Commit and Grow Stronger

Spartan Shield In the last handful of days, I’ve made some commitments to people. I made two on the last day. In all cases, I’ve agreed to put my resources to bear against their problems and to help them find new levels of success. It made me think about the stories of the Spartans in Steven Pressfield’s The Warrior Ethos (which I’ve just reread for probably the fourteenth time).

Protect Everyone

In The Warrior Ethos is this little detail about Spartan warrior society:

Plutarch asked, “Why do the Spartans punish with a fine the warrior who loses his helmet or spear but punish with death the warrior who loses his shield?”

Because helmet and spear are carried for the protection of the individual alone, but the shield protects every man in the line.

By committing to the team, you grow stronger. By committing to something bigger than yourself, you suddenly have the responsibility to protect others, to work beyond the boundaries of yourself. In this, bigger success can be had.

Tying This Back to Business

I was interviewed and asked about how a larger business would think positively or otherwise about the messages and story lines of The Freaks Shall Inherit the Earth. I replied quite honestly that many businesses suffer from a passion problem. They hired for competence, but that’s no measure of someone’s passion or their desire to serve a greater good than one’s self. To me, that code, that ethos, that belief system that goes beyond the individual worker just hoping to squeak by, get a decent review and maybe a 3% raise (or at least not fired) is what separates the passionate freak from the average person.

That’s the problem right there, actually. We keep seeking the average.

Maybe the time for average has passed.

I committed myself and my energies to some people today. I’m building a very small and very strong league of champions right now, and gathering my allies close.

The next economy centers around personal business, and to survive the storm (for all economic shifts come with a vast retrenching of resources and wealth), passionate people will need to hold the shields beside ours, and hold fast.

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  • Brian Del Turco

    I think a core strength of American culture is what historians call “rugged individualism” …that expansive, pioneering, frontier spirit. It serves the entrepreneurial ethos well. But if we can marry that with holding our shields together with others, so much the better. I think many are ready for this. Thanks for the post …

    • Marketing Fun With Mike

      Great thoughts on the rugged individualism. Couldn’t agree more…

  • Marketing Fun With Mike

    Spot on Chris! I think the just being average world is shrinking each and every day. Passion, creativity, dedication, compassion, and commitment to excellence would be nice pillars in every business 10 years from now…let’s hope so and keep working to get there!

  • Daniel Decker

    Totally agree.

  • April O’Leary

    I’m happy to be an ally!! Warriors together and conquer we will!

  • Josh Peters

    Just got the new book and I’m excited to read it, great post too. I especially love the part about passion and I couldn’t agree with you more about that aspect which is silly. You hire someone for technical competence and they just go through the motions for the paycheck, but you hire for passion and they’re doing what they love and they bring more to the table.

    • Chris Brogan

      Thanks, Josh! Much appreciated. : )

  • Kneale Mann

    Yes Chris, we have to stop stopping, stop holding back, and stop apologizing for wanting to make a difference. And we’re allowed to make a living while we help others and each other. All hail the freaks!

  • Mark J. Kern

    Hugely important to the success of an organization (and an individual): committing to something bigger than yourself, and building or working with a team of truly passionate colleagues. But it’s not a one-and-done proposition. Their effectiveness and success require constant tending.

    • Chris Brogan

      Quite agreed, Mark. But then sometimes, that something bigger doesn’t have to be celestial or altruistic. Maybe it’s just outside and above and beyond the “sell more somethings.”

    • tojosan

      Part of the problem is the organization assumes because they need you to commit to a big project that you should therefore be passionate about it. Cart before horse.

  • Simon Berenyi

    Finding anyone who wants to be excellent can be an impossible task. So many people want to do as little work as possible, that they never even get close to excellent. I ask people all the time,”What’s your Passion?” and they don’t know. If I could find Just one person with that desire, that passion, that energy to succeed It would be amazing. Thankyou for sharing your thoughts and Keep Going – Never Stop.

    • Chris Brogan

      That’s a huge point. It kind of mucks the hiring process, doesn’t it? And just how passionate can an employee BE when someone else owns the business?

  • Red Platypus

    Indeed! I also think its important to commit to people because then you set yourself deadlines and it motivates you to achieve. Without having any commitments to fulfil, I’d never get anything done!

    And of course, you can spot passion (and disinterest) a mile away


  • Martin Pigg

    When you write, “We keep seeking the average,”I’m reminded of Jim Rohn’s quote that, “We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.” While it’s essential that we go beyond average in ourselves, it’s equally important that we eliminate average in our relationships. And that’s an elimination process few people are willing to go through.

    • Chris Brogan

      It’s true, Martin. And that average MUST be made higher if we want to win.

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  • CoachJay

    Can’t wait to read the new book – just bought it. I love Stephen Pressfield. “Do The Work” is not only a great book but I love the way the hard copy is laid out – great use of font size to make a point. Art of War is obviously good as well.

    I assume if I bought the kindle edition of Freaks then I can buy the audio in the future and get the whispercast connectivity? That’s such a great feature that Amazon offers.

    …still can’t believe someone of your stature responded to my email. Thank you.

    • Chris Brogan

      Agreed, Jay! Thanks for your thoughts, there. I’m not of any stature. I’m just me.

      • CoachJay

        I should have said “War of Art”

        Thanks Chris!

  • Scott Harvard

    Hi Chris,

    Interesting thoughts – do you have any ideas how this would work in a silo’d SaaS organization that’s had the separate departments mindset culture for thirty plus years?

    Thank you for your thoughts.

    • Chris Brogan

      Not immediately. It sounds pretty calcified. But essentially, you figure out who you really want to serve and find some way to gently soft-serve the rest without splitting your attention.

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    Fascinating thoughts about the future of the planet. 5 to 10 years out, I agree, personal business may well be the new (or only) career option for people unwilling to settle for average. When it comes to the future of my kids and grand-kids, beyond the horizon, I wouldn’t bet on anything except the need to always be prepared, but never know for what. I have a hard time to imagine what it might be.

    Back to the present – when we settle for average, I think we do so because subconsciously we equate “average” with “normal.” But “normal is nothing more than a cycle on a washing machine” (Whoopie Goldberg) – jut one more good reason to aim for ab-normally non-average.

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