steven pressfield on the ego, the soul, resistance, and the muse

Steven Pressfield: The Joe Rogan Experience #1901

Key Takeaways 

  • The War of Art simplifies the creativity process: show up every day, do the work, and be a professional 
  • The human ego wants to be in control; you’re trying to surrender to your greater human self when you’re trying to tap into creative intelligence, and the ego hates that
  • Great creativity happens when you tap into the greater self and abandon the ego 
  • The ego naturally lives in fear; the ego’s predominant emotion is fear, specifically a fear of death
  • When you have to do something every day, and you eliminate the choice of whether or not you will do it, you remove the resistance from the practice  
  • There is an art to being a person; the better you get at the things you do, the better person you become 
  • Don’t set a generic goal that anyone else could achieve; make your goal personal, and something that only you could do
  • An underground river flows through each of us, and that river is unique to us and it’s our creativity  
  • The underground river doesn’t go away if you yield to your resistance and fear instead of trying to tap into it; the river will flow into a new negative channel that will physically, emotionally, and psychologically damage you 
  • Polarization increases when people know they have a gift or a dream, but they choose not to do it, whether they’re conscious of their decision or not 
  • The soul exists; there is such a thing as a soul even if we can’t examine it under a microscope
  • “A strong mind is not just one that can do calculus. A strong mind is not just one that can write books. A strong mind is one that controls the body, all of its inherent weaknesses, and all of its urges to be lazy, sedentary, and self-destructive.” – Joe Rogan
  • Overcoming the resistance created by the ego in an effort to access the soul is the battle we fight every day

Intro 

  • Steven Pressfield (@SPressfield) is the author of numerous works of fiction, non-fiction, and multiple screenplays, including The War of Art and The Legend of Bagger Vance. His books and blog can be found at StevenPressfield.com.  
  • In this conversation, Steven Pressfield and Joe Rogan discuss the creative process, the ego, the soul, resistance, the muse, human nature, the mind, psychedelics, unknown past lives, the moral dimension, and more 
  • Check out these Podcast Notes from Steven’s conversation with Tim Ferriss  
  • Host – Joe Rogan (@JoeRogan

The War of Art 

  • The War of Art resonated with Joe because it made creativity and resistance a “real thing”
  • The War of Art simplifies the creativity process: show up every day, do the work, and be a professional 
  • Joe used to have a stack of copies of The War of Art and just hand them out to people 
  • Joe tends to write either late at night when everyone in his house is asleep, or first thing in the morning 
  • Joe writes essays about certain subjects, and then extracts jokes from them to create bits 
  • Being a comedian is not that hard; being a soldier, an EMT, or a police officer, is hard 
  • “The hardest thing that’s ever happened to you is the hardest thing that’s ever happened to you.”Joe Rogan quoting someone he can’t remember 

Resistance and The Human Ego 

  • There is the human ego and the human self 
  • The human self contains the collective unconscious, the hero’s journey, the archetypes of the unconscious, and all of the intuitive stuff  
  • Creativity comes from the deeper, human self 
  • The human ego wants to be in control; when you’re trying to tap into creative intelligence, you’re trying to surrender to your greater human self, which the ego hates
  • The ego is out of business if you make the shift to identify with the greater self 
  • Steven Pressfield’s theory is that the ego produces resistance to prevent you from connecting and trusting in the greater, human self 
  • Trusting in the greater human self is a leap of faith, and the ego uses that chasm to convince you to heel to it  
  • Great creativity happens when you tap into the greater self and abandon the ego 
  • Animals don’t experience resistance; they are naturally in that greater world 

The Ego 

  • The ego believes that the material world is all there is
  • The ego believes that when the body dies, we die 
  • The ego naturally lives in fear; the ego’s predominant emotion is fear, specifically a fear of death 
  • The predominant emotion of the greater human self is love
  • Because the ego is centered around fear, it tries to hang onto what it’s got
  • Resistance increases the closer you get to tap into your greater self because that is the ego trying to reign you back toward it 

Removing Choice From A Practice 

  • You get productive when you have a thing that you must do every day 
  • There is an alleviation of anxiety when you remove choice from the practice 
  • When you have to do something every day, and you eliminate the choice of whether or not you will do it, you remove the resistance from the practice 

Get Out of Bed Right Away 

  • Get out of bed right away in the morning
  • Steven experiences resistance the minute he opens his eyes, which is why he tries to get out of bed right away  
  • There is no resistance during the sleep state, but there is a lot of resistance in the conscious world 
  • Joe’s Sober October thing is a way to counteract that devilish resistance before it can influence his behavior 

