Stages of Drive

Motivation is temporal. Good music, a cup of coffee, or a great TED talk could make you feel inspired, pumped up, and raring to go – but give yourself a couple of setbacks, and that same source of inspiration might start to feel like a toy hammer against a two-tonne rock. You’ll need something way more powerful than a short spurt of energy to break down the barriers in your way.

Stages_of_Drive

Stages of Drive

I like to think of motivation in terms of stages. Each stage represents evolutionary growth in our personalities, in the very core of our beings – and that can be ultimately reflected in the way we are driven. Getting to the next stage means that we are motivated by a new kind of desire; a new purpose or meaning forms the foundation for our actions, and a new force gives us power to overcome the unsurmountable. This motivating energy is fundamentally different between stage to stage, and I imagine it to be on a hierarchical scale: higher stages present more sustainable and powerful energy, while lower stages burn brightly at first, but wear off just as quickly, especially in the face of challenges. And challenges are aplenty when we are engaged in any worthwhile pursuit, so if we don’t transcend to the next stage fast enough, we may not be able to persist in our mission!


Stage_1

Driven by Success

In the first stage, success is motivated by success. Our drive to get things done is derived from the feel-good sensation of having seen success in either someone else, or ourselves. That’s why inspiring TED talks, tales of exemplary people in their field, or even a sports game can cause us to be fired up about our own projects. We see great people swinging their hammers of accumulated ability and smashing apart boulders with seemingly effortless ease, and we think to ourselves – hey, we could be like that too. So we pick up our own tiny hammers and take up our own quests. We embark on our creative projects, our ambitious routines, our competitive journeys. When we succeed for the first time, the dopamine rush makes us feel great; it makes us want to repeat the fantastic experience. The more fortunate ones of us may get to see longer stretches of success than others, and for as long as our season of victory continues, we may believe that we have finally found the holy grail to this game of life. We have no trouble waking up in the morning, swiping aside any sort of negativity, and getting on with our day – smashing problems to smithereens left, right, and center.

But soon enough, regardless of talent or chance, we may meet with an unexpected failure. Our book launch fails. We miss a scheduled exercise session. The competitor trumps us decisively. We feel horrible, and the negative thoughts are harder to swipe off each morning. At first, we may try to block off the hard feelings by listening to more inspiring talks, watching more incredible wins, telling ourselves about how we have attained the gold medal before, and how we can do it again. Temporarily, we are fired up. We keep at our quests. We keep breaking boulders. Yet, the experience of negativity is inevitable: the harder we try, the more we expose ourselves to failure. Each experience of failure makes the naive part of us realize that all the buzz associated with doing well is only just fairy dust and butterflies – it’s not substantial enough to take us all the way to the top. Eventually, that link between our quest and the feel-good, dopamine-rush of success gets completely rend asunder; to truly complete our quest, we conclude that it is essential to go through the dirt, the mud, and the thorn vines. There are no shortcuts. We don’t feel quite as excited anymore. For some of us, this critical realization makes us want to give up – which may not always be a bad decision. But for the rest of us who really, really want to turn our visions into reality, we become obsessed with the question: how do I keep myself motivated? How do I persist beyond the sting of failure?


Stage_Temporal_Shift

The First Transition

To do that, we’ve got to change our focus. I call this the temporal shift, because we take our eyes away from short-term, feelings-driven, self-indulgent motivation to a longer-term, vision-centered drive. We stop thinking about how an activity makes us feel good, but we think of how our vision and mission is important to us. We focus on that vision more than the temporary good-feels that a short streak of success gives us. This means that we are okay with not feeling okay. In fact, we begin to embrace failure – it is just part of the process of growing. By focusing on the longer term mission instead of the shorter term feelings and sensations, we have made the first transition.


Stage_2

Driven by Growth

Once we’ve made the temporal shift, our eyes are set on higher things. We are no longer motivated by the sweetly deceptive allure of success, but instead, we continue bravely, exposing ourselves to difficulties – difficulties that could lead to even more failure. It may be terrifying, yet we quell our fears and press on. This vision that we have is so important, so captivating, that we begin to learn how to take the failure in stride. We except it like how we except the cycles of night and day, the seasons of spring and summer. We learn how to make it work for us instead of against us.

