What Screwtape taught me about Success

cs-lewisThe author C.S. Lewis, best known for his timeless classic The Chronicles of Narnia, wrote a remarkable little satire in 1942 called The Screwtape Letters (great name huh?). The book is formed by a series of letters from high-ranking demon named Screwtape, to his young nephew Wormwood, a junior demon, about how to properly and successfully tempt the “Patient” (human beings in this case).

Despite what seems like a rather dark undertone (after all it’s demons we’re talking about here), Lewis spurs great heights of humor with each page, and presents some incredibly enduring and poignant insights about human life.

In one of the latter letters, Screwtape describes to Wormwood the inner workings of man very interestingly. Says Screwtape: “Think of your man as a series of concentric circles, his will being the innermost, his intellect coming next, and finally his fantasy….(what) you must (do) is keep on shoving all the virtues outward, till they are finally located in the circle of fantasy.”

Will. Intellect. Fantasy.

I should say it’s not my intention now, nor in the future, to lecture about what is or isn’t virtuous. That is obviously and absolutely not my place.

However, I do think this passage spotlights an important point for entrepreneurs, or anyone for that matter, which is: whatever we want to achieve, whether that’s a more virtuous existence, business or individual goals, the PURSUIT MUST BEGIN INTERNALLY, WITH OUR WILL.

  • Will: We already know we are more likely to achieve something we are passionate about. We have a different level of energy and motivation. We CARE more. This is the station we should be pulling our 18 wheelers full of goals into for fueling. This is where our goals become habits.
  • Intellect: Almost inevitably, when we are confronted with a situation that is difficult, frightening or uncomfortable, we begin to over-analyze the issue. We intellectualize the situation into the ground and only end up sort of mentally chasing our own tail into exhaustion. Now, this is not to say our intellect isn’t a big part of our problem solving strategy, because it is. But…we have to know when call on our intuition and trust ourselves for that last bit of guidance.
  • Fantasy: The final frontier. We all know too many people who perpetually live in this space. This place is littered with sentences that begin with stuff like: “I hope to one day-“…” It would be nice if-“… “If only I could (blank)”… The challenge for entrepreneurs is to keep our goals out of this realm. This is a realm of INACTION. Where “hoping” and “wishing” instead of DOING reign supreme.

Nevertheless, we live in a world where there’s always someone trying to tell us or sell us, usually both, that their way is the right way, the only way, the best way, the fastest way.

Advice is a wonderful thing, and the most successful people I know are always the most willing students, but at the end of the day, I think it’s important to remember that any real growth, any lasting sustainable change, always comes from within.

All my best,


Jay Kubassek