Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Path May Be Hidden

Steven Pressfield is the author of several well known books: The Legend of Bagger Vance, The Gate of Fire and The War of Art. He also authors a very good blog.

Below is an excerpt from a recent blog post. The whole post may be read here.

“In the End, We’ll Succeed”

By Steven Pressfield | Published: May 1, 2013

Not long ago I took a wilderness trek with an old friend who had been the commander of a Recon company in the army. We were out in the boonies for five days, with no check-ins with civilization. I had never done this kind of thing before and I noticed two things:

One, my friend was completely confident of our whereabouts at all times.

Two, we were lost at least half the time.

A phrase kept re-appearing in my friend’s conversation: “In the end, we’ll succeed.”

At first I didn’t pick up on this theme, but after the twentieth time or so, I started saying it myself. It was a great mantra, and I think it applies equally well to such diverse enterprises as writing a novel or starting a business or undertaking any long-term, high-aspiration project.

What is a “Recon commander” anyway? As my friend explained it, recon teams or platoons (among many other assignments) guide larger formations across unfamiliar territory. Their job is to go into the unknown and make it known to those who follow. My friend’s vintage is the era before the invention of the GPS or other satellite-based navigational technology. He’s old school. A map. A compass. The sun.

I know from unimpeachable history that my friend is a superb land navigator. But, trust me, when you’re out in the deep boonies with no highways or man-made landmarks within miles, everything starts looking like everything else. My friend taught me about “blind maps”—a map with no place names on it, just topographical features. It’s amazing how hard it is to scan the horizon and say, “Ah, that peak over there is this peak on the map.”

One evening as the sun was setting we couldn’t find our way out of a box canyon. I was starting to freak. My friend was calmly collecting firewood. “In the end we’ll succeed.”

Another day we hiked all morning toward a road that had ceased to exist since the map’s publication. No problem. “In the end we’ll succeed.”

And we did.

There seemed to be two components to my friend’s principle:

1. Commitment to the ultimate object.
“In the end” meant to him the final goal. What happened along the way was purely anecdotal. There was a goal. That was where we were headed. Nothing would stop us from getting there.

2. Indifference to setbacks along the way.


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