Indeed, in order to achieve what we can imagine, we must accept that growth is absolutely essential. We hit against strong boulders and they do not break because we do not have the right tools, technique, or strength. Failure and mistakes are now re-framed – instead of being the horrible, unacceptable parts of our quest, they become guiding lights, homing beacons, signposts; information that guides us to the very tools we need to move or break the barriers in our way.

To be quite frank though, making mistakes alone is no road to victory. Neither is it a pleasant experience. Just because we’ve switched our motivation does not mean that the bitter fruit is no longer bitter. No, it is still inimically bitter, but we eat it to get better. We are incensed, incentivized, and inspired to study all our losses with greater diligence and alacrity. We know that this is the only way to learn. No, we do not make mistakes with pleasure, nor derive perverse joy from falling each and every time in battle – our senses are still preserved and our tastes are still refined.

What we do is to let the failures guide our path away from more failure. We still feel the sting of defeat and the pain of a thrashing, so we would still prefer to take a victory over a loss at any time. But we are now more resilient, we are more patient, and we can deal with the pain long enough to discover the new pathways that we can take to grow. We do that by managing our negative emotions, and engaging in quiet reflection and contemplation. Moving from post-defeat pity to (not overly-detached! but) fully-engaged reflection is an evolution of character. Doing so will give us critical insights that can bring us closer to victory road. Through continuous reflection and adjustments, we avoid past mistakes and repeat what works until we know what each situation calls for, until we develop confidence in our own skills and abilities. In other words, it is through mistakes that we are pushed towards acquiring a bigger, better hammer, and it is through reflection, application, and correction upon re-correction that we learn to possess it.

The end goal for us is no longer that temporary sense of satisfaction, but the stable sense of growth – a pursuit of excellence, a mature, resilient motivation – an unshakable knowing that our selves have grown to the point that we can acquire satisfaction more easily than before, indeed to the point where we no longer worry about it. Give a man a large hammer and he may learn to break rocks. Teach a man to forge his own, and all the rocks of the world are for his breaking.

And yet, there is an end to this stage. There is a cliff that we reach, a path that we can no longer easily traverse on foot. The block here is yet another negative feeling. We’ve worked so hard in the past, dusted our knuckles against the rocks, plumbed the depths of our soul for the inspiration to continue against seemingly unbeatable odds, but now that we’ve gotten so far, there is a creeping shroud of uneasiness that begins to overtake us. We start to feel soft, saggy, stagnated. Things that were difficult for us are now easy. We look for the next peak to scale, but it feels like way too much effort. We want to stay here. We want to bask in our worn-out glory, lay in our half-baked success (because half-baked is good enough for us), and stay unperturbed by the forces of change.

But, if the bit of us that first discovered the beauty of our vision still remains somewhere deep within, we will feel that creeping shroud of uneasiness with greater sensitivity. It will permeate our beings and cause us to be unable to laze with serenity. No, we are plagued with a relentless invasion of ennui – we know that we must strive harder. But to what ends, and for what purposes? We tell ourselves that we are satisfied, though, if we were really honest, there is still something not quite complete about our success. Right at where we are at, there is a danger of being ensnared by stagnation, bogged down by boredom, and goaded into the same goals as everyone else. Our projects may be unique, but they seem like just another dime in a pile of so many. Our routines may feel effective, but it’s still someone else’s, stolen from the net somewhere. Our victories are sure, but only because we copied the strategies of another. We are successful, we have overcome failure, but we have yet to find our voice. And that is the thing that bugs us, that is the thing that irritates us, yet it feels insufficient to motivate us forward. We need to get to the next stage, and fast.