Goal Setting 

  • Joe doesn’t set medium to long-term goals; he is simple and just does the things that are interesting to him
  • He tries to do better at everything he does
  • Joe objectively evaluates his performance, as much as he can, and tries to improve it every day 
  • “You are a living human being. If you’re alive, you can get better at everything you do.” – Joe Rogan
  • There is an art to being a person; the better you get at the things you do, the better person you become 
  • Steven doesn’t set long-term goals either because he never knows what the next assignment from the muse is going to be 
  • Be precise in your plan or program when you set out to accomplish something
  • Don’t set a generic goal that anyone else could achieve; make your goal personal, and something that only you could do 
  • Projects ground you and give you something to concentrate your energy towards

Steven’s Prayer 

  • Steven recites a prayer from Homer’s Odyssey every morning
  • “O Divine Poesy, goddess, daughter of Zeus, sustain for me this song of the various-minded man who, after he had plundered the innermost citadel of hallowed Troy, was made to stay grievously about the coasts of men, the sport of their customs, good and bad, while his heart, through all the sea-faring, ached with agony to redeem himself and bring his company safe home. Vain hope – for them. The fools! Their own witlessness cast them aside. To destroy for meat the oxen of the most exalted Sun, wherefore the Sun-god blotted out the day of their return. Make this tale live for us in all its many bearings, O Muse.” – from Homer’s Odyssey, translation by T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia)”
  • The Odysseus paradigm – the various-minded man – fits almost any novel, any movie, any legend
  • The ancient Spartans would march to the enemy frontline, take the omens, and turn around if the omens were unfavorable

Why The Muse Rewards You 

  • There is a level of consciousness operating below the level of consciousness that we most commonly associate with 
  • The symphony exists in another dimension of reality, but it takes Beethoven to this dimension where he can formulate it and share it with others in this dimension 

The Voice of Resistance

  • The news is the voice of resistance; it is all fear, fear, fear 
  • The news is the epitome of us-versus-them: you’re alone, I’m alone, and the people over there are trying to take what we have 
  • We give into the resistance of the news because the ego is our native tongue, and we are weak 
  • If it bleeds it leads dominates the 24/7 news cycle because it is the embodiment of fear 

Human Reward Systems  

  • Human reward systems are ingrained in the fiber of our being 
  • The feeling you have when you have a fish on the line is an example of this reward mechanism 
  • There is a rush of endorphins when you get a fish on the line because you know you’re going to be able to feed your family 
  • Dances with Wolves is the perfect example of a person tapping into the human reward systems 
  • Sports are a modern way that humans use to tap into their ancient needs 
  • Sports are a form of “the chase” 

The Underground River Within Each Of Us 

  • An underground river flows through each of us, and that river is unique to us and it’s our creativity 
  • The underground river doesn’t go away if you yield to your resistance and fear instead of trying to tap into it; the river will flow into a new negative channel that will physically, emotionally, and psychologically damage you 
  • The internet has allowed more people to access their underground river
  • Steven Pressfield believes that everyone has something within them that they are meant to pursue 

Humans

  • Humans are all connected
  • The people leaving hurtful comments on Twitter and YouTube are damaged, and they want to bring you down to where they are
  • Don’t believe the good comments either or they will get to your head and the quality of your work will suffer 
  • Steven believes that the hateful things people write online are their own resistance 
  • They see someone like Joe doing Sober October and resent themselves for not doing something equally admirable, but they choose to project that resentment outward on some other person or group  
  • Polarization increases when people know they have a gift or a dream, but they choose not to do it, whether they’re conscious of their decision or not 
  • “Every criticism, judgment, diagnosis, and expression of anger is the tragic expression of an unmet need.” – Marshall Rosenberg 

The Work

  • “The work is its own reward.” – Steven Pressfield
  • You earn a greater salary from the gods when you’re doing the work, separate from any earthly salary
  • “I don’t hate myself, but I am 100% my worst critic.” – Joe Rogan
  • Physical periods of self-imposed discomfort make the other things seem much more trivial   
  • People get in their own way, which is the ego taking over

Psychedelics 

  • Psychedelics helped Joe get out of his own way, and has since made him more aware of when he is getting in his own way 
  • Psychedelics dissolve the ego 
  • The ancient Egyptians used a particular psychedelic called the Blue Lotus
  • The ancient Greeks drank wine that was laced with psychedelics, as detailed in The Immortality Key  
  • Democracy and modern civilization were birthed from this period that the Greeks were using psychedelics 
  • The success of The Immortality Key opened up a new field of study at Harvard 
  • People have turned to plant medicines throughout history to gain wisdom 

