This is a free Kindle book that I stumbled upon. This book is basically designed to coach you through a piece of work be it writing a book / developing a software / creating a model / new venture / new product/ new service etc. This book is not so much about “what you should do”, but more about “how you should you do it”. In any creative endeavor, most of us would agree that the biggest obstacle is “internal”. You can name the internal struggle in umpteen ways, here the author chooses to call it “Resistance”. He starts off saying that three big forces against us doing creative work are Resistance (i.e., fear, self-doubt, procrastination, addiction, distraction, timidity, ego and narcissism, self-loathing, perfectionism, etc.), Rational thought , Friends and family. Out of the above three mentioned forces, the author dwells upon the beast (Resistance) in us which we do not recognize sometimes. The beast has the following characteristics :
Resistance Is Invisible , Insidious , Impersonal , Infallible , Universal Never Sleeps , Plays for Keeps
Our Allies in our creative efforts are Stupidity, Stubbornness, Blind faith, Passion, Assistance (the opposite of Resistance) Friends and family. One must invoke these allies from time to time so that one can fight against this dragon called resistance.
I guess everyone can relate to this book based on the nature of work they are up to. In my case where my work is to build math/stat models, there are some nice takeaways from this book that one can relate to any model building exercise
Start before you are ready : If you are building let’s say a volatility based model, don’t over prepare. Look at the data, do some diagnostics, fit a basic model and back test it. Once you know it really sucks you can improvise.
A Research Diet : You cannot read LOT of books and assume that at the end of it, the model will magically become crystal clear. You need to cut down the literature to a few important books and then start building a prototype of the model. However the books you shortlist should be read cover to cover. You got to forget everything else and go over the books so that you don’t miss any vital point from those shortlisted set of books. So, in one sense, what you include in your research diet becomes crucial. Again this is a process. First time you have no clue what to read. Second time, you become a little better in choosing the relevant to stuff to read, third time you get a decent idea and so on and so forth. Utopian state according to me would be,“You see a problem —- You immediately know the kind of model that would work for that specific problem —- If you have the skill sets well and good —- else you kind of know precisely the books, the academic papers, the software, the people whom you must connect so that you can build a useful model”. Any modeler should strive towards this utopian world.
Stay Primitive : All you need is pen & paper, a programming language and a database to do your research work. Nothing fancy is needed. The advantage of using open source is that you can customize to your requirements, meaning you can decide what is needed and what is not. Most often than not, it is the pruning that is critical. Like a garden that becomes beautiful after pruning, most open source software from my experience work like a charm, once you know what to prune and how to prune.
Swing for the seats : Don’t be taken aback by the complexity of the model if you know that it has a potential to work. After all, most often than not, you might end up using only a SINGLE component of the model but that which works perfectly for the situation.
Three Act Structure : Like the artists, painters, movie makers, create a three act structure for your model. What are the three major components that your model has/model will accomplish by the time you ship it. These three acts should be the basis of everything that you do.
Fill in the gaps : Once you have the three act structure ready, work furiously to fill in the gaps. Do research. You must remember that ideas don’t come linearly. Some tangential direction from some footnote in some random paper could be just the thing that you want to implement.
The Process : Build a prototype / Back test / Do research / Build a prototype / Back test / Do research – Basically it boils down to ACT-REFLECT loop a zillion times till you are ready with the model
Obviously any process will hit roadblocks and this is where the book explains two tests where you will win over resistance based on your attitude.
Test Number One : How badly do you want it?
The scale below will help you answer. Mark the selection that corresponds to how you feel about your book/movie/ballet/new business/whatever.
Dabbling • Interested • Intrigued but Uncertain • Passionate • Totally Committed
If your answer is not the last one in the options list, then Resistance will eventually triumph.
Test Number Two : “Why do you want it?”
For the babes (or the dudes)
Because I deserve it
To prove my old man (or ex-spouse, mother, teacher, coach) wrong
To serve my vision of how life/mankind ought to be
For fun or beauty
Because I have no choice
If you checked 8 or 9, you will beat the beast/Resistance. If you have checked any one of from 1 to 7 Resistance will win the war, even though you might win a few battles here and there.The book ends with saying that, @ the end, you have to ship it. You do the research/ math/back test and you don’t ship it, you have failed.
This book made me curious to read the expanded version of the same content “The War of Art”, a nifty play of words from the title of a famous book “The Art of War”.
This book explains the same points with many more examples and anecdotes. If you feel resistance in doing your work at any point in time, be it at the beginning/ middle/ towards the end of your project, these two books will jolt you out of your sloth.
The book makes one realize the beast in all of us, “Resistance”. By exposing its various manifestations, its allies, its weapons, one can be prepared to overcome it in our daily lives. We cannot remove it completely .We need to fight with it every day. However we can get better at it, day after day, if we are committed.