Stage_Planar_Shift

The Second Transition

So far, we have only striven for ourselves. We’ve put ourselves through the furnace to look for gold within, we’ve traversed the path of peril to seek treasure without, we smith and re-smith stronger hammers to bash the boulders in our way – but things get too difficult past a certain point. Things may even just get too boring. So what gives us the push – or to put it another way, what sucks us through to the other side? Whatever it is will have to be a higher, transcendent purpose. We need to take our eyes off ourselves, and stop asking for what we can gain from it. We need to start looking at the bigger picture. What can we give? Who can we serve? How do we reach that state of evolved strength that enables us to smash the boulders in other people’s way? Previously, we made a temporal shift, a vital change in perspective from short to long-term. Now, we must make a planar shift, to cease looking at the small area of space that we know as ourselves, and to begin setting our gaze on the wider world. Our perspective must be enlarged, it must grow to encompass not just the people we naturally care about, but also the people whom we don’t yet know, people whom we could one day serve.


Stage_3

Driven by Service

First we were motivated by success, and then by growth. Now, with a stable, empowered self, we make a planar shift, peer out of our shells, and feel compassion for the world around us. At this third stage, we are motivated by service. We have more than enough to share, and we want to give it to where it is needed most. This is, of course, the ideal. Usually, upon venturing out into the world, we may instead learn that our current skill set is not enough to meet the ever-growing demand. Or we may realize that it is not sufficiently fine-tuned for it to be effective. This gap is what draws us forward. It sucks us into a continuum of growth, and makes us able to bear with the days of darkness and desperation up ahead – day that can and will come when we delve deep enough into self-development of all sorts. We may feel lost, we may feel like we want to give up – but when we compare our miniscule pain with the colossal ache of the world, we know for sure that it is only a small price to pay for so great a cause.

Some of us may end up at the other deep end of self-development: complacency. When we get lazy and proud, it is the ones whom we serve who can shake us out of it. Our complacent blindness will lead us to fumble, hopefully in a small way, and immediately, the effects of our mistake reverberate throughout the ecosystem of our influence. Things break down. Systems fall into minor jeopardy. People may get hurt (but hopefully not). All at once, we remember how others need us to be at our best. All at once, we get up, stretch our muscles, and get ready to bust more rocks. There is no time for plateauing when we are service-focused, when our sense of self has grown to include others. We cannot idle in complacency or despair – there are lives and livelihoods at stake. We are pushed off the cliff, and we learn to grow wings.

And as we move out into the world and interact with people – those who can help us and those whom we can help – we are driven towards the deeper ‘why’s’ of doing. Our motivation sheds its selfish outer shell and reveals a vulnerable, humane person within, a person whose heart bleeds for the common cause, and whose hands work to raise others up. At this stage of development, we acquire new facets to our abilities. Previously, our analytical skills helped us grow through failure. By reflection and correction we learn the right path. Now, they show us how our actions can influence or fail to influence others. They show us if our skills are lacking, and whether they are in need of further refinement. On the upside, we also become aware of what works, and what doesn’t; what deserves more time and energy, and what is just a waste of investment. With an expanded sense of self, all the abilities that we’ve developed to understand ourselves become redirected to understand others and our relation to them, transforming us into people who can serve the world effectively.

This can, in many ways, create a distinctive marker in our personal skill sets, helping us to find a unique voice in a sea of so many. It seems like anyone who works hard enough can be a writer, but a writer who writes for gamers, or cooks, or musicians, has found a niche. Extending this to a humanitarian direction brings us to entrepreneurs whose interaction with less fortunate groups drive them to penetrate poverty zones through deftly-organized aid ministries, innovators whose exposure to the countless number in want of a clean drink every morning lead them to discover new ways of creating potable water, and social workers who, when faced with unending demands for skilled attention, use their mastery in technology to multiply the effect of the few on the field. Anybody who puts in the hours, and intelligently grinds through failure after failure, should be able to achieve a fair degree of success, but it is our unique connections to those we interact with, to those whom we feel for, that defines the nature of our expertise, and adds colour to our wings.

As a caveat, we must be careful not to skip steps here. There are many martyrs in this world whose kindness and selflessness are exemplary and admirable. But they remain ineffective in their fields of service, or they may even succumb to the same oppression that they seek to fight against. Why does this happen? Usually, they may have moved straight to stage 3 – the demands of the world around them were so pressing that they had no freedom to develop their strengths first. As such, when challenges come in greater numbers, they cannot care for both themselves and others.

