By Steven Pressfield | Published: February 9, 2011
Today we launch something new on the site. Some people may hate it. (We’ve already had one high-profile colleague flee, screaming, from his first sight of it.)
It’s called The Warrior Ethos. It’s an ongoing series about exactly what the title says. The primary audience I’m writing it for is our young men and women in uniform, but I hope that other warriors from other walks of life will give it a chance as well. The first Warrior Ethos post will appear in this space today, Wednesday 2/9, a couple of hours after this intro runs. After this week, the series will appear every Monday.
Warriors and Artists
What is a warrior anyway? It’s you and me, as we fight the daily battle against our inner demons of self-sabotage, self-betrayal, self-doubt and so forth—not to mention the real, external foes we must contend with in our art, our businesses, and our personal lives.
We duel adversity every day, you and I. We get bloodied; we experience casualties—and we have to get up and find a way to fight again. We might not be wearing body armor or carrying M4 carbines, but we know in our bones that the warrior virtues of patience, resolution, tenacity, selflessness, capacity to endure hardship, etc. serve us every day of our lives. Life is a struggle. That’s why the word “war” is in the title of The War of Art.
Where this came from
The Warrior Ethos evolved out of my preparatory work in writing my upcoming novel, The Profession. The story is a military/political thriller set a generation into the future, when conventional armies have largely been replaced by mercenary forces. This brought up a lot of questions for me, stuff I had never really had to define for myself before.
What is a warrior? What ethic does he fight by? Is a code of honor necessary? If so, what are its tenets? How does it arise? Is it something we have to be indoctrinated with by mentors and elders? Or does it arise spontaneously, summoned by the exigencies of the struggle and the imperatives of the human heart?
Trying to answer these questions, I went back into history. I read Xenophon and Herodotus and Thucydides; I read Caesar and Arrian and Curtius and many others. I studied the Spartans and the Romans and Alexander’s Macedonians. This blog, as some of its readers may know, evolved out of an earlier blog called “It’s the Tribes, Stupid.” That blog was about Afghanistan and the struggle there today. So there’s some of that too in The Warrior Ethos.
Warriors and Professionals
Remember, in The War of Art, the concept of “turning pro?” That was my nutshell answer to the question, “How do we overcome Resistance?” A pro shows up for work every day; a pro is patient; a pro endures adversity. A pro doesn’t take success or failure personally; a pro accepts no excuses; a pro plays hurt.
The Warrior Ethos takes the concept of “professional” and traces it back to its roots in the primitive hunting band and the ancient hoplite phalanx. A pro is a warrior, and a warrior is a pro. I hope that those who might react negatively to anything with the word “war” in the title will reconsider the metaphor—and how it may help them (it probably already is) in their artistic, entrepreneurial, and personal lives.