By Steven Pressfield | Published: September 3, 2014
Continuing our exploration of why I write this blog and why anyone might read it.
Let’s consider a topic we’ve discussed previously in this space: the idea of personal cultures.
We’re all familiar with the idea of institutional cultures. Apple has a culture. The New York Yankees have a culture. The Marine Corps has a culture.
You and I have one too. We might not realize it. We might not be aware of it. But each morning when we wake up, a pattern of thought boots itself up in our minds. This pattern is habitual. It has evolved within us by our own acts of commission or omission. We have manufactured it deliberately or it has established itself by default.
Bob Dylan has a culture.
Jay-Z has a culture.
Hillary Clinton has a culture.
This interior culture, more than anything else, determines if we are happy or unhappy, successful or unsuccessful, healthy or unhealthy.
What this blog is trying to do, among other things, is to explore the idea of personal culture, specifically the personal culture of the artist.
What is Resistance?
It’s the universal nemesis of every artist or entrepreneur. Laziness, jealousy, fear, anger, self-doubt, self-sabotage, self-conceit, self-satisfaction.
What weapon(s) do you and I possess to combat and overcome Resistance?
We have our interior culture.
When I use the phrases “turning pro” or “the professional mindset,” I’m describing a specific type of interior personal culture. It’s not the only type that works. But it’s the one that I myself, for whatever reasons, have glommed onto over the years.
One of the things a culture does for us is it lays out the actions and behaviors that someone “like us” would do or not do. On Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers, one does not crap out in the fourth quarter. At Steve Jobs’ Apple, we come up with original ideas or we keep our mouths shut.
A personal culture defines our attitude and our point of view. It tells us how we view ourselves and how we view our challenges. When we look outward at the world, do we see “every man’s hand against us?” Are others always wrong, never ourselves? Or do we always discover blame at our own doorstep?
Our interior culture defines what’s possible for us. We can do X, say, but not Y. When we come up against Y, is it really impossible? Or are we in possession of a faulty culture?
Who has set up our culture? Did we breathe it in from American Idol or Keeping Up With The Kardashians? Do we inhabit a Twitter culture or a Harvard culture or a World Wrestling Federation culture?
Have we examined our interior culture? Is it visible to us, or do we act reflexively and unconsciously, following its dictates without even realizing that it exists?
Of what does our habitual behavior consist? Does the first contrary breeze knock us off-course? If we succeed, do we become arrogant and self-satisfied? How much is a dollar worth to us? More than our work? More than our integrity? Or are we so proud that we won’t stoop to perform labor that’s honorable but menial?
Will we lower the ladder to help those coming up behind us?
How hard is it to get through the day? Does it leave us bleeding and bereft? Or do we finish with excess of energy, full of hope and confidence for tomorrow?
My own feeling is that we build our personal culture every day, minute to minute, by what we do and what we think.
You and I chose a long time ago (or maybe not so long) to make our way in life as artists and entrepreneurs. These fields demand certain mindsets. They demand specific types of personal cultures.
When Seth Godin advises us, “Don’t wait to get picked; pick yourself,” he’s suggesting a tenet of the personal culture of an artist or an entrepreneur. An attitude. A point of view. An act that “people like us” perform habitually.
The principles that this blog returns to over and over are my own (perhaps nutty) principles. I’m constantly testing them and re-assessing them and taking them apart to try to understand them better. I’m asking myself, “What is my personal culture? Is it working? What’s missing? What am I doing right? What am I doing wrong?”
I’ll bet you’re doing the same thing for your own personal culture.
There’s a story from ancient Greece. At the games at Olympia, the spectators from each city-state sat in their own section—Corinthians all together, Athenians all together and so forth.
An old man entered the packed stadium, seeking a seat. No one would get up for him. The elderly gentleman passed through the section of Argos and the section of Epidaurus. Not a single person stood up to offer a seat. The eyes of the whole stadium followed the old man, laughing at his predicament and mocking him derisively. Finally he reached the section where the men of Sparta sat.
At once, every Spartan stood and offered the old man his seat.
At this, the stadium burst into applause.
An observer said later, “Do you see, the Greeks know what is right, but only the Spartans practice it.”
You and I know “what is right.” We know the elements that should constitute our personal culture.
Are you embodying them?