By Steven Pressfield
Published: December 9, 2013
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This week’s podcast, “Unpublished Authors’ Mistakes,” question comes from Adrienne Press:
What’s the biggest mistake you see unpublished writers’ making?
We’re going to put the transcript inline on the post this week. If you preferred the PDFs like we had been doing, let us know in the comments.
Posted in Ask Me Anything Mondays
By Steven Pressfield | Published: December 11, 2013
Several of the streets I normally drive are blocked these days by construction for a new light rail line. As I was detouring around one blockage yesterday I thought, “Mass transit is a great idea but it’ll never work here in Los Angeles.”
The reason it won’t work is that it runs counter to the culture of the city. L.A. is a car culture. Even when the Metro Line gave away free passes, the trains were still 90% empty.
That got me thinking about cultures in general.
Institutions have cultures. Apple has a culture, IBM has a culture; so do NASCAR and Wired magazine and the surfing locals on the North Shore of Oahu. The Roman legions had a culture, the Navy SEALs have a culture. Al Qaeda has a culture.
Institutional cultures give shape and identity to the individuals within their organizations. If you’re a bubble-headed bleached blonde working for Fox News, you will dress, think, and act differently that the Commie pinko socialists at MSNBC.
Cultures persist. The New York Yankees of today share indelible DNA with the Bronx Bombers of the Babe Ruth era. The reason Marissa Mayer was hired at Yahoo was to change the corporate culture. That’s why new studio heads are brought in by Paramount and Warner Bros. and fresh coaches are recruited by the NBA, the NFL, and the NCAA.
To change an organization, change its culture.
The strongest institutional culture I can think of is that of the U.S. Marine Corps. The Marines have two boot camps—one at Parris Island, SC and another at Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, CA. For a hundred years these places have been stamping out identical Marines. I can testify from personal experience that no matter how hard you try to resist that culture, in the end you will drink the Kool-Aid. You will buy in to the culture, and that buy-in will be ineradicable.
But the most amazing proof of the power of Marine culture comes from the experience of the 1st Marine Division at the Chosin Reservoir in Korea, winter 1950. Surrounded and outnumbered 8-1 by 67,000 soldiers of the Chinese 9th Army at temperatures that hit thirty-below, these Marines fought their way out over a period of seventeen days in one of war’s all-time ordeals of suffering and endurance. But here’s the incredible part:
Many of these Marines were reservists who, at that time, had never been through boot camp. In other words, USMC culture was so strong that its members imbibed it even without being formally exposed to it.
That’s an institutional culture.
But there’s such a thing as individual culture as well. A personal culture unique to one individual. Personal culture is what you and I have to have, and if we don’t have it, we have to acquire it. As artists and entrepreneurs we must design, construct, and perpetuate an interior culture that is as vivid, unique, and self-empowering as that of the corporations and institutions we work with and compete against.
Posted in Writing Wednesdays | 27 Comments
By Callie Oettinger | Published: December 6, 2013
“Don’t major in the minor.”
In case you haven’t heard, Bezos unveiled a prototype for package-delivering drones at the end of the interview. Without missing a beat, the character-bashing, Jeff-Bezos hating, Amazon-vilifying tribes descended, with articles and comments from one site to the next.
They majored in the minor.
I’m not saying that the drones weren’t newsworthy. They were—and I saw mentions pop up in everything from Outside Magazine’s site to Waterstones’ blog. And I’m not saying that Amazon isn’t above criticism, but . . .