Leadership Secrets of the Rogue Warrior: A Commando’s Guide to Success (1996) saw author Richard Marcinko apply to a management self-help book the lessons he learned as founding leader of American anti-terrorist special forces group Seal Team Six and internal military security unit Red Cell.

Visual artist and activist Kacey Wong Kwok-choi explains how this “rogue warrior” changed his life.

I read the book when I was just starting my art career (in the mid-1990s). If you think about business, conflicts or personal growth, one can be at war with family, with oneself or with society. Life can be seen as a war: we are dumped into this place and it can be heaven or it can be hell.

I don’t agree with all of (Richard Marcinko’s) command­ments (The Rogue Warrior’s Leadership Code, a distillation of Marcinko’s philosophy down to seven points), but most of them are good advice: don’t assume; be committed to what you believe; lead from the front. And it’s not pretentious at all. He curses, he cracks jokes, he’s not afraid of making a fool of himself.

There are case studies about how to run an organisation butthat is not the most interesting part. I read it more in terms of spiritual growth – how to serve, belief in a cause. I look at the book almost like a transcendental spiritual bible. It advocates not just personal advance­ment but a higher cause, like freedom, peace, the prosperity of mankind. As an artist I apply these principles; I try to find out what the higher cause is.

I slowly discovered my cause – in my work, it’s Hong Kong’s future and the problems society is facing in Greater China – and my struggle. In my early years, I was focused on social problems such as housing and homelessness. As I ventured deeper and deeper into the war zone, I realised that political problems are causing all this chaos.

One of the attri­butes I’ve learned from the book is to lead from the front, meaning you lead from the bottom up. I want to be the people’s artist and deal with real problems and issues, and I want my work to influence people. In a way I’m practising what Marcinko is preaching.

There are things I practise in my own studio, like believing in a cause with absolute conviction, and good communication with my teammates.

One of the strongest parts is about how to deal with pain. When you’re working through a deadline constructing large installations, you’ve got to be a friend of pain – to focus on winning, not on the pain itself. When I have self-defeating thoughts and I want to give up, I think about him and imagine I’m the rogue warrior, facing death.