Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

Principals and Profiles, Part Two

By Steven Pressfield | Published: March 6, 2013

This is an edgy subject and maybe I should stay away from it, but I feel like I want to squeeze it a little more, so here goes.

Qaddafi

Moammar Qaddafi. Sometimes dictators can be Profiles.

To review quickly, we were saying a couple of weeks ago that sometimes a public figure or personality (the “principal”) will be stalked or cyber-stalked or just plain bugged by a fan/frenemy/hater (the “profile.”) And that each of us probably has both tendencies-in-potential in our psyches.

The reason I’m exploring this is to see if we can learn something that will help us. A couple of observations:

You don’t have to be a person to be a profile. There are countries that are profiles. North Korea is a profile. Venezuela. Iran.

Certain politicians are profiles. Dictators are often profiles. Nations that are profiles are almost always run by dictators who themselves are profiles. Oddly enough, when one profile dictator is deposed he is often replaced by another profile dictator.

Certain news media can be profiles. Political pundits. Blogs can be profiles.

Parts of our body can be profiles. Some of us have bad backs, or knees, or shoulders. There’s nothing physically wrong with them, but they keep giving us trouble. In psych terms, they “act out.”

Profiles are provocateurs. They are seeking attention, not by producing work of value, but by attacking in flagrant and provocative fashion some entity that is producing work of value. They are like the surly six-year-old at the children’s table during Thanksgiving dinner, who throws her peas and cranberry sauce across the table to get attention.

What characterizes a profile (be it a person, a nation, a political group, etc.) is the inability to positively define itself for itself in its own terms—i.e., its dreams, its aspirations, its efforts, its accomplishments, its philosophical and spiritual point of view. Instead the profile defines itself by (unconscious) envy of and (conscious) hatred of another. Why does North Korea rattle sabers and bluster about launching nuclear missiles at the U.S.? Why not threaten the Netherlands, say, or Indonesia (which is a lot closer geographically?) Could it be that North Korea admires and wishes it could emulate the United States? Could it be that North Korea envies the attention given the United States and wishes that it could garner some small share of that attention?

What’s interesting about profiles—I observe this from my own profile days—is that they almost always have something positive to offer. Profile people/nations/media/body parts are interesting. They possess ambition. They could make contributions if they wanted to.

The difference between a principal and a profile is that the principal’s energy is channeled into positive pursuits while the profile’s is funneled into negative ones.

I was writing in last week’s post about Jackson Browne, Glenn Frey, and Don Henley back in the days when they were unknown. What’s interesting is that, even then, they were principals.

They had already committed to their callings. They were already passionately pursuing their art. It made no difference that they didn’t have record deals yet or had never been on the cover of Rolling Stone. They were working. They were committed. They were principals.

I would bet that 99.9% of the people who read this blog are principals. In a way what these posts are about, week after week, is increasing one’s principal-hood. Honing one’s focus, eliminating bad habits and distractions, becoming more of a professional.

Back to politicians for a minute, and then I’ll wrap this subject up.

There seems to be an epidemic these days (particularly during the primary season last year) of politicians who are profiles. Their talent is not for governing or policy-making. They are provocateurs. They are bomb-throwers. The problem is that the 24/7 media, in its need to fill air-time, inflates these personalities into serious contenders. Suddenly the crackpot policies and positions of these politicians are being taken seriously. (Does anyone remember “9-9-9?”) Did we not witness one candidate after another come forward, revel in his or her fifteen minutes of fame, and then flame out spectacularly—only to find a comic afterlife, briefly, on the Daily Show and the Colbert Report?

I don’t know what it’s a sign of (nothing good, that’s for sure) but in today’s depraved media culture, it’s getting harder and harder to tell a principal from a profile.

Posted in Writing Wednesdays

18 Responses to “Principals and Profiles, Part Two”

  1. March 6, 2013 at 4:28 am

    Once again, nourishing food for thought to begin my Wednesday.

    And a key takeaway: we all have both Principals and Profiles within us.

    It’s much akin to tapping into the Higher Self or the Lower Self.

    It’s a choice.

    It’s all about choice.

    • Angelique LaCour
      April 13, 2013 at 7:58 pm

      I really have a problem with the word “profile”–perhaps I just have a simple mind, but low life, low road-taker, wannabe, anything but profile would be better. “Principal” works because it is a word that refers to a higher up, head of, person of noteworthiness, but profile? Just doesn’t work for me–it has too many other possible meanings. Maybe it will catch on and one day I’ll hear myself saying, “you…you…f***in profile!

  2. Basilis
    March 6, 2013 at 5:21 am

    Countries that can be profiles…
    I’ll have to think about that.
    It hasn’t even crossed my mind!

    Anyway, “The Profession” is finally released in my country. At last I must say! I was ready to order it in English, but there’s no need for that anymore.

