Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

A Summary of My Graduate Degree Thus Far

Written by: on December 4, 2023

This is my third time reading The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. It’s a go-to book for me, and so are his other works on writing and creativity, such as Turning Pro, Do The Work, and Put Your Ass Where Your Heart Wants To Be. Like the writings of Austin Kleon (Steal Like An Artist, Show Your Work and Keep Going), I am always motivated by Pressfield’s books. It’s like listening to “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor, “Come Alive” from The Greatest Showman, or other songs that pumps up my jam!

The War of Art is a slap in the face of resistance. I wasn’t familiar with the concept of “resistance” until reading Pressfield many years ago. And yet, it feels as if he was introducing me to someone I had always known, or a relative I didn’t know I had.

Which reminds me…just this week I was informed I have a cousin. She is a year younger than me, and went to the same school I went to in Wisconsin, and even married a guy that I graduated with. You see, this gal was the product of a “one-night stand” that my uncle had long, long ago. Because of DNA tests, and the proliferation of ancestry research, this was concluded, and recently she was able to meet her “father.” Actually, she had met him long ago, but just didn’t know HE was her father. None of us knew that the girl we were in class with, ate lunch near, or performed in the spring play with, was, well, our cousin.

Some times you get introduced to someone/something that you have known all your life, but didn’t really know. Resistance is one such thing. I now realize that resistance reared its ugly head when I had to write a paper for Sophomore English Literature, or submit a biographical essay for college entrance, or finish a talk for Wednesday night youth group, or compile a bibliography for my master’s degree, or put the final touches on a Sunday sermon, or stain the deck before the Pacific Northwest rains come, or, or, or, etc. etc. etc.

You see, resistance is alive and well…right up to this very moment.

I have to write a summary of my Design Workshop, reach out to Stakeholders, schedule One-on-One interviews, write an annotated bibliography, and compile a Syntopical Learnings Essay, but instead I chose to pick low-hanging fruit: write this blog post.

I love writing these blogs. I find great joy in the creative expression. It’s life-giving for me. The other obligations, however, are not as life-giving, thus I chose to give into resistance. Willingly. This reveals itself in procrastination. Pressfield says “Procrastination is the most common manifestation of Resistance because it is the easiest to rationalize” (Pressfield, 21). We don’t tell ourselves that we’re never gonna do this or that. Instead we say, “I’ll do this or that; but I’m just gonna start tomorrow.”

Today, my friends, I will write this blog. Tomorrow I will get to the heavy lifting of the other projects. Sadly, when tomorrow comes, I tend to find other low-hanging fruit to attend to, and push the other projects off, yet again.

It’s the Tyranny of the Urgent.

In 1967, Charles E. Hummel wrote a book of that title. Like many of Pressfield’s books, I read Hummel’s Tyranny of the Urgent over and over and over, which is not difficult to do since it’s only 30 pages long. As a matter of fact, Tyranny of the Urgent is one of the 135 books I have read in 2023 (thus far). I mention this number not for a pat on the back, but rather, to illustrate just how diligent I am at procrastination and resistance. Sure, some of the 135 books are required class reading, but the majority are NOT. Rather, they are forms of resistance. I see that now. I’m onto you resistance!

Here’s what I do:  I pick up a book so that I don’t have to pick up something else. You may be thinking, “Hey John, it’s OK, there are worse things than a book you could be picking up!” One part of me agrees with you and the other part says, “Get behind me Satan.”  Yes, I love to read, and it beats doing drugs with dirty needles, but I recognize it as it is: resistance. It’s a way for me to procrastinate and do so with nobility and affirmation.

So, this has been a summary of my graduate degree thus far. I’m getting it done, learning, keeping up with tasks, and become Dr. John Fehlen. But along the way I am in an all out war against Resistance. I agree with Pressfield when he says “Resistance cannot be seen, touched, heard, or smelled. But it can be felt. Its aim is to shove us away, distract us, [and] prevent us from doing our work ” (Pressfield, 7).

Resistance is a really big deal, so I think it is only right that when I finish this blog post, I should head to my local library and check out some books on the subject. Just to deep deeper. Yah, that’s what I’ll do today.

Tomorrow I’ll get going on the other stuff.