Sometimes, we may be in such a situation because of circumstances. But when given the choice, we should strive to develop in a sound and sequential manner. We need wings before we can save others who are falling, we need a great hammer to smash our boulders, then those of others. While we should not be afraid to step out and serve, neither should we be tempted to rush the pace of our development. Through patience, we grow steadily, accumulate ability, and become a powerful force in whatever field we find ourselves in.

If we do manage to reach this stage without rushing too quickly or hesitating for too long, then our motivation becomes akin to the perpetual motion devices of lore – those around us catalyze our growth as we dedicate the fruits of our labour to serving them. We are inspired, and we inspire, we are motivated and we motivate. Our drive is strong enough to break down all the personal barriers in our way. By now, the only thing that blocks us are the logical limits, things like time and energy. These are things that we can only increase to a certain extent. From there, we will aim for optimal investments of these limited resources. At this stage, we become concerned with fine-tuning, experimentation and achieving the best returns from what little we have. This is a problem that demands constant attention and focus – yet it is a good problem to be dealing with. Because having broken down all the barriers of drive from Stage 1 to Stage 3, we can now look up and gaze into the clear skies for the first time. And that’s when we consider: perhaps, what lies beyond is the limit.

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Do the Other Thing

Star

Before I continue with part three of Exercise Routines!, which should ideally include some tasty ideas for planning your exercise, I’ll take a break and, like this post’s namesake, do the Other Thing!

The past few weeks have been quite a hectic rush for me, with deadlines piling skyhigh in my daily and weekly planner. To get everything done, I have employed a simple planning list that orders and captures all the activities that I intend to do for the day. The good thing about this list is that it makes sure I don’t miss out a single thing, or get my activity-order messed up. The bad thing though, is that it gets a bit dry and tiring after awhile. Can I really cram to-do’s into each and every free slot in my day?

Heh.

Of course not. In fact, my list lacks the usual time schedule; meaning that the corresponding column that includes what time is required for what activity – that chunky thing is completely out of the picture. While I have a general projection of how much time is needed, and that affects the order and scheduling of tasks, the freely-floating tasklist lets me organize my time organically. If an activity captivates me, great! I can just focus on it for awhile longer (until the hard schedule kicks in, like appointments, or non-negotiable time limits). If it took a shorter time than anticipated, then I can just move on to other things. Without a suffocating schedule to nail my task list to, I can avoid the usual dictatorship of blanketing everything as a must-do when the activity is more of a good-to-do or even just a fun-to-do.

Speaking of which, there comes a point of time in every organized person’s life where the drudgery of listed tasks, whether scheduled or not, bogs you down and you feel like just escaping it all. Well, what do you do? Even the fun things – being in the list – are not quite as fun anymore.

This is when the Other Thing comes in handy. The Other Thing is that which exists outside of the norms of planning and routine, and it refreshes you exactly because it is novel, unexpected, and spontaneous. It could be as simple as taking the Other route to work, or as scary as talking to the Other person you don’t usually talk to. It could be a bit more time consuming, like trying that new method of working that you heard about from your colleagues the other day. It might take more energy too, like running up a flight of stairs when you’d usually just walk. Whatever it is, it should be something you want to do, but aren’t doing because of routine and habit!

You may ask me, can an organized person with a tight schedule ever get to indulge in the Other Thing? And my answer is: unpack your schedule! Because otherwise, it is usually an uncompromisingly dull No. Either you stick to the plan, or you diverge and feel bad about it. The solution is to have a more flexible plan like what was outlined above. Having no hard timings on the schedule (except those that are truly necessary) will give you a fluid, organic experience that enables you to fill up the little pockets of free time with energizing, refreshing, and enriching Other Things.

