Nearly 20 years ago, the film cameras on the Montreal soundstage were already being shifted for the next scene, when up-and-coming actor Gerard Butler urged now-iconic filmmaker, Zack Snyder for one more take.
He stared into the camera.
Venom on his tongue, and his otherwise soft Irish gaze instantly morphing into the epitome of seething fury. And he unleashed what would become one of the most iconic 3-word declarations in 21st century cinema (#83 according to Thrillist-- which I believe is criminally low).
The story behind the iconic take is fascinating...
Many of us have been conditioned in the fine art of self-muzzling. Of squeezing ourselves unnaturally small as to take up the least amount of space. Often, the world feels unaccommodating to such a penetrating gaze and fierce declaration. And to some degree, it is.
“This is Sparta” isn’t about a line in a script. Nor is it about a dramatic display of ferocity or King Leonidas kicking baddies down a cosmic blackhole of nothingness. It’s about an actor, ascending into his prime, temporarily ceding all forms of self-restraint; and -- well -- fucking going for it. And it doesn’t just come in the form of an actor requesting one more take. It’s in…
… the burning truth you need to speak to a lover
… the leadership stand you take in the boardroom or Zoom call
… the hard stand you take against your child’s destructive behaviour.
It’s not a blatant disregard for all.
Nor is it a weaponized blow.
Ideally, it’s your unbridled, uncaged truth that’s been infused with heart-centred power and the wisdom that precedes it.
Iconic moments are borne from iconic efforts.
Kobe going off for 60 in his final game, immortalizing his “this is sparta” moment for nearly 10 minutes straight.
Freddie Mercury partaking in some otherworldly form of audio-erotic fornication with 80,000+ strong in Wembley in some moment of musical mysticism.
In all these cases, there’s an urgency and an imminence. The cameras are being packed away, the 4th quarter of the 2010 NFC wildcard game only happens once, and the Magical Mamba will only ever get one final curtain call; a capstone to his legend.
There is no mulligan.
At some moment, you too, have to go beyond yourself. Meaning, beyond the thick sediment of your own self-limitation; what you believe your skill, capacity and strength to be…
And simply let a higher force take over for a brief moment in time.
Become a willing vessel for the iconic to emerge.
It’s not a sustainable inner-stance, but one that should be unleashed in the most opportune of times.
You don’t need a pre-scripted monologue -- nor a never-ending marathon of “peak performance”.
You need a moment of unfiltered genius; and the will to be an impeccable vessel for it.
That “final take” changed Gerard Butler’s life forever.
And while we certainly can’t ignore the 99.99% of silent and “mundane” moments that gave icons like Butler, Kobe, and Freddie the very occasion to “rise to”.
Even more unignorable is the glaring truth that reality will often provide pockets of time and space where nothing less than the extraordinary and otherworldly are demanded.
And we’d be most wise to attune and lean into the precise moments in our own lives where we’re called into an unbridled display of our fullest power and potential.
And it’s in that spirit, I say…
I see you, king.
Perhaps the most fitting “This is Sparta” equivalent in the modern spiritual world would be Wim Hof’s approach. Summed up by:
It’s not dutch-awkwardness. Nor is it a declaration of false bravado (that man is often soft-spoken).
But when it comes to breathing - he goes for it. Blasts through the gravitational pull of thoughts, anxieties and perceived limitations; and lets something “bigger” take over.
Some have questioned (perhaps even rightly so) whether or not such an aggressive and forceful “yang” approach to breathwork is healthy or even effective. Yet as many practitioners will tell you; while their rapid breathing may appear “forceful” - there’s a critical point where they “let go” and the body/spirit/energy simply takes over. Meaning, it’s not an overt expression of forceful will, but a relaxing into a higher psycho-somatic wisdom that takes over and expresses how it may.
For Your Relationship
The most artful (and advanced) “This is Sparta” moments are the ones you’ll share with your lover. Big truths, bold choices, and intense declarations that can reconfigure the very fabric of your relationship; and by extension your life.
Many men (and women) will only experience their “This is Sparta” moment as a resentment-filled, venom-laced reclamation; the counter punch to months or years of agonizing compromise and seething self-contraction.
All venom. No heart.
It may provide a short-lived moment of personal gratification -- which by all means can still be a “step up” from a starting point of rageful despair and resigned indignation. But making a “This is Sparta'' moment relational and positively transformative will require a more advanced set of skills.
In no other context is it more vital to infuse your bold-heated leadership with heart-centered power.
Next time you’re about to set a hard boundary, declare a deep desire, or express an unfiltered truth; precede it with some heart-soaked lubricant.
There’s no part of you I’m not in love with.
My highest commitment is to you; and the unimaginable love, depth and passion I know we can and will cultivate. This is the standard I choose to hold us to.
Know that I’m here to welcome and embrace any experience this arises in you….
And in this moment, what’s most true and real to me is ___________
Don’t insist on it being held or experienced in any specific way. Reconfiguration can happen in a heartbeat or after many smaller heartaches. But your firm declaration can only properly land within a soft space of boundless love and Godly patience.
For Your Business / Career
“This is Sparta” moments in business are what I like to equate with “Exponential Activities”.
95% of the ‘tasks” we perform in our professional/entrepreneurial lives are linear with a predictable (or presumed) output.
Much like Kobe, Marshawn and Freddie, consistent execution on the “less highlight-worthy” tasks is what earns us the “stage” to make the bold move. Yet for far too many business owners and professionals, creativity and boldness self-atrophy through a lack of practice.
That’s what makes your business an epic ceremonial ground for practising your own strengths, capacities and sense of inner (and outer) adventure.
To dive deeper in the topic of “Exponential Activities” and how to initiate them…
In 2003, mid-way through their performance at Texas stadium, Linkin Park (and particularly Chester Bennington) had their “This is Sparta” moment; taking an almost-forgotten track from their debut album -- and turning into a performance -- that 20 years later, many fans and music critics still anoint as their most transcendent and hair-raising.
Certainly not “soul food” for everyone; but here’s the full clip of LP and Chester “going for it” in their `This is Sparta” moment. Unbridled catharsis, something “taking over”, and an element of “breaking through” from the ordinary to the iconic.
ISYK: Who We're Honoring
A few years ago, Christopher Stoikos had a historic run of “This is Sparta” moments while growing his company Beard Club from self-funded startup to 8-figure ECOM empire in just a little over a year.
He built his business almost primarily off of “Exponential Activities” -- letting inspiration and bold action be the primary strategy vs. linear progression.
Facebook ads with a clear and steady cost per acquisition? Nah.
Him and I connected more deeply in his post-exit phase (embodying every-bit the exponential-vibe in his role as a father and husband)...
And while loud stunts and wild swings aren't for everyone --
We all have the potential to drop the self-restraint and simply "go for it" when the moment calls.
I'd dare to say that the fullest expression of our gifts, and the fullest potential of our lives would demand no less.
I'll catch ya'll next week.
I see you, king by Hendrix Black Newsletter
“If Marc Manson, David Deida and Jordan Peterson had a three-way creative lovechild, the ISYK newsletter would be it”.