Imperfectionist Books Reflections

Are You in Your Territory?

Where do you work? How do you spend your free time? What do you buy with your money?

In his book, The War of Art, Steven Pressfield describes the difference between territorial and hierarchical orientations.

A hierarchical orientation is the default orientation for most people. In a hierarchical orientation, you put yourself in a pecking order. You compete against others. You measure your happiness and act based on the opinions of others. Steven Pressfield argues that this orientation is fatal for most creatives because they will:

“Compete against all others in the order, seeking to elevate his station by advancing against those above him, while defending his place against those beneath.

Evaluate his happiness/ success/ achievement by his rank within the hierarchy, feeling most satisfied when he’s high and most miserable when he’s low.

Act toward others based upon their rank in the hierarchy, to the exclusion of all other factors.

Evaluate his every move solely by the effect it produces on others. He will act for others, dress for others, speak for others, think for others.”

A territorial orientation is more difficult to achieve. You must remove yourself from the pecking order. You must act for yourself and speak for yourself regardless of what others may think or say.

“A territory provides sustenance.

A territory sustains us without any external input.

A territory can only be claimed alone.

A territory can only be claimed by work.

A territory returns exactly what you put in.”

For any action, whether it’s buying a new car, going for a hike in the woods, or working on Wall Street, would you do it of no one else knew? Would you do it if you’re the last person on earth? If the answer is yes, you’re in your territory.

But if the answer if no, who are you doing it for and why?

“Remember as artists we don’t know diddly. We’re winging it every day. For us to try to second-guess our Muse the way a hack second-guesses his audience is condescension to heaven. It’s blasphemy and sacrilege.”

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