About the Author


John Fehlen

John Fehlen is currently the Lead Pastor of West Salem Foursquare Church. Prior to that he served at churches in Washington and California. A graduate of Life Pacific University in San Dimas, CA in Pastoral Ministry, and Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, CA with a Masters in Leadership and Spirituality. He and his wife Denise have four grown children and four grandchildren. John is the author of “Intentional Impressions," a book for fathers and their sons, "Don't Give Up: Encouragement for Weary Souls in Challenging Times," a book for pastoral leaders, and "The Way I See You," a children's book. You can connect with John on Instagram (@johnfehlen) as well as on his blog (johnfehlen.com).

12 responses to “A Summary of My Graduate Degree Thus Far”

  1. mm Tim Clark says:

    Funny that you mention Hummel’s Tyranny of the Urgent. I referenced it today in my syntopical essay. It’s a book I’ve gone back to over and over as well.

    So is The War of Art. As a person who sees his pastoral calling as that of an artist (read my blog) any resistance I feel to that work really is a kind of “get behind me, Satan” opposition. Pressfield may not be a Christian, but he has helped me in my spiritual warfare.

    • mm John Fehlen says:

      There are many times that I take the spiritual warfare approach to “resistance.”

      I have to “take every thought captive” (2 Cor. 10:5).

      I have to “set my mind on things above” (Colossians 3).

      And I have also found that the simple (yet quite mysterious) discipline of praying in the Spirit has helped me press through resistance.

  2. mm Kim Sanford says:

    I hear you, resistance is something we all need to fight against. At the same time, let me play devil’s advocate and hopefully encourage you to have a little grace with yourself. The “low-hanging fruit” are also tasks or projects that need to get done. In this ongoing battle, I’ve been experimenting with blocking off chunks of my calendar to tackle the projects that seem enormous. It’s been surprisingly refreshing as it’s freed me from feeling guilty today for all the dozens of things I’m not doing. Rather, I can rest knowing that I actually will get to that big project tomorrow and another one the next week. One more word of encouragement, your “resistance” seems to be leaning into something you love and something that makes you unique. I think our whole cohort has been blessed by your broad reading and your book recommendations, so maybe God can redeem our tools of procrastination too.

  3. Jennifer Vernam says:

    Tyranny of the Urgent. I am familiar with that title but have not actually read it. I use the phrase ALL the time, though, to reflect the reality of the world we are in. There is just too much going on. I digress.

    Reading your post made me go back to a thought: what do you think we can learn from our resistance? I believe that by dissecting it, we can learn more about our values, our fears, etc. What do you think?

  4. Travis Vaughn says:

    It’s funny that you referred to writing the blog post as low hanging fruit. I did the same thing. During Thanksgiving Break, I knocked out my remaining two unwritten blog posts instead of the harder work of the two larger and then looming projects. However, even though I look forward to a brief break of NOT writing anything, very soon, even if only for a couple of weeks, I’ve discovered that I, too, “love” writing these blogs, though I’m sure not nearly as much as you do. At the moment, I’m contemplating how much I want to give in to Resistance and avoid too much attention to the doctoral work between now and January 8. We’ll see how Monday feels when it gets here.

  5. Jenny Dooley says:

    Hi John,
    You caught me when you wrote, “I pick up a book so that I don’t have to pick up something else.” I don’t think it is a bad thing but it is a passive form of resistance for me when I am using it to avoid something I really need to do…like write or clean house. Don’t worry, my house will be cleaned(I get distracted from writing if not) and my last paper written by Monday(I like a deadline). Hopefully sooner! I don’t actually have time to read for pleasure at this point. Though four new non-school related books mysteriously arrived on my doorstep via Amazon this week.
    A fun question, which of our books (that you had not read previously) this semester did you enjoy most?

  6. mm Russell Chun says:

    Ahhh…the Tyranny of the Urgent.

    I remember it well. It was my first wake up call that I was burning the candle at both ends.

    Prioritizing, discarding, and trimming the fat. Sounds easy – the reality is different. I have been working at it for the last 30 years. Still though, I ride the wave of the urgent. Sigh.

    I have accused those I work with that they are adrenalin junkies. It takes one to know one.


  7. Your reflection on Steven Pressfield’s concept of “Resistance” and its impact on your life is relatable. Many individuals struggle with procrastination and resistance (guilty!), often opting for low-hanging fruit like writing blog posts instead of tackling more significant tasks. The concept of the “Tyranny of the Urgent” and the tendency to engage in activities like reading as a form of resistance is a common experience. Recognizing these patterns and understanding how resistance operates is an essential step in overcoming it. Your journey to complete your graduate degree and battle against resistance is a testament to your determination and resilience. Keep at it, brother!

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