A few months ago I read historian Steven Pressfield’s Gates of Fire and it knocked me on my ass. After reading the last page I closed the book, set it down on my desk, and wondered how a human being could have created such an awe-inspiring work of art. It’s about the Battle of Thermopylae (AKA “300“) and I can’t help but think Pressfield’s version is exactly how things played out – word for word – straight down to King Leonidas’ rousing speeches.

Then I decided to surf through the reviews on Amazon. They are overwhelmingly positive, but also contain the following (words in parentheses are mine):

“…not at all well written.”

(Compared to what?)

“The style is earnestly striving for verisimilitude, but manages to leave us only with a sort of quirkiness.”

(Verisimilitude? How long have you been dying to use that word?)

“The author should provied the reader with developed atmosphere as well as telling a story and delivering a historical perspective. Steven pressfiled fails this misreably. I finally stopped reading the book one third of the way into it because of the anachronisms and other writing blunders.”

(You had me at “provied”, “pressfiled”, and “misreably.”)

“Incredibly unreadable, the ‘translation’ of the language into disgusting modern adjectives leaves me bewildered who could possibly want to read it.”

(Were you under the impression that 5th Century B.C. Spartans did not have “potty mouths?”)

“Scariest of all is the blurb on the back cover by an American Colonel who recommends this book as an example of the beauty of the military mindset.”

(You’re right, enough of these warriors! We should strive to create a more level battlefield where each side has an equal chance of winning.)

Mercifully, the last of these critiques was answered with the following:

“Go hug a tree, Hippie.”

The moral of the story

People suck.

Okay, not all people.

Just too many.

The solution

Accept the fact that too many people are fueled by negativity. They thrive on it and, deep down in parts of themselves they dare not confront, they are jealous. They wish they would have written the book, given the presentation, asked for the promotion, sung the song or painted the portrait. And it absolutely kills them to see that you did it.

Your dream is a knife in their side.

Twist it.

Practical Exercise: Recall a fantastic book that you’ve read (or movie that you’ve seen). Not just a “good book” (or movie), but something that moved you, made you laugh, cry or buy a treadmill – whatever. Now go to Amazon and read the 1 star reviews.

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Below Picture Added on  3/11/11 – A nice note from author Steven Pressfield

Molon labe (mo-lone lah-veh) is Greek for “Come and take them.” This was Spartan King Leonidas’ reply when Xerxes demanded that the “300” submit to Persia and give up their weapons.

Click here for a Pressfield’s newest book “The Profession.”

You can visit Pressfield’s Amazon page by clicking any of the images below.

He blogs regularly at StevenPressfield.com