The Hermetics 

  • The Hermetics believed that you and I have no physical existence as entities 
  • They believed that humans exist entirely as thoughts in the mind of “the all” – or a God of sort  
  • The Hermetics believed that there is no physical existence; instead, existence is all vibrational 
  • They believed there is no such thing as opposites
    • Heat and cold are not opposites, they are just points on a continuum 
  • The difference between fear and courage is entirely in the vibration 

Ancient Civilizations

  • We are finding new evidence of advanced civilizations like Goblekli Tepe that existed far further back in time than we previously thought
  • Whereas our science has evolved to focus on the industrialization of things, it’s possible that the science of previous civilizations chose to focus on the vibrations of things, etc. 
  • It’s taken us thousands of years to relearn the things that these civilizations 10,000-20,000 years ago had already figured out
  • One study found that humans may have cooked fish in ovens over 780,000 years ago 
  • We think today is as good as people have ever been, but we’re ignorant to the past 

Unknown Past Lives

  • Pressfield believes that we don’t go through previous lives as solitary individuals but as a group of 4-5 souls that migrate with us 
  • We may have a constellation of souls that travel with us through these various lives 
  • We may have a mentor that travels with us through these various lives

The Soul 

  • The soul exists; there is such a thing as a soul even if we can’t examine it under a microscope
  • Something exists alongside the ego, and that something is the soul 
  • The underground river is the soul
  • “If we live by soul, we’re going to be happy and productive. And if we dismiss soul, we’re f*cked. If we stay in that ego, we’re f*cked.”Steven Pressfield 
  • The soul is much wiser than we are; when we tap into it, we tap into 0.0001% of it and it blows our mind 

The Moral Dimension 

  • The ancient Greeks believed there were “fates”, as in gods and goddesses that were enacting justice on earth 
  • Nobody admires a thief or a liar; people want to be someone who other people admire 
  • Joe’s experience on this planet is better when he puts kindness out into the world and when he has his house in order
    • It’s like the universe is encouraging him that “yes, this is how you’re supposed to do it” 
  • “Do the right thing, eat the right foods, get your sleep, live healthily, be nice, put in the work, overcome resistance, and get your creativity going. You feel better living like that.” – Joe Rogan  
  • People throughout history have gravitated towards these inherent life lessons that encourage them to move through the world the correct way
    • This is probably why so many religions have these moral and ethical structures that teach people how to live their life with the most amount of service to God and the people with the least amount of harm to others 

Human Nature

  • We admire the humans that live their lives in a moral and ethical way 
  • Life is such a weird phenomenon; why is it so “extra weird” if you’ve lived a thousand lives?
  • “Discipline equals freedom.” – Jocko Willink (notes on Jocko Podcast here)   
  • The laws of the universe reward hard work for a reason 

The Human Mind

  • Physical activity is mental activity; the mind is forcing the body to do the work, and a strong mind is required to force the body to do hard physical work 
  • “A strong mind is not just one that can do calculus. A strong mind is not just one that can write books. A strong mind is one that controls the body, all of its inherent weaknesses, and all of its urges to be lazy, sedentary, and self-destructive.”Joe Rogan     
  • The body doesn’t want to work out, and that resistance is spawned by the ego
    • As we overcome that resistance and make a habit of going to the gym, we defeat the ego and are able to move into the soul (the greater self) 
  • Overcoming resistance derived by the ego to access the soul is the battle we fight every day
  • You must fight the battle between the ego and the soul every single day 
  • Resistance doesn’t come out of anywhere; it comes out as a response to a dream that is not being fulfilled, or not being addressed  
  • “Doing the work” should be directed at something very specific that only you could do
  • “It’s okay to have a snake in the room as long as you have the lights on.”Joe Rogan quoting someone 
    • The War of Art is that light for many people 

Vacation and Starting the Next Project  

  • If Steven does the work, he knows he’ll feel good at the end of the day 
  • There should never be “a between project” period; you should start the next book, or project, and practice the same day you finish one     
  • Don’t “take a vacation” until you create momentum on a new project 
  • Finish the book, start a new book, get some momentum going, and then take a vacation 
  • Start creating the outline for book #7 as you’re wrapping up book #6 
  • Comedians do the same thing in their creative process; they will start writing a new act as they finish their current special
    • Always have some bread in the oven 

Joe On Comedy 

  • You can’t teach comedy to someone who isn’t funny
  • The vast majority of comedy classes are taught by people who aren’t funny 
  • Jokes are more than the words in the joke the same way a song is more than its lyrics 
  • It’s hard to give people advice because you don’t know their mind
  • You can know someone, but you only know what they choose to show you
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Notes By Stan Rizzo

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