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.