Seeding – A Way to Build Content Reliably

seeds

Having had many false starts in the past to get my blog up and running again, I realized that I kept getting waylaid by the same problem of a lack of energized, stretches of time. Either I’ll have energy to get something written, but it’s just a tiny chunk of time – barely enough to finish anything, or I’ll have an entire stretch but it’s better used recovering my energy instead of bleeding out words on the screen. So I end up with a number of half-written drafts, or nothing at all. I used to never have to bother with this obstacle until school and work started. Travel time, fixed schedules, and multiple objectives fighting for attention in my mind makes it terribly challenging to keep up a consistent habit of word-production.

Yet I am quite sure that there are many writers out there with schedules 10 times crazier than mine, but they manage to freakin’ publish novels (e.g. lawyer, politician, and author, John Grisham). So there must be a way to grow reasonably good content in a consistent manner, busy or not!

Here is a method that’s worked for me thus far: seeding!

What is seeding? Most of us don’t have the luxury of growing our own food. But the concept of farming has lent us timeless metaphors that can empower our productivity. For one, a farmer doesn’t simply plant one seed and wait for it to grow – that’s a gross misuse of land, time, and potential. What farmers do instead, is to scatter many seeds over a large area, letting the ones that do grow flourish in great numbers when they do. Likewise, jotting down idea-seeds in fair enough numbers will give us more avenues of success; I usually start with at least five (too many can choke the ground too).

To create your plot of seeds, get a sheet of paper or empty word-processor page, and turn-off your inner critique (well, not too much, just by a bit will do)! Now, just spit out a couple of potentially valuable ideas, and summarize them under 10 or so words. It’s important to keep it short enough to prevent not get sucked into any single idea, but long enough to remove unnecessary ambiguity and shape your direction. Stop when you have 5 or so seeds (the number depends on your ability to manage and juggle ideas). Voilà, your first plot of seed-ideas!

But sometimes just ideas alone aren’t enough; what I do is to expand each seed, and from there, outline a very basic structure to guide my thinking. These structure-points are also seeds in themselves – their emptiness begs to be filled, the words are content-magnets in your mind, and with enough time for incubation, it will attract the raw material it needs to grow. As you continuously return to these points over time, the empty page tends to fill itself up, guided by your structure-seeds.

So what you can try doing after your initial stages of seeding, is to tease open each of these ideas a bit, and pull out a few areas of interest that you can explore and elaborate upon with regards to each seed-idea. Sometimes the elaborative structure is sequential in nature e.g. first do A, then B, then C. Sometimes it’s thematic in nature e.g. what is seeding? And sometimes it’s a debate e.g. A vs B. There are virtually an endless number of forms that can tickle your fancy; choose one that can carry your idea across most effectively and interestingly.

Whatever it is, these forms are the structure points that you can begin to work with. For instance:

What is seeding?
Explain the need to seed
-qwerty
-uiop
Explain how to seed
-asdf
-ghkj
Elaborate on the mechanics
-zxcv
-bnm

Already you can see that guided structure can inspire you to start building content around it. Just like a seed, you need to give yourself time for the content to grow (unless it’s an idea that’s been in your head for a long while, bursting at the seams for want of expression!), so be patient. You may realize that the day-to-day experiences of your seemingly mundane moments of life may start to become fertile collecting grounds for your seed-ideas. That’s when you need to return to your plot of land and begin jotting down points under your structured form. Behold, they grow!

You may discover by now how reliable these seeds can be. You don’t have to finish your entire writing-piece in one sitting, or return to it only to learn that you’ve forgotten what it was that you initially were excited to write about. With all these structured idea-points written down, you are all primed and ready to write at any time, for as long as the moment affords you; whenever you return, you can just pick off easily from where you begin. No hassle, no undue chunkiness, just streamlined seeds of self-growing inspiration.

The seed-ideas even serve as a form of focus that can channel your thoughts – they frame your perspective and outlook on the world so that you can gleam way more information than you usually would without having these guiding points to help you out. Busy schedule? No problem. These seeds grow almost by themselves; it doesn’t take that much effort to have a quick glance at your idea-outline before starting a busy day. Who knows? By the time you get through that tiring session you might have collected enough raw material to get ’em seeds growing! This can work for blog posts, short stories, novels (with a bit more complexity of course), and whatever your writery-fancies see fit.

