Category Archives: Motivation

Areté

ancient-greek-olympicIn the recent hit movie and book “The Hunger Games,” young heroine Katniss is tossed out into a computer-enhanced, forest-like setting and left to defend herself against the elements, as well as other young people intent on killing her. In her attempts to survive, Katniss uses a bow and arrow both to defend herself, and to kill animals for food. She cleverly charms and forms alliances with those who might help her. She escapes computer-generated brushfires and man-eating beasts alike. I’d hazard a guess that the Greek poet Homer would have concluded that Katniss was woman of “areté,” which to him described a person of the highest effectiveness, using all of his or her faculties (strength, bravery, wit, and deceptiveness), to achieve real results.

The word areté refers to a concept defined somewhat differently by various sources throughout time. Many would say areté means, quite simply, excellence. According to dictionary.com, this word of Greek origin is “the aggregate of qualities, as valor and virtue, making up good character.” Aristotle used the term as a measure of how well something or someone fulfills its intended use. Yet he also admitted that the definition of areté is not something that can be easily agreed-upon. Finally, in his book “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” author Robert Pirsig uses areté as a synonym for “Quality.”

Personally, I equate the concept of areté to reaching your highest potential as a human being. In his book Way of the Peaceful Warrior, author Dan Millmann wrote a quote that while simple, says it all. When Socrates is talking to Dan about how lousy he is in many aspects of his life while being great at gymnastics, Socrates says “Do you know what’s the difference between me and you? You practice gymnastics, I practice everything!”

It is my opinion that far too many people in this life don’t strive for areté, but rather settle for mediocrity. They live in a world where “just okay,” is good enough. If they have a job that pays the bills, and if their basic needs are met, they are happy. But why not strive for more?

We live in a world that still values the specialists and experts and considers them more valuable. However, those people are also marked by patterns of partial-completeness. I was a specialist and my life took a new focus: Find out those gaps and holes in my culture and now I am filling them up one at a time.

Consider the idea of today’s average man: He goes to work every day for a large corporation that sees him not as a person, but as a number. He comes home and flips on the television, and watches whatever news stories Channel 4 or 7 or 12 has deemed relevant. He goes back out and eats dinner at whatever restaurant the television commercials steered him towards. Perhaps he plays softball with his drinking buddies, or maybe he takes his son to a movie. The next days he gets up and does it all again.

Now contrast this with a description from H.D.F. Kitto’s book “The Greeks,” referenced by Robert Persig in “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” in a chapter about men pursuing excellence:

“The hero of the Odyssey is a great fighter, a wily schemer, a ready speaker, a man of stout heart and broad wisdom…. He can both build and sail a boat, drive a furrow as straight as anyone, beat a young braggart at throwing the discus, challenge the Pheacian youth at boxing, wrestling or running; flay, skin, cut up and cook an ox, and be moved to tears by a song. He is in fact an excellent all-rounder; he has surpassing areté.

“Areté implies a respect for the wholeness or oneness of life, and a consequent dislike of specialization. It implies a contempt for efficiency… or rather a much higher idea of efficiency, an efficiency which exists not in one department of life but in life itself.”

Rise and shine!

http://youtu.be/YyYV0TBY3rU

Rise and Shine!

6 am and your hand can’t make it to the alarm clock before the voices in your head start telling you that it’s too early, too dark and too cold to get out of bed.
Aching muscles lie still in rebellion pretending not to hear your brain commanding them to move.
A legion of voices are shouting their unanimous permission for you to hit the snooze button.

Go back to dreamland!

But you didn’t ask their opinion.
The voice you’ve chosen to listen to is one of defiance!
The voice that said there was a reason that you set that alarm in the first place.

So sit up.

Put your feet on the floor and don’t look back because we’ve got work to do.

Welcome to the grind!

For what is each day but a series of conflicts between the right way and the easy way.
10,000 streams span out like a River Delta before you
each one promising the path of least resistance.
The thing is you’re headed upstream and when you make that choice
when you decide to turn your back on what’s comfortable, what’s safe and what some would call common sense.

Well that’s Day 1.

From there is only gets tougher!
So just make sure this is something that you want.
Because the easy way out will always be there.
Ready to wash you away!

All you have to do is pick up your feet.

But you aren’t going to are you?

With each step comes the decision to take another.
You’re on your way now, but this is no time to dwell on how far you have come.
You’re in a fight against an opponent you can’t see, but oh you can feel him on your heels can’t ya.
Feel him breathing down your neck.
You know what that is?

That’s you.

Your fears, your doubts, your insecurities all lined up like a firing squad ready to shoot you out of the sky.

But don’t lose heart.

While they are not easily defeated, they are far from invincible.
Remember, this is the grind, the Battle Royale between you and your mind.
Your body and the devil on your shoulders who is telling you that

This is just a game.
This is just a waste of time.
Your opponents are stronger than you.

Drown out the voice of uncertainty with the sound of your own heartbeat!
Burn away your self doubt with the fire beneath you.
Remember what we are fighting for and never forget that momentum is a cruel mistress.

She can turn on a dime with the smallest mistake.
She is ever searching for the weak place in your armour.
That one tiny feeling that you forgot to prepare for.
So as long as the devil is hiding the details, the question remains.

Is that all you’ve got?
Are you sure?

When the answer is yes, you’ve done all you can to prepare yourself for battle, then it’s time to go forth and boldly face your enemy.

The enemy within!
Only now you must take that fight into the open.
Into hostile territory.

You are a lion in a field of lions, all hunting the same elusive prey with a desperate starvation that says victory is the only thing that can keep you alive.

So believe that voice that says you can run a little faster
and you can throw a little harder, and that for you the laws of physics are merely a suggestion.

Luck is the last dying wish of those who want to believe that winning can happen by accident.
Sweat on the other hand is for those who know it’s a choice.
So decide now because destiny waits for no man.

And when your time comes and a thousand different voices are trying to tell you
that you’re not ready for it,
listen instead to that lone voice of descent,
that one voice that says:

“you are ready”
“you are prepared”.

It’s all up to you now!

So Rise and shine!