As the new year starts, I need to finish some stuff on last year’s task. One of the studies is to finish reading Steven Pressfield, The War Of Art, a must-read book for anyone trying to fight with their inner resistance.
One of the key concepts in the book is working hierarchically vs. territorially. It is such great insights for changing our way of thinking towards the work we do that I would like to share in this article.
"In the animal kingdom, individuals define themselves in one of two ways — by their rank with hierarchy (a hen in a pecking order, a wolf pack) or by their connection to a territory (a home base, a hunting ground, a turf). This is how individuals — humans, as well as animals — achieve psychological security. They know where they stand. The world makes sense."
Since hunters and gatherers, humans have been organizing themselves as hierarchies. It is the default way of organizing tribes so that humans can cooperate in mass. It aligns with our commercial-oriented materialist society. A hierarchy forms based on difference- where someone is either higher than the other in specific settings, be it money, status, or fame.
For instance, in a traditional corporation, the director will have more power than the manager. The C-suite level will have more power than the director. Due to this title, the individual usually settles into their role in the organization and the relationship. An associate developer will think that his job is to code out a feature instead of coming up with the quality. When they get promoted or demoted, their self-worth and happiness also adjust accordingly.
On the other hand, working territorial means that you feel fulfilled by simply accomplishing the work you do because it brings internal orientation.
For instance, in the book, Steven Pressfield describes that a runner feels excellent after putting up their miles.
A photographer feels wonderful after they take their pictures.
A writer feels accomplish after writing an article.
You feel good because you have exercise today. A developer fulfills that he has solved a problem on Leetcode today.
When you work territorially, the energy to do more work comes solely from work - from continuing to follow your path. It is self-sustaining.
When you work as a territorial, the input is not external. It creates monetic behavior. It is an innate desire. It is not the desire that rises because you see other people care about it.
When you work territorially, the feedback and criticism that comes from others will not matter as much. You will search for the truth on that criticism and change your art accordingly instead of its attention.
How do you know if you work hierarchically or territorially?
Ask yourself if you were the first person living on this earth, will you still do the work you are doing?
If the answer is yes, congratulation, you are working territorially.
According to Steven Pressfield, if you are alone on the planet, a hierarchical orientation doesn’t make sense. There’s no one to impress.
Shifting from a hierarchical oriented to a territorial oriented
The simple answer to that is to treat your work as an accomplishment by you.
You set a goal or a system, and you accomplish it. You feel great once you achieve that goal, regardless of how the world sees you. For instance, I finish writing this article today, and I feel accomplished. The world doesn’t care if I finish my essay. I might not get any views on these articles. But I think I perform because I put in the work that I set.
Your territory can only be claimed when you put in the work. You are not a writer unless you write. You are not a swimmer unless you swim. You are not a software engineer unless you put in the work to build and perfect your craft every day.
When working territorially, you get back with what you put in.
Working in a continuously changing environment, especially working with technology, you have to love technology and the art of learning. When you realized that you are seeking the answer because you want to know about that answer - not because you need it in your current job, you have entered a territorial orientation mindset.
This is why it is crucial to ask yourself if you love the subject matter because that is the ultimate force for you to keep doing the work you are given each day. You are in control of your fulfillment, and it is not a continually varying input of external sources.