So clean the dust off your notebook, and start seeding (:

Finishing: The 2nd Hardest Thing to Do

Man building a tower with wooden blocks

Earlier we discussed why we start new/exciting/fun/creative! things, and also explored a few ideas on how to just begin, especially amidst the mountains of self-critique and the scariness of expectations. In this post, we begin from the end and talk about the 2nd Hardest Thing to Do: Finishing!

1) The Perils of Unfinishing

Why is finishing just so darn difficult? If you’ve been following the earlier posts at all, you’ll pick up quite quickly that once you’ve gotten used to starting things, it becomes as easy as pie. Pop it in the oven and ooh- new thing emerges! But the real challenge is to get all these little half-baked pies out of the oven in a well-cooked, prettily-garnished, and ready to serve condition. There are a number of problems that you’ll start to face if you never do finish up anything. For one, all these ideas start stockpiling, like half-baked pies strewn all over the kitchen – and the flies of self-critique and poor self-image will come to swarm all over you. Even if you do manage to swat them away, you realize that not getting anything finished means that you can’t really share anything with the world (I’m not referring to those projects that can be released over time, so long as something has reached its particular benchmark of utility, that in my book, is finished), and that just plain sucks. After all, your flagship project / epic novelette / fusion brunch menu was started to add value to the world, and losing sight of that purpose kind of makes starting all these gazillion projects lose their meaning. You don’t want to bump your head against a tree while walking into the forest – have your eyes on the goal, and keep your legs walking towards it!

2) Prime Things and UnPrime Things

Much like how there is good reason for us to find starting things difficult, there is also good reason for us to find finishing things difficult. While starting may cost a bit of resources, finishing requires us to pull out all the stops and make sure that we are committed to getting it down and done. The deeper we go into our project, the more we learn about the nature of its accompanying challenges. Call it the warped nature of reality, but if the end goal is worth it at all, chances are it gets even harder to finish near the end! It seems as if our calling is testing us, taunting us: are you ready to go into the deep end, where going in doesn’t mean you get to come out easily? Indeed, the completion of some projects may actually be more risky than it is worth. Hence we need to be quite sharp when evaluating Things. I propose a simple typology – Prime Things and UnPrime Things.

Let’s start with the Thing that we ought to avoid. UnPrime Things are Things that look flashy, pretty, and downright spanking fantastic, but they aren’t actually that critical or useful to anybody, or yourself for that matter. Now, there are plenty of things that aren’t exactly critical or useful, yet they can be quite central to the pursuit of the main goal. For instance, getting the design of your cupcake just right so that it bakes perfectly, mastering that tricky guitar riff so that it comes off splendidly during a concert, or adding energy saving features to your new car prototype; little things that aren’t quite critical but are still central and contributive to the experience of the main goal. What is the difference between these and UnPrime Things then? It’s not actually an easy question to answer, else there would be no point to this paragraph, however we can have an idea by looking at the Thing in general. Do you have all the ingredients of your cupcake ready, and the baking method all set to go? If you do, then great – make sure the design is good as well! If not, and if the guests are waiting outside, well, design may become an UnPrime Thing in this scenario. The trickiness to UnPrime Things lie in their general desirability, juxtaposed against that ever-so unfortunate state of the universe, wherein time, energy, and resources are just so darn limited. If the costs are unjustified, sometimes its just vanity.

Prime Things, on the other hand, are a fertile soil of possibilities that pay off for themselves, and more!, in time. They may not be immediately essential in the here and now, but investing in them might bring you tremendous exponential benefits as you go along. Either they cater to some pressing, unmet need in the market (or yourself), they transform an existing way-of-doing-Things into a much-better-way-of-doing-Things, or they bring some crazy existing Things together into a fully-functional, value-adding Thing. UnPrime Things might feel silly as you start to hit brick walls, and sure you can demolish the barriers, but why would you? Prime Things on the other hand, feel more important and weighty as you get to the points of resistance. You can sense the gold mine of value shining deep within the tunnels of procrastination and distractions, and so you dig it deep and press on (or not!).

