#579 Zen in the Art of Spartan Spear Throwing

Choosing a Practice As a Portal to Optimizement

Alexandra recently got Steven Pressfield’s newest book called The Artist’s Journey. Sub-title: The Wake of the Hero’s Journey and the Lifelong Pursuit of Meaning.

(I might have swiped it before she could read it. Thanks, Babes! 🤓 🤗)

This is Pressfield’s 19th book. It’s the 9th book of his I’ve read so far (and our 4th Note). It’s fantastic. Today we’re going to talk about a particular passage that jumped out and high-fived me.

Here it is: “In Eugen Herrigel’s 1953 classic, Zen in the Art of Archery, the author, a deeply serious student of Zen Buddhism, travels to Japan and enrolls in an academy of archery.

In this school the physical act of drawing the bow and loosing the arrow (as also in other schools like meditation, martial arts, the study of calligraphy or flower arrangements or mastery of the tea ceremony) is not undertaken for its own sake but as a portal to insight, to enlightenment.”

After that passage, Pressfield continues to talk about the theme of the chapter (which was, essentially, learning how to master the art of trying not to try). But I made a full stop after reading it. I went back. Applied some thick underlines and asterisks to the side. A choir of angels sang as I folded the page over. 😇

THAT is why I’m into Spartan Races these days. It really has nothing to do with Spartans per se and everything to do with me being willing to narrow my focus into a specific context and commit to George Leonard-style Mastery as “a portal to insight, to enlightenment.”

(Side note: Of course, this +1 has nothing to do with my Spartan Races. It has everything to do with YOU and YOUR commitment to mastering whatever it is that’s inspiring you these days.)

So… I read that passage in the sauna after hammering my Optibot AM Deep Work rhythms. Then I thought about it as Emerson and I practiced spear throwing in our backyard after lunch.

Yep. Grandpa installed a sweet set up to hold the three hay bales that were delivered yesterday so we can practice throwing spears. (We’re all in, folks. All in.)

Quick context for those not familiar. All Spartan Races have a spear throw. It’s the ONLY obstacle I’ve failed to successfully complete in my first five Races. Apparently 80% of people fail it. My baseball-style throwing motion wasn’t working.

Of course, I plan to dominate this obstacle. Enter: Our new spear throwing setup in the backyard. (Right next to a couple of wall traverses. Rope climb/herculean hoist set up coming soon.)

And… Enter: Zen in the Art of Spartan Spear Throwing, baby!

All of which leads us to Today’s +1.

What are YOU committed to mastering?

Let’s move from dabbling and/or hacking and/or obsessing into a deep, long-term, gritty commitment to mastery as we recognize that we need to make some somewhat arbitrary decisions to focus our attention.

Archery? Martial arts? Calligraphy?


CrossFit Games? Golf? Spartan Races?


These things have no inherent utilitarian value per se but they provide the PERFECT context to show up and practice excellence.

IF we show up with that commitment to Mastery.

Then? Then these practices can be “a portal to insight, to enlightenment.”


Today’s +1.

What’s your domain?

You all in?

Here’s to stepping through our chosen portals into enlightenment.

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