The Enemy’s Gate is Down

Have you read Ender's Game?

If you've never seen Ender's Game, the movie based on a sci-fi novel by Orson Scott Card, then the phrase, “The enemy's gate is down” will make little sense to you.

It's introduced by a supporting character, Bean, to the protagonist, Ender, at their military academy. Teams have been put into an enclosed space (without gravity) to battle each other.

Battling in an environment without gravity means that when the teams enter the space, they take their orientation from the hallway outside. This leaves them disoriented when they come in, trying to bring the old paradigm of up and down into a new space.

To be clear, they don't realize this disorientation. They just assume that the way things were in the hallway is the way things are in the battle area.

So Bean helps Ender lead the team in thinking about things differently. Instead of bringing the old paradigm into the new space, they're told to think about it differently. In the new space, down is wherever their enemy is. Hence, “The enemy's gate is down.”

I think about this statement in two ways, “Your goals dictate how you think about things,” and “What got you here won't get you there.” That last line is the title of a great book (that you may want to check out).

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06/15/2021 02:39 pm GMT

The Enemy's Gate is Down

When I say, or hear, “the enemy's gate is down,” it triggers a moment of pause. This is exactly how it's used towards the end of the book when Bean reminds Ender of the early lessons he learned in the battle room.

The pause is like a question. “Am I making assumptions about the context I'm in?

We all make assumptions. We all leverage those assumptions to help us make decisions and move forward in life. Assumptions aren't bad.

But we have to train ourselves to pause as we step into new contexts, or we'll bring the assumptions and expectations from a different context into a new one.

That's what happens when students assume that the hallway orientation is the same as the battle room orientation. And it messes with the teams.

New Context New Rules

After 6 years of limited blogging, I started writing daily again. And let's be honest, a lot about building in and with WordPress has changed in the last six years.

  • If I were building a commercial plugin today, I'd use Freemius.
  • If I were making appointments for podcast guests, I'd use SavvyCal.
  • If I were collecting testimonials for my plugin, I'd use testimonial.to
  • Putting a free plugin in the repository? Check out pluginrank.
  • Did you see the new affiliate display for a book up there? That's lasso.
  • Growing a newsletter? I'm checking out SparkLoop.

I used none of these the last time I was blogging daily. They weren't around. And just because I'm doing something I have done before, I can't (or at least I shouldn't) presume that the “rules of the game” are the same as they used to be.

What assumptions are you making?

The point of the line, “The enemy's gate is down,” isn't just to make you pause. Or to reflect. It's also a declaration. It means, adjust