A story from WWII:

In the early fighting in Southeast Asia, the Japanese were seriously kicking the British Army’s butt. Things had reached such a desperate pass that an entire division, including its Gurkha components, had to be airlifted 1500 miles to safety—an emergency evacuation, though smaller, nearly on a par with Dunkirk.

A Gurkha soldier of WWII

But one Gurkha sergeant had been accidentally left behind. The poor guy was alone, with no radio, no compass. He had only his rifle and a map. The distance between him and his brothers-in-arms was unfathomable, across trackless jungle with which he was totally unfamiliar, to a needle-in-a-haystack place he had never been. He set off nonetheless.

Short version: nine months later, the Gurkha sergeant staggered into the base to which his division had been evacuated. He was barefoot, emaciated, sick with every kind of tropical disease imaginable. But he had miraculously made it! His mates swamped him ecstatically. His British colonel saluted him and made plans to honor his incredible achievement. Surely the sergeant’s feat was the greatest solo walking escape in the history of warfare.

The Gurkha sergeant spoke little English. but he was able to communicate his feelings to the colonel and his officers. He did not see his 1500-mile trek as particularly exceptional. After all, he said, “I had a map.”

He handed the map to the colonel. The paper was falling apart, the map itself torn and ragged and stained with jungle mud and dirt. “This is the map you used?” the colonel asked.

“Yes, sir.”

“The only one?”

“Yes, sir.”

The colonel held the map up for his officers to see. “This is a city map of London!”

Here’s the moral of the story, as I see it:

Self-belief (no matter how crazily-founded or materially divorced from reality) plus instinct plus grit may be the most powerful antidote to self-doubt.

DO THE WORK

Steve shows you the predictable Resistance points that every writer hits in a work-in-progress and then shows you how to deal with each one of these sticking points. This book shows you how to keep going with your work.

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THE AUTHENTIC SWING

A short book about the writing of a first novel: for Steve, The Legend of Bagger Vance. Having failed with three earlier attempts at novels, here's how Steve finally succeeded.

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NOBODY WANTS TO READ YOUR SH*T

Steve shares his "lessons learned" from the trenches of the five different writing careers—advertising, screenwriting, fiction, nonfiction, and self-help. This is tradecraft. An MFA in Writing in 197 pages.

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TURNING PRO

Amateurs have amateur habits. Pros have pro habits. When we turn pro, we give up the comfortable life but we find our power. Steve answers the question, "How do we overcome Resistance?"

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35 Comments

  1. Carole on August 9, 2023 at 1:42 am

    I think the other one is action. Action has a way of pushing doubt into the background. I’m still finding my way through the jungle of my current novel, but when I’m writing it rather than plotting it I feel less doubt, like it will all come together somehow in the way it was meant to.
    Thanks for this post Steven!

    • Victoria 'AntiNovelist' on August 9, 2023 at 6:32 am

      YES Carole!! Action plus grit => self belief. This landed just right today!! Thank you Steven!

  2. Momo on August 9, 2023 at 1:54 am

    Needed this today. Thank you!

  3. Oluwatobi Adesanya on August 9, 2023 at 2:42 am

    This is a thought-provoking piece. Its almost like saying there’s an inner compass in all of us that comes alive at dire moments. The soldier must have had within him a strong belief that he could make it through the unchartered territory. There was no doubt an invisible hand leading him on.

    Where there is a will, it’s often said, there will be a way.

    I’m reflecting on this story for more insights. It’s powerful!

  4. Joe Badalamente on August 9, 2023 at 4:08 am

    Amen.

  5. Malaika on August 9, 2023 at 4:16 am

    Wowww!!! I love this story! I continue reflecting on it… Thank you so much, Steven Pressfield!

  6. Paulo Hoyer on August 9, 2023 at 5:39 am

    Steve, it’s amazing how concentrated of knowledge and lessons your texts can be. If there is food for thought, they are vitamin supplement for thought. Thank you for sharing them with us.

  7. Sam Patil on August 9, 2023 at 5:41 am

    Great story
    What was the name of the Gorkha?
    I remember reading a similiar story of a Hungarian named Andras Andy Gorag who escaped Siberia to India using a map of London
    Are either or both of the stories true?
    Sam

    • SC on August 9, 2023 at 9:42 am

      I agree — I’d really like to know if we have specifics that can document this as an actual event, or if this story is apocryphal. Thanks.

      • Steven Pressfield on August 9, 2023 at 10:33 am

        The story comes from BUGLES AND A TIGER by John Masters (unless my memory is totally failing, which might be true) or possibly THE ROAD PAST MANDALAY, another one of his books. Really good nonfiction by a Brit officer about his time with the Gurkhas.

        No, I don’t remember the sergeant’s name … or even if he was named in the book.

        • SC on August 9, 2023 at 4:27 pm

          So it’s from a nonfiction source that can be considered reliable? Which means we can trust that this actually happened. Wow. Thank you.
          I’m going to be chewing on this for a looooong time.

  8. Lyn on August 9, 2023 at 6:07 am

    Amazing story! Reminds me of this quote: “What you think you become, What you feel you attract, What you imagine you create.” – Buddha

  9. Tolis on August 9, 2023 at 7:34 am

    Thank you so much dear Steve.

    Self belief, enormous proofs of the belief (even if only thin-air based, the anchor is what counts), instict and grit. I play with and am played by them everyday and they are not far from disasters and failures and threats and moderate or ballanced but never perfect, self fulfilling days. [suggestion: no serious fulfillment count in days, only in decades]

    The self-belief soldier is the symbol of being unstoppable.

    Unstoppable is not just a word. It is a whole set up.

    Unstoppable means that you are not only the power of now -you are the power of all your days of going towards the goal, accumulated. Even if at first you were going towards other goals, then again you were passing desserts, crossing territories that you now know and need not pass once again.

