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Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

Nobody Knows Nothing

By Steven Pressfield | Published: September 17, 2014

I used to work for a big New York ad agency named Ted Bates. The agency was constantly pitching new business.

Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus in "The Matrix"

The way it worked was the entire Creative Department, about 150 people, would be assigned to come up with new campaigns for Burger King or Seven-Up or whatever business Bates was going after. You were supposed to put 20% of your time against this, with usually a two-week run-up before the first inside-the-agency meeting.

These meetings were called “gang bangs” because everybody took part. They were held in the giant conference room around a table that felt like it sat a hundred people. This was back in the days when everybody had a pack of Camels or Marlboros in their purse or shirt pocket. The room was so thick with cigarette smoke, you could barely see from one side to the other.

In turn, each creative team (art director and copywriter) would stand, pin its storyboards to the wall and do their pitch. The entire room got to comment, though the ultimate verdict would be pronounced by the Creative Director, who sat at the end of the table like Morpheus or Zeus.

What lesson did I take away from these sessions?

Posted in Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

The Difference Between 14% and 15%

By Steven Pressfield | Published: September 10, 2014

I was talking to a friend at the gym the other day. “How much strength do we all have?” he said. “Think about it: a ninety-five-pound mom can lift a Buick if her baby is underneath it, right? Then why is it so hard for that same woman to lift a 25-pound dumbbell here at the gym on a Tuesday morning?”

Russell Crowe in the arena in "Gladiator"

The answer, my friend said, is that the muscles can but they don’t want to. They resist. They’re afraid of success, afraid of failure, afraid of pain, afraid of the unknown.

“What we’re afraid of,” my friend said, “is going from using 14% of our potential to using 15%. For some reason, that increment is totally terrifying, even though there’s another 85% untouched beyond that.”

Why is it so hard to get that 1%?

We can all agree, I’m sure, that we experience a huge rush of exhilaration when we actually do it.

Isn’t that what CrossFit is all about, or extreme sports, or any physical activity that pushes the body and the mind beyond their perceived limits? CrossFit, from what I’ve read, enlists camaraderie, competition, novelty (new exercises, new environments), games, challenges, etc. to inspire its members to go from 14% to 15%. Success becomes addictive. You do it once and you want to do it again.

Yet the body resists. The mind resists. The world seems to have been made this way.


Posted in Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

Why #5

By Steven Pressfield | Published: September 3, 2014

Continuing our exploration of why I write this blog and why anyone might read it.

Jay-Z has a culture.

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? (more…)

Posted in Writing Wednesdays
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