Territory vs. Hierarchy
Territory vs. Hierarchy

Territory vs. Hierarchy

“Even a peg-legged critter on his own territory is invincible.”

Recently, I finished reading the War of Art by Steven Pressfield which Demetri and I did a book review. If you haven’t checked out our review on that, be sure to go check it out. It is a one-of-a-kind self-help book, super metaphysical, and I loved talking about it with Demetri even if it was not our best review.

In the later part of the book, Pressfield gets into this notion of hierarchy versus territory and what it means to be working in the realm of your inner genius. For Pressfield, the inner genius is the person we are meant to be, and that identity is realized by pursuing the craft we are gifted from birth to do. Whether it be a painter, writer, engineer, or biologist, every person possesses an inner genius that wishes deep inside to be realized.

Although Pressfield defines this concept clearly in the earlier parts of the book, I kept asking, “okay, but how do I know if what I am doing is my inner genius talking or something else?” While Pressfield keeps you waiting until the final pages of the book, I’ll tell you upfront. Finding your inner genius means finding your home turf, your territory, the headspace where your craft feels like an outlet rather than a chore. This propels his conversation of hierarchy versus territory forward, and I’ll explain both to help paint a clear portrait of your inner genius’ territory.

First, hierarchy is the antithesis of territory. A hierarchy considers the existence and participation of others existence in relation to your own existence and performance. Thus, hierarchy feeds the ego and rests on the failure of others to thrive. Although hierarchy holds some heinous connotations, Pressfield believes we shouldn’t dismiss all hierarchies from our life, but we should understand that any activity that is fueled by hierarchy cannot be our calling. As a personal example, I’ve had some courses throughout my undergraduate career that did not feed my inner genius, to say the least. Despite my honest efforts to stay enthusiastic about Medieval literature or Chemistry lab, the motive that fueled me to excel in those courses was not to better myself but to best others.

And unless you are a die-hard Kantian, these motives are not vicious. I learned the content, engaged in lectures, and even grew a slight affection for chemistry. Nonetheless, chemistry is not my calling, even though I thought it was for a long time, and coming to understand my false sense of my calling came from the ego-stroking a chemistry career entailed from my family and friends helped me see this passion was hierarchical. My desire to be a chemist was fueled and affirmed from the outside, but in the desolate late nights at the library writing lab reports, my consciousness could not push me forward because there was no internal motivation.

Thus, to contrast hierarchy is territory. To begin his explanation, Pressfield tells the story of this three-legged coyote that lives in his neighborhood. He knocks over the neighbors’ garbage cans for food and presides over the land, and when any four-legged coyote comes to hunt in his area, he can chase them off despite his physical setback.

This is because the coyote has become the genius of his territory. Similarly, Michael Philips owns his territory in the swimming pool, Kendrick Lamar does in front of the microphone, and Steven Pressfield does with his paper and pad. These are some obvious examples, so how can someone who isn’t sure where their territory is, find it?

Some questions to ask are, what activity, hobby, or craft would you keep up if you were the last person in the world? Where do you go when the whole world is pissing you off and you need to blow off steam? Where do you find yourself detached from the universe without a care in the world?

Perhaps you journal your thoughts away and writing is your calling. Perhaps you become entrenched in your studies or work in a healthy and impactful way. For me, running is something that checks all these boxes because running is my closed feedback loop for happiness and clarity.

Even though you may not know the exact coordinates of your calling’s destination, by narrowing down its location and establishing the borders of possibilities, we continue the process of digging for our calling as we continue to spend time in that territory. All we can ask ourselves is to continue spending time in our territory and disassociating our identity from the ego that feeds on hierarchy.

Have an awesome week!

  • Chantz

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