The Iron in the Oil

Lance Creativity, Discipline, Integrity Leave a Comment

Before Seth Godin talked of quieting the Lizard Brain, author Steven Pressfield wrote of fighting “The Resistance.” The title of his field manual for fighting the Resistance is no accident: The War of Art is for artists what Sun Tzu’s The Art of War was for generals. The Resistance is that ever-present, never-tiring force that is unyielding in its focus to accomplish one single task: derailing us from becoming who we were meant to be … causing us to ignoring our Muse … and convincing us to surrender our destiny.


Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands the Resistance.

Of course, the Resistance isn’t just about artists as we normally think of the word. “Art,” in this sense, is bigger than colors and shapes and notes and lyrics. In the succinct words of Godin: “Art is what we’re doing when we do our best work.

And it is our best work that the Resistance is out to kill.

Resistance will tell you anything to keep you from doing your work. It will perjure, fabricate, falsify; seduce, bully, cajole. Resistance is protean. It will assume any form, if that’s what it takes to deceive you. It will reason with you like a lawyer or jam a nine-millimeter in your face like a stickup man. Resistance has no conscience. It will pledge anything to get a deal, then double-cross you as soon as your back is turned. If you take Resistance at its word, you deserve everything you get. Resistance is always lying and always full of shit.

Speaking of Sun Tzu, he famously identified the hydrogen and oxygen atoms that make up the water molecules of Victory:

Understanding the Enemy is often the easier of the two. As for yourself? — what is your “best work”? What is your “art”? What is the strategic hill your life was created and destined to take? Don’t know? Here’s a clue: ask the Resistance. There’s one thing and one thing alone that the Resistance can be trusted to point to truthfully…

Like a magnetized needle floating on a surface of oil, Resistance will unfailingly point to true North — meaning that calling or action it most wants to stop us from doing.

We can use this. We can use it as a compass. We can navigate by Resistance, letting it guide us to that calling or action that we must follow before all others.

Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel towards pursuing it.

Stop and think. Slow down and let the oil settle. Which way are the iron filings of Resistance pointing in your life? Which is the direction that makes you mutter “that can’t be right” and causes you to shake the bowl of oil to reset the irons and generate a different result? Instead of fighting that direction, fight the Resistance in that direction, and watch what happens next.

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