    So now, I just have to read it…

  3. March 6, 2013 at 7:15 am

    Being hounded by Profiles can certainly get a body down. Seems to me it’s a chief contributor to Rannulph Junah’s despair at the outset of The Legend of Bagger Vance. It’s why he tells his drinking companions that the young lad Hardy Greaves is the only man around who isn’t completely full of shit.
    The cure for Rannulph, and for us, is to ignore the Profiles (the ones that arise both from within and without), get back in the game, and do the work that leads to life’s one true reward, the reward of discovering and expressing our Authentic Self. If we’re lucky, we run across someone like Bagger Vance, whose words bear a striking resemblance to those of a certain Steven Pressfield, to show us the way.

  4. March 6, 2013 at 8:35 am

    The energy of profiles is not directed outward toward making a contribution or “passionately pursuing their art.” It is directed inward, toward the self, making the self bigger based on needs of the self which makes the needs bigger to be filled.

    Which results in a feedback loop, like when you stand too close to the microphone and the most innocent of sounds builds into a clawing piercing shriek. Profile has the same impact on our soul as feedback has on our ears.

    Until somebody clamps a hand over the microphone.

  5. Tricia
    March 6, 2013 at 9:19 am

    Obviously implied above, but just to add: making this dynamic more conscious also helps us all to shift our response from reaction to one of compassion for the perpetrators (inside and out) — perhaps the hardest part!

  6. skip
    March 6, 2013 at 10:41 am

    the entire media today is also the profile as i see things today…the media’s safe and secure world has been tossed up in the proverbial air thanks to the power of the net and ironically the power of the word…the media is the enabler for the politicians much like a criminal gets aid from an accomplice…stupidly some of the public connects the dots from someone being in the media to someone begin an expert…thus the modern logic that goes: if you are on tv or in print ergo you are an expert…ya, right…good stuff here…you nailed it again !

  7. March 6, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    Man, Steve, your post today really hit home for me. This morning I was doing an hour-long radio interview by phone with Alison Rose Levy in NYC. A caller instantly attacked me without saying a word about the books being discussed that I had written. My insightful host realized the caller was a Profile Torch Carrier and diplomatically showed the caller the door. One can only guess what truly tortures such a caller, but I think your post today comes very close to some of the reasons.

  8. gs
    March 6, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    After quitting my gig at a start-up, I experienced long-term obsessive resentment against the CEO. Although my reaction, taken in isolation, was defensible, I was being a Profile.

    This was before I came across War of Art.

    I now understand that Resistance was diverting my energy from the work I quit my job to do.

    I haven’t yet won the battle on that project, but Resistance is having to try new tactics.

  9. March 6, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    Dealt with one of those today. Actually, been on a run of ’em lately. Occupational hazard in the news biz. But man, what a waste of energy.

  10. March 6, 2013 at 3:15 pm

    I love this topic. Interesting it occurs to you as edgy.

    It’s a really useful way to examine one’s actions and one’s stance towards a particular topic. Including what one’s body has to say on the matter!

    It’s the leader/follower, flame/moth dichotomy in more vivid terms. Thanks. I’ll use it today.

  11. March 6, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    Cogent observations, as always. One thought for further exploration, based on your observation that we all have principal-profile aspects – not just physically, but psychically (psychologically, intellectually, spiritually): how and when and why does our inner profile “act out” – not just in ‘bad back’ form, but other ways for attention. Our ambition should be made of sterner stuff.

    Thanks!

  12. March 6, 2013 at 7:25 pm

    I think that what you call profile, is what I call “energetic vampire”. There are people who suck your energy dry, or at least attempt to. In order to tap into your energy, they have to “hook” you. No one can suck your energy unless you let them, it is a dance. One common example might be the spouse who says “You can dominate me and take my energy as long as you provide the money (security).” There are many other types of examples not unlike those you mention above.

  13. March 6, 2013 at 8:15 pm

    This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.
    George Bernard Shaw

  14. York
    March 7, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    Great!

    Yes I agree. I believe this blog and others like it help us get that much closer to being truly professional and overcoming Resistance. Each week a new bite of information.

  15. March 7, 2013 at 8:53 pm

    Jim Cornelius and I shared a laugh talking about the profile chafing him at work.

    Jim said he stayed awake too long with the “coulda woulda shoulda saids.”

    “He gave you a dose of ‘profile.’ Profile is contagious!” We’ve all been there.

  16. Rody
    March 8, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    Check out the news of today, Wednesday March 8, in Venezuela….

  17. Lisa
    March 11, 2013 at 11:07 am

    I have a voice in my head that is a body part that is a Profile. It appears to be chatter/Resistance as discussed in War of Art and Do The Work. I’ve been practicing the rule “Never Engage the Profile,” and not engaging with the voice since reading this entry. (I’m also identifying people that are Profiles or in Profile mode, and doing my best not to engage them.) I look forward to your blog every Wednesday – thank you for sharing your insights.