    You are all those days. You are not today. That is the power of the Unstoppable.

    That is why we must be Unstoppable. Every day is not another day that we didn’t make it through like the past 14.000 days or so. It is one more day towards our ideal. And our ideals are so wide that they are not even a spot on a map -as it was for your warrior. They are scattered wonderfully all through the map in some way that I can only intuitive guess. Because when and if we become whole, then all seems that it will be gold for us. Because maybe everything and always was gold for us, but we didn’t know.

    And everything and always is sh*t for us too. And woe to those who see that prism, except those who have no other choice because sh*t is all around them in their lives, but then again that is an external factor and external factors have no positive or negative, they are strangely neutral.

    We must never stop so that we are there Now.

  10. Kathy on August 9, 2023 at 7:41 am

    Oh my god, tears down my face.

    You wrote this so poignantly Steven. And isn’t that what all of the arts do? They remove us from who we have been and reveal a deeper being, that can be us, if we step out and take it.

    And ohhh…what you wrote about this man and so artfully pointed those heroics back to us,

    “ Self-belief (no matter how crazily-founded or materially divorced from reality) plus instinct plus grit may be the most powerful antidote to self-doubt..”

    It’s there, isn’t it? Thank you for always pointing that out.

  11. John on August 9, 2023 at 7:50 am

    Thank you, Steven! Great story! One step in front of the other. On Monday I was coming down a very steep gravel road I had just run up. I noticed a two-inch brown millipede about halfway into crossing the road. As I watched, I noticed some parts of the journey were flat from repeated tires that had smoothed the road, but mostly there were small and large bits of gravel to traverse. The little millipede would easily get across the smooth bits and when it came to a large stone, it would either go around or over it with only a slight hesitation to navigate the best course. Some stones were large and looked difficult to get over. Not once did the millipede stop as if to say fuck it. It didn’t “roll over.” It just kept going. I found myself cheering this little guy on as it made it to the safety and food supply on the other side. If it is in that millipede, it certainly is in us.

  12. Michael on August 9, 2023 at 8:20 am

    Simply a very beautiful, uplifting and encouraging story, thank you so much for that!

  13. Bing on August 9, 2023 at 8:53 am

    This is my favorite conversation. It is my responsibility to design and create the unstoppable narrative. I get most of my idea’s from the Holy Bible. Thanks Steve.

  14. Joe Jansen on August 9, 2023 at 9:14 am

    Makes me think about Tim O’Brien’s Going After Cacciato.

    Except Cacciato was trying to walk home OUT of war. Our Gurkha buddy was walking back INTO war… but if he was walking back to his brothers, maybe he was going home, too.

  15. Jackie on August 9, 2023 at 3:08 pm

    Spot on! Thanks for this incredible story. It gives me hope.

  16. jodypaynesays on August 9, 2023 at 5:18 pm

    Inspiring. Truly inspiring. Thank you.

  17. Rob on August 9, 2023 at 7:53 pm

    This was simply an amazing story. We can and do create our reality. It is most jolting once this story is completely understood!

  18. Dan Epright on August 10, 2023 at 2:16 am

    It seems to me:

    The story may or may not be true in all its particulars. It may or may not be singular; several individuals, with variations, may have accomplished a similar feat.

    The story may be fiction, in whole or part. The sergeant’s faith in and hope for the map was primarily in his God-given mind, from which the map and the Sergeant gained power. Therefore, like most good fiction, it is Truer than Truth. We know in our hearts that it is true.

    Thank you very much for the story, it arrived. . . Just. In. Time.

  19. Chris G. Baker on August 10, 2023 at 7:38 am

    In his book about St. Thomas Aquinas, around page 190 G. K. Chresterton hinted strongly that everything is a syllogism. Faith and action.

  20. Roghayehsaadifar on August 10, 2023 at 12:50 pm

    I feel like every time you write these beautiful words(which I use them in my life) I just want to comment here and say how much I LOVE YOU !!!!

    Truly, that is the only words I can say to a man who is writing what RIGHT NOW I need to hear.

    I need to hear this. Because I am in the middle of SELF-DOUBT.

  21. elastic man on August 10, 2023 at 9:46 pm

    I’ve read through a variety of topics on your channel, and I always find your stuff to be quite enjoyable.

  22. Wanda on August 12, 2023 at 7:23 am

    At the risk of sounding removed from any compassionate observation of this man (which breaks my heart that he desperately clung to a “map” as he sought his troops like a lost child) the same thing happened to my cat Charlie. He was kidnapped and let out at a forested bridge 20 mins (driving time) from town. He had to cross a narrow river, and a highway. It took him 3 months. He was ill, emaciated and traumatized. His map was me. I kept linking with him through awareness. I saw that he was attacked a few times, unable to hunt sometimes, nothing to hunt others. But daily I connected with him so he knew I was with him and which way to go. So too that poor Japanese guy. He was guided by his greater sense of awareness, the thoughts and linking that his commades in arms were no doubt extending towards him, and his determination and trust that he’d find his way back to the family he’d lost.

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  24. Steven Taylor on August 21, 2023 at 10:53 pm

    This is one of the best sites I have found on the internet until now.

  25. Nolan Lester Lester on August 25, 2023 at 2:54 am

    your post was very helpful to me.

  26. connections game on September 21, 2023 at 2:37 am

    What an incredible tale. In a sense, we do make our own world. When the full meaning of this narrative finally sinks in, it is shocking.

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    It’s fun to play Happy Wheels. The more you play this game, the better it gets. You’ll want to play this game over and over again after the first time.

  28. Jordan Wick on October 27, 2023 at 3:14 am

    This was great information really thankful for sharing.

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