3) Finishing up the Prime Things

If you get closer to the end goal, and find that your Thing is starting to look more and more like a fluffy, self-indulgent, full-o’-frills UnPrime Thing, you do have the permission to abandon it right away. Or better yet, keep it under wraps, and learn what you can from your brief stint with that short-lived project. Perhaps you can find signs earlier along the way that can help you avoid starting more UnPrime Things and save your time/energy/heart for that which matters. But if your entire being feels more alive despite the challenges and set-backs, feels more keen and eager to head towards completion especially in the face of distractions and temporal urges to procrastinate, then you know that you have found your Prime Thing and you’d better buckle down, seat tight, and fly your rocket all the way to the moon. There’s no stopping you now! Call up a few friends, make yourself accountable (and possibly ashamed in the case of failure) for what you are about to accomplish, review your goals and reasons for the Prime Thing, and then get down to the hard, sweaty, dirty work.

When it comes to the 2nd Hardest Thing to Do, there is no substitute for good ol’ hard work. So for the love of all things good in the universe, get it done.

Warrior of the Soul

“He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.” – Proverbs 16:32

A warrior is a person who has dedicated his entire life to the art of war, in service to a person, a nation, or an ideal. His life is defined by discipline and constant growth; a little carelessness during training, a little indulgence during preparation could mean death on the battlefield. His death on the battlefield could mean the loss of a war, the defeat of a nation, and the destruction of everything he believes is right.

Perhaps more so than the metaphorical warriors of this age whose battles remove them far from the threat of physical death, the literal warrior feels the Sword of Damocles hanging so precariously over his being. His martial prowess exposes him to the martial prowess of others, and all his strength is for the sake of war. So every breath and every cell must be trained to submit to the will – the slight disobedience could be the last mistake that snips the thread which binds Death from falling onto his head.

In war, down one man, and the platoon is weakened, down the platoon and the defensive lines are shaken, overrun the defensive lines and the army is broken, break the army and the war is lost. When the war is lost, men, women and children become slaves to another ruler, whole nations and societies are subjugated, ideals are broken down and reconstructed in the image of the victor. There may be much to lose with the loss of one man, and so every man must stand his ground and tame his being to his will.

Greater than the army of warriors who train daily for their cause is the man who commands the army. Each of his warriors are the cells of his very being – he must ensure that every part is connected to the supply lines, able to function in desperate times, and subordinate by whatever means to his direction. Like each warrior who trains their limbs to obey mental commands, the General builds up his men so that they can transform his vision into reality on the battlefield.

Wealth is required for the training of men, expertise for quality training. Honour and respect is necessary for morale, and trust is above all, that which subjugates each man to the commands of the General. To take a city will require an army of diverse talents, machines that can perform sieging operations, supplies that fuel the soldiers, and a General who can oversee the entire operation.

The General must be a mighty warrior, unafraid to take a risk, humane enough to abstain from foolish assaults, and inhumanly calm in the face of discouraging news. He is the one man upon whom the burden of success and failure lies; the grief of many families, the pride of an entire nation – this is the warrior who bears the pain in his body and acts, regardless.

Yet, greater than this mighty, incredible warrior is the man who turns the act of warfare within. He discerns in his soul, the fortresses and strongholds of internal powers that can influence the entirety of man’s seeing and being. The fortress of greed that cannot be satisfied and risks every safety for the allure of more. The castle of selfishness that puts out patrols on all four walls, refusing passage to any merchant who goes in or out. The kingdom of rage that demands speedy and overwhelming vengeance for every perceived slight cast upon itself. There are countless strongholds to be named, and the greatest warrior trains the armies of his soul to wage war against them.

A General conquers a city, and in due time, he is conquered, or death conquers him and another takes his place. History reveals the rise and fall of mighty men. Within the battle-scape of the soul, a second is a day and a day is a year. Wars are won in pivotal moments and lost just as quickly. And so the victories and losses in man’s internal being reveals the same topography of hills and valleys – there is no permanent victory. Every capture demands an unflinching defense against the upcoming counter assault; the battle rages on continuously at every moment. Hence, more so the importance of vigilance, of discipline, of wisdom, for the warrior of the soul.