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The Warrior Ethos

The Warrior Ethos

The Opposite of Shame

By Steven Pressfield | Published: February 28, 2011

Chapter 9  The Opposite of Shame is Honor

Once, in India, after years on campaign, Alexander’s men threatened to mutiny. They were worn out and wanted to go home. Alexander called an assembly. When the army had gathered, the young king stepped forth and stripped naked.

Alexander

Alexander. He knew how to keep the troops motivated.

“These scars on my body,” Alexander declared, “were got for you, my brothers. Every wound, as you see, is in the front. Let that man stand forth from your ranks who has bled more than I, or endured more than I for your sake. Show him to me, and I will yield to your weariness and go home.” Not a man came forward. Instead, a great cheer arose from the army. The men begged their king to forgive them for their want of spirit and pleaded with him only to lead them forward.

By challenging them to show more scars on their bodies than he had on his own, Alexander was shaming his men. Warrior cultures (and warrior leaders) enlist shame, not only as a counter to fear but as a goad to honor. The warrior advancing into battle (or simply resolving to keep up the fight) is more afraid of disgrace in the eyes of his brothers than he is of the spears and lances of the enemy.

Chapter 10  Boyz 2 Men

When they were boys, Alexander and his friends were forced to bathe in frigid rivers, run barefoot till their soles grew as thick as leather, ride all day without food or water and endure whippings and ritual humiliations. On the rare occasions when they got to rest, their trainers would remind them, “While you lie here at ease, the sons of the Persians are training to defeat you in battle.” (more…)

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The Warrior Ethos

The Warrior Ethos

How the Spartans Became the Spartans

By Steven Pressfield | Published: March 7, 2011

Chapter 12   How the Spartans Became the Spartans

All warrior cultures start with a great man.

In ancient Sparta, that man was Lycurgus. He took the city from a normal society and made it into a warrior culture. (more…)

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The Warrior Ethos

The Warrior Ethos

Citations for Valor

By Steven Pressfield | Published: March 14, 2011

Chapter 15   Citations for Valor

Decorations for valor, from ancient days to modern, have seldom been awarded for raw bloodthirstiness or the brute act of producing carnage. The feat that inspires witnesses to honor it is almost invariably one of selflessness.

croix de guerre

The Croix de Guerre from WWI

The hero (though virtually no recipient chooses to call himself by that name) often acts as much to preserve his comrades as he does to deliver destruction onto the foe.

In citations, we read these phrases again and again:

“Disregarding his own safety . . .”

“With no thought for his own life . . .”

“Though wounded numerous times and in desperate need of care for himself . . .”

Selflessness. The group comes before the individual.

Chapter 16   “Follow Me!”

During the Six Day War, the Yom Kippur War and all of Israel’s subsequent conflicts, casualties sustained by officers have exceeded proportionally by far those suffered by men of the enlisted ranks. Why? Because the primary leadership principle that Israeli officers are taught is “Follow me.”

During the Sinai Campaign of 1956, the commander of an Israeli armored regiment violated orders and attacked down the length of the Mitla Pass, sacrificing numerous men and vehicles to capture a strongpoint that was later given up. Despite public outrage at this act of insubordination, the Israeli commander-in-chief, General Moshe Dayan, refused to discipline the man. “I will never punish an officer for daring too much, but only too little.” (more…)

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