort of snap out of denial, and you say, you know, what, I have been avoiding this damn thing. I've been wanting to do this dream of mine for years. And I keep putting it off and putting it off and putting it off and look where it's got me. Now, I'm all screwed up, you know, and then when that sort of crisis hits, like drinking, like realizing that, you know, I got I have a problem here. I have got to stop.
Michael LeBlanc 26:58
You wouldn't advocate creating a crisis? Because I think some people, -
Steven Pressfield 27:02
No, I wouldn't (crossover talk), -
Michael LeBlanc 27:03
You know, like, it, it, (crossover talk), you know it's like, (crossover talk), -
Steven Pressfield 27:05
Plus, I don't think you could really create a real crisis, the crisis is going to create itself.
Michael LeBlanc 27:10
We can get a (inaudible) create a crisis is a deadline, right? Nothing but you know, the old saying nothing motivates like a deadline.
Steven Pressfield 27:15
Michael LeBlanc 27:16
I've worked with people say, I wait to the last minute, because that's when I get creative. Because by God, I've got to get it done by midnight, or, or something like that. I mean, that feels like an artificial construct, reading through your work. Yeah, -
Steven Pressfield 27:22
Yes. But I suppose I suppose it would work. I've had deadlines, you know, motivate me.
Steve Dennis 27:32
Yeah. But you know, I think at the same time, and maybe this is what resonates with me, from your, a lot of your work, not just The Work of Art is, is almost seeing resistance as this, this character, this dragon you have to slay, that is there, you know, when I, when I go to sit down and write, almost picturing that there is this, this force that I have to battle with, in some way, shape, or form, like, that's just an (inaudible) and I don't want to put words in your mouth, but, but to me, I think that's one of things that really connects, you know, it's sort of this, this hero's journey that I've got to overcome, this, you know, it's Darth Vader, or whatever, you know, (crossover talk), -
Steven Pressfield 28:17
People have written to me with lots of different ways, you know, that they've, they've visualized this force, and whatever works, you know, I do think of it myself as like a dragon that you have to slay every morning,
Steve Dennis 28:30
Because it's always there. I think they big I don't think anybody who's really doing creative work, you know, talking about creative work very broadly, you know, anybody who is any kind of artist and I think in, in the business world, if you're an entrepreneur or somebody trying to do innovation, at a big comp-, company, you're a form of, of doing artistic work, you know, any sort of creative work, I think, has that, that dynamic, that you have to have to fight again, which is why I think, you know, I'm glad to have you on, because I think that's something that's really, you know, pretty much a universal experience for anybody who's really trying to change the status quo or bring something new, new, (crossover talk), -
Steven Pressfield 29:06
The thing about this, Steve, is that nobody teaches you this in school, you know, they don't tell you there is this force, you know, they, they, they say, oh, you want to write a novel, or you want to start a business, we'll just sit down and do it. But nobody tells you that the playing field is not level and that, you know, there are a lot of enemy cannons aiming right at you.
Steve Dennis 29:28
You, do you think because we teach, like if you go to school for certain things, you learn technique, you learn process, you know, I just know what you know, the kinds of things that I was taught and I agree with you, you're not you're not really taught. Maybe it's different in acting school or something. But having studied economics, having gone to business school, having worked at big companies, there's a lot of technique that's very particular to the kind of business we're in or how one does marketing or whatever, but not this you know, these, these tools and techniques or even just kind of re-framing your thinking that you get into in your work about how to, to overcome doubt how to push against that, that force?
Steven Pressfield 30:13
Yeah. I mean, nobody teaches you there's no class in cold calling, you know, they don't tell you that, you know, until you get out on your first day on a job. And then you realized, oh, my God, I'm completely unprepared for this, you know, mentally and psychologically.
Steve Dennis 30:29
So, are there any just I hate to, you know, boil this down to like top 10 tips or anything like that? People should read, read your work, absolutely. But, but also, there's, there's lots out there, I know you've got, you've got your own blog, you got videos, there's a great episode that you did with Oprah Winfrey. I mean, there's lots of ways to go much deeper into your work. But if you just had to say, you know, somebody listens to this podcast, and they're, they're staring at that blank page, or they've got a meeting with their team about some new idea are there are there two or three things you might say, could prove helpful for them to kind of push through their fear and actually sit down and do the work they need to do?
Steven Pressfield 31:07
Well, the number one thing I think, is just simply being aware that there is such a thing as resistance with a capital R, that when you do sit down to come up with something innovative, whatever it is, that there is going to be this force.
And the other thing that this is, what I'm about to say, I think is a is a kind of a key point, one of the laws of resistance is that the more a project, let's say it's, let's, let's stay in the writing genre, a new book, the more important that is to the evolution of your soul, in a, right, in a positive way, the more resistance you will feel to it. If it's if it's just some little idea, you'll have, you'll just have a little bit of resistance. If it's something really big, you'll have a massive resistance to it, you'll be sabotaging yourself like mad. So, in a way, that is a really good sign.
And I tell myself that all the time, when I'm experiencing massive resistance to something, I say to myself, ah, that means that whatever this idea is that I'm being blocked on, that's a really good idea. And I better do it. So, that's a really good point, when you feel a lot of resistance, that's a good sign. It shows that, you know, it's like the bad guys are marshaling all that energy to stop you. Because they know your, your idea is a real good one.
Steve Dennis 32:33
I think that's a little bit like, you know, if you follow Pema Chodron's work at all, or I don't know, natural reaction to moving closer to the truth, I think, similar, similar sort of notion, -
Steven Pressfield 32:45
Exactly, exactly, -
Michael LeBlanc 32:46
Now, and un-, unpack that for me a little bit. Because how do you understand the difference between resist by you don't phrase it this way. But positive versus negative? I mean, the if you're experiencing the kind of resistance as you describe for any idea, maybe it's genuinely a bad idea. Maybe the Gap shouldn't put a bunch of clothes into a big pile at the front of the store. But, you know, they overcame whatever they were thinking, Is there a way in your trade craft or your philosophy or your teaching to kind of discern the difference between these two things?
Steven Pressfield 33:18
That's a great question, Michael. Because it really is, resistance is so diabolical, that it will (inaudible) on to something that's to stop you, that does make sense, you know, it that, you know, it's not just totally imaginary. So, but my own version myself, what I say to myself, my own little mantra, is, if I'm saying, if I'm asking, is this resistance, or is it valid? This thought that's in my head, this negative thought, my mantra for that is when in doubt, it's resistance.
Because I have found more times than not, which is not to say that, you know, there aren't bad ideas, more times than not, in my experience, it's a great idea. And you're just experiencing this fear and this self-doubt in the self-sabotage, at least as a writer, if I have an idea, and I start into working on a book, I will be wracked by self-doubt for months. It isn't like, as soon as you start, oh, the clouds part and the sun comes through.
You know, resistance will try to keep sabotaging you day one, day two, day 20, day 40, day 50. It'll keep telling you, you know, this is really a shitty idea. You know, I'm sorry, you went so far into it, you know, that kind of thing? So, like I say, when in doubt, at least in my opinion, it's resistance.
Michael LeBlanc 34:41
Let me ask you the question the inverse so you know, sometimes you read stories about initiatives or books that almost write themselves you know, I wrote that, you know, you know hear that sometimes about artists I wrote the wrote the whole album in a, in a it is the is the lack of resistance almost an indication that but it's not the best idea like, this is what I'm struggling with trying to understand, those (crossover talk), really well, you know, -
Steven Pressfield 35:07
I really don't have an answer to that, Michael, because I've had those things too where, you know, things, just a book just came out of me in a flash, no resistance. And a lot of times, it's been really good. I guess I can't, I can't say that every time resistance is going to, going to hit you. But those, those things were things we you have a tailwind all the way and things seems to be flowing do seem to be the exception, but they are for real. And in fact, I would say, when I wrote The War of Art, it came out very fast. There was some resistance, but not very much. And I really don't have an explanation for that. According to the law of resistance, you should be feeling a lot, but sometimes you don't. It's a great question. I wish I had a better answer for it.
Michael LeBlanc 35:49
Well, listen, this has been a great discussion. This is the first part of a two-part discussion. We have lots more to talk about. You've got such a wealth of information. How do I how do I describe you? I mean, in the beginning, we, you know, teacher, philosopher, writer, screenwriter, like, how do you describe it? How do you think of yourself at this point, just as we sign off on this first part, and what's the best way to capture you, -
Steven Pressfield 36:10
I, I have no idea, you know, I’ve, I've just, I'm a believer in the Muse and the Goddess. And I, if I would describe my occupation, I would say I'm a servant of the Muse. So, whatever the next idea is, that she puts before me, I do it. And sometimes it's on left field and sometimes it's in right field.
Michael LeBlanc 36:34
Well, I guess that's the fun of this art, this podcast are just folks can make up their own minds. But let's, let's leave it there. And we'll pick it up for our second part of our discussion with Steven Pressfield, thanks again for joining us. And the book is well, there's many books, many screenplays, but the particular book that I think anybody listening to this should have on their shelf or pick up I did, ‘The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles’. All right, Stephen, thanks a lot, and we'll speak to you again soon.
Steven Pressfield 37:03
Okay. Thanks, Michael.
Michael LeBlanc 37:05
If you like what you heard, please follow us on Apple, Spotify, or your favorite podcast platform, so you can catch up with all our great interviews, like our discussion with Seth Godin on what retailers can actually do to fight climate change. New episodes of Season 5, presented by MarketDial will show up each and every week. And be sure to tell your friends and colleagues in the retail industry, all about us.
Steve Dennis 37:24
And I'm Steve Dennis, author of the bestselling book, ‘Remarkable Retail: How to Win & Keep Customers in the Age of Disruption’. You can learn more about me my consulting and keynote speaking at stevenpdennis.com.
Michael LeBlanc 37:38
And I'm Michael LeBlanc, Consumer Retail Growth Consultant, keynote speaker and producer and host of a series of retail trade podcasts including this one. Plus, the host of the popular YouTube cooking show Last Request Barbecue. You can learn even more about me on LinkedIn, or at meleblanc.co.
Safe travels everyone.
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