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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?
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Posted in Writing Wednesdays
16 Comments

What It Takes

What It Takes

Focus on the Person, Not the Product

By Callie Oettinger | Published: September 12, 2014

Flannery O’Connor hooked my interest through a school-assigned reading of A Good Man is Hard to Find and her personal story kept me reading more. I was certain that a bit of that geranium she wrote about—“with its roots in the air”—was her, a transplant to New York City, from Georgia, where the geraniums weren’t put on apartment windowsills for sun, but thrived just fine on their own at home.

While her body was long gone when I arrived on the scene, her stories and articles about her have kept me re-reading her work, always finding something new each time I visit.

With a few exceptions, it’s the individual’s story, not the story itself, that hooks me. There are millions of books and films and paintings and albums and plays and concerts and…  When they are pitched as products – “one of the best films of the summer” or “an instant classic”—I keep walking.

These days, everything seems to be a bestseller, the next best thing, the best film of the year, the best of the best of the best.

When everything is the best…  None of it grabs my attention.

I stop for the personal stories.

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Posted in What It Takes
27 Comments

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.

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Posted in Writing Wednesdays
20 Comments
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