By Steven Pressfield
Published: July 23, 2014
In many ways this blog is me talking to myself. What makes the thing work, if indeed it does, is that there are a lot of people like me and they are dealing with the same issues I’m dealing with. So talking to myself in this public forum is, in its way, a meditation for those individuals as well.
So I don’t ask myself, “What do I imagine others want to read in this space?” I ask, “What do I want? What issues are bothering me? What questions am I exploring?”
Why write a book?
Why make a movie?
For myself, I set aside such answers as “To make money,” “to achieve success,” “to deliver a message,” “to change the world.”
I don’t believe in any of those. In my view they’re either unattainable or, if attained, do not produce happiness or peace of mind.
How about “to have fun?” “To produce beauty?” “To tell the truth?” “To serve the Muse?”
Now, for me at least, we’re getting closer.
I was visiting an old friend last week, a man I’ve known since sixth grade who from modest beginnings has gone on to great worldly success and who has remained a good guy throughout. We had a couple of drinks and we started reflecting on our lives. We were asking each other if we had any regrets about the paths we had chosen. If we had the chance to do it over, would we have followed different courses?
My friend and I both had the same answer. It’s a little tricky to articulate, so bear with me here if I stumble and bumble a bit:
My friend said, “If you took a prototypical middle-class American guy and put him in my shoes as he was graduating from high school, I might say, ‘Yeah, that theoretical fellow might have regrets over the way my/his life worked out.’ He could say, maybe, that I/he should’ve gone to medical school or I/he shouldn’t have gotten in trouble back in a certain decade. And I/he would be right.
“But that kind of thinking doesn’t apply to ‘me.’ Do you understand, Steve? There was a ‘me’ that didn’t have free rein. That ‘me’ had no choice. I was driven to do certain things, to make certain choices. Why? Was my motivation neurotic? Was I driven by unconscious forces? Yes. For sure.
“But above and beyond those influences, my life had a Pole Star. It really did. I couldn’t articulate this concept then and I can’t really do it now, but I felt that star’s pull and I followed it. Polaris, the North Star. Something ‘celestial,’ in the sense that it was fixed from birth, or even before birth.”
“You mean like ‘destiny?’”
“I know it sounds grandiose and narcissistic, even crazy. But yes. Yes.”
I agreed with my friend. I feel the same force in my life.
“I look back and I see moment after moment when I could have gotten off the train. When good sense and every other factor was screaming at me to get off. But I always stayed on.”
Posted in Writing Wednesdays
Mac McCallister is our "Agora master"—the key writer for the Agora blog. This list reflects works written by Mac, as well as works he recommends to others for reading.
I know I've left out some great works on this list in particular. Consider it a work in progress, always being updated. If there's a specific title that you'd suggest adding, let me know.
Curious about Alexander? Not sure whether to start with the ancient texts or with modern biographies? My vote is for the old school, then head over to the boatload of excellent and very readable contemporary writings about Alexander.
Penguin Classics and the Loeb Classical Library (which gives the text in Greek on one page and in English on the facing) are the indispensable sources. Pick any and you can't go wrong. But here are the must-reads.
These are just a few of the titles that I've turned to in the past, from authors whose work I admire.
This is the ultimate short list. Hard to decide, but these two are starting points.
The title for this list says it all—golf.
Another short list—big on motivation.