Politics and the Professional Mindset
Candidates for office in all lands and in every century make the same promise to the voters they hope to attract:
I will get you what you want and it will cost you nothing.
“Want your job back? A free college education? No problem. I’ll get it for you.”
Something for nothing is the offer a drug dealer makes to an addict or a mother provides for an infant.
In the grownup world, something for nothing does not exist. Yet politicians sell it to us, and we fall for it every time. Why?
The amateur, the infant, and the addict operate out of the identical mindset. Each looks to others—specifically others perceived to be more powerful or capable—to supply their needs or solve their problems without pain, effort, or risk.
I will get you what you want and it will cost you nothing.
The candidate for office adds two particularly pernicious corollaries to this proposal.
The straits in which you find yourself are not your fault. You are blameless. You were duped and betrayed by (insert Vulnerable Minority here), upon whom you shall now, by my agency, wreak your vengeance.
You need pay nothing for the solution to your problem. We will take the money from (insert Affluent Minority here.)
Why am I bringing this up? It’s not a rant, really. My aim is to contrast the amateur/addict/infant mindset to the mindset of the professional—whether she be an artist, an entrepreneur, a mother, a student, whatever.
The professional and the entrepreneur start from the following assumption (I’m borrowing from Dan Sullivan of Strategic Coach here):
I will expect no opportunity and no remuneration until I have first created value for someone else.
I was watching a terrific PBS “American Masters” documentary about David Geffen, who rose from humble beginnings (in Brooklyn, natch) to become a legend in the entertainment biz and a renowned philanthropist. When he was a boy, David was offered the following piece of wisdom by his mother:
You’d better learn to like to work, because we have no money and you’re going to be working for the rest of your life.
Another authority figure once made a similar statement to a pair of innocents under His care:
And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.
The professional is immune to politician-type promises, whether they come to her from the outside or from within her own head. She recognizes them for what they are.
Instead she tells herself, Whatever I want, whatsoever problems confront me and my family, no one is going to solve them but me. The only way I will change my circumstances for the better is through good sense and hard work.
The professional mindset is hard-core. Why? Because it reflects the realities of life.
How do you write a novel?
How do you make a movie?
How do you raise a child?
The only time life is not hard-core is when it is portrayed in the speeches of candidates campaigning for office.
By the way, whatever happened to
“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”?
Not to mention
“I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”
Maybe I am ranting. The point I’m trying to make is that JFK and Winston Churchill in those phrases addressed their constituents as if they were adults and as if they possessed the professional mindset.
I ran across this video of Director Guy Ritchie talking about his philosophy of story telling. Very interesting!
Just watched this, Sue, after you suggested it. Great stuff. Thanks!
the mainstream media is no different than the politicians. they too sucker the “amateur, the infant and the addict”.
Everyone needs someone like David Geffen’s mom in their life – thanks for a great “in your eye” post!
I. LOVE. THIS!!!!
How about the citizen mindset that says: “I accept responsibilities of decision-making and producing what the citizens of my country value, and I expect a just return for myself and other members of this democracy.
An election cycle or two ago, I was asked to sit on a committee for a guy running for governor. It was a veterans committee. He asked for our input in veterans affairs, etc.
I told him, “Don’t patronize us. That is all we are getting the politicians are crying crocodile tears, and painting every vet as we are broken, PTSD-riddled, suicidal maniacs that were driven to war by a madman. To them we are all victims.
Here is what you say, “Welcome home. Take a knee, drink water, weapons pointed out. Do not drop your ruck. The true battle is here. I need you. I need you to lead your families, your companies. I need you in my administration. Thank you for your efforts overseas, but I need you here and now. Our state and our country is in a jam, and it is going to take a significant amount of effort to right this ship. I need you to get busy.”
Please don’t treat us like victims, but lead us.
He didn’t. He lost. We have over 700,000 veterans here, and he did not get the majority of them. He treated us like victims.
During the same election, a loose-tie friend was running for Congress. Lost big time. I turned off all cable news and radio, and haven’t listened to them since then. I was an emotional wreck. I felt completely disenfranchised. Was I crazy? I was out of touch? Is this the America everyone wants?
If a politician actually spoke truth to us, tried to enable us, lead us, inspire us…
…I won’t stop voting, but I can no longer pay attention. It hurts too much. It makes me feel weak and hopeless.
In the past election I had to vote for Gary Johnson because to vote for either of the two main candidates would make me hate myself.
I love this site because politics are never brought up, but I think this was a timely and appropriate post. Thanks again Steve.
The last time I voted was over eight years ago. Nothing is more freeing than realizing that you no longer want to control others, that you won’t control others, and that you refuse (as much as it’s safe) to not allow others to control you.
Democracy is dead. The funeral might not happen for another 100 years, but its finished, having been exposed for what it is: mob rule.
“Bread and circuses,” they shouted in Rome.
I don’t need to write what people demand today, the list is entirely too long.
This was a great post, Steve. The hope of the truly free is to serve humanity with our talents, sans the gun pointed at our heads.
I’m institutionalized. Nearly 27 years in uniform leaves marks on one’s consciousness and soul. While I am cynical about the times, I will never quit believing that we have something divinely inspired in our country, our Constitution.
I do not believe democracy is dead. I believe the problem and the solution is leadership. Mob rule is effective with good leadership. Mobs can be mobilized, the hive mentality can be turned for good.
I agree with the Professional mindset that we are solely responsible for our lots, but I will not give up on our country.
I will ply my influence in arenas outside of politics because that platform has become too hot, too polarized, too unforgiving.
We have lost the ability to hear truth coming from our political adversary’s mouths–so there are only the Humanities in which we can hear truth.
AGREE – For me, this covers “every” area/format of LIFE….
LOVE THIS: “Whatever I want, whatsoever problems confront me and my family, no one is going to solve them but me. The only way I will change my circumstances for the better is through good sense and hard work.”
Need to do a PS: In some circumstances there is the side of the coin where no amount of money that is paid will ever heal the wound and the rule applies “no one but me is going to solve the problem.”
THANK YOU for this reinforcement of what my father drilled into my psyche. Your reminder comes at a critical time.
Thank you Steven for sharing other amazing artists like David Geffen. I need all of your minds desperately. At the moment I am dying mentally and all of you are life saving. This post was perfect for me today.
Great post, Steven. I too was taught by my parents to be responsible for my own life. I would add a quote from Rumi that speaks to this.
“Yesterday I was clever so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise so I’m changing myself.”
If we each did that rather than playing the victim or acting as judge and jury, the world might actually be a better place.
This is also the correct response to “You get nothing and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
So I get nothing? Okay, I will make it myself—or at the very least, I will do what I can to work toward making it, because even if I get nothing, no one can keep from me the rewards of the work itself.
[…] Steven Pressfield recently pointed out the three mindsets. Politics and the Professional Mindset […]
Excellent truth as always! Having grown up on a ranch I was taught to try and figure things out with what you had available before getting help. That self-reliance has been critical to my success in life and in accomplishing the writing goals that I have.
Thanks for another awesome post!
Reminds me of the “prime belief” (taking full responsibility) — https://markmanson.net/the-prime-belief
[…] A timely (for the UK) post from Steven Pressfield: […]
As we all know a professional mindest depends on when you a professional teacher collaboration. Then you canb do a good politics. Everything first you have to learn first and then implement in any polictis.
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