By Steven Pressfield | Published: November 19, 2014
Back again to the subject of Personal Culture. What are the aspects of this beast?
Admiral Horatio Nelson
First is Level of Aspiration. “How high are we aiming?”
Last year’s NBA champs were the San Antonio Spurs. Two up-and-coming teams from that season are the L.A. Clippers and the Golden State Warriors. Both squads are young and loaded with stars. The Spurs, on the other hand, are old and creaking. A few days ago the Spurs played the Clippers and the Warriors in back-to-back games. The Spurs thrashed them both.
For San Antonio entering this season, only one outcome is acceptable: they must repeat as champions.
That’s Level of Aspiration.
Among tech giants, in what position does Apple want to finish at the end of this year? In the arena of elite military units, where do the Navy SEALS see themselves?
Level of Aspiration is mental. It’s a mindset. It’s a self-generated and self-reinforced view, not only of our capacity but also of our expectations for ourselves.
Level of Aspiration starts at the top. If you and I are serving as midshipmen on H.M.S. Victory in early October 1805 and we see our commander, Admiral Horatio Nelson, stride aboard, how will we feel about our chances in the upcoming Battle of Trafalgar? Will we expect to win? To what standards of excellence and self-sacrifice will we now hold ourselves?
By Steven Pressfield | Published: November 12, 2014
Remember Jack Lord? He played Steve McGarrett on the original Hawaii Five-O.
Jack Lord as Steve McGarrett on "Hawaii Five-O."
Jack Lord had a rule for himself as a character. The rule was: “I don’t ask questions. I answer them.”
I learned this from my friend Ernie Pintoff, who directed a gaggle of Hawaii Five-Os back in the day. According to Ernie, every time a script called for Jack Lord’s character to ask a question, Jack would stop the scene and refuse to read the line.
“I don’t ask questions,” he would say. “I answer them.”
When I first heard this, I thought, “What an insufferable egomaniac! People ask questions in real life. Particularly detectives, which is the role Jack Lord is playing. What’s his problem? Ask the freakin’ question!”
But Jack Lord was right.
What he understood (and I didn’t) was that he wasn’t playing a real person, he was playing a hero—and heroes are different from you and me.
This is a critical lesson for any young writer. We want our characters to be “real.” We want our heroes to be “relatable.” But characters are not real and heroes are not normal. They can’t be. If they were, they wouldn’t be heroes.
The hero drives the story. That’s his job. He (or she) is the one whose choices and actions turn the narrative and propel it forward toward the climax. (more…)
By Steven Pressfield | Published: November 5, 2014
Continuing on our theme from two weeks ago, personal culture: What is the most important part of the artist’s or entrepreneur’s working day?
Rubbing noses and wagging tails
To me it’s the minutes right after the day is over. Why? Because that’s the time when it’s absolutely essential that you and I acknowledge our day’s efforts and give ourselves some props.
Nobody else is gonna do it for us. We have no boss; he’s not gonna come in and give us a high five. Our spouses have got their own problems. Our kids couldn’t care less. We have no coach, no teacher, no mommy or daddy. It’s just you and me busting our asses in a room all by ourselves.
When the whistle blows and we shut down for the day, it’s oh so easy to head home thinking, “Well, that was a waste of time … I accomplished zilch today, etc.”
In other words: Resistance. The voice of self-sabotage and self-diminishment that inevitably rears its head at closing time. If you don’t believe me, make a note to watch yourself today when you finish work. Resistance knows we’re vulnerable then. It knows it can land a few body shots.
This is the moment when you and I must take deliberate and forceful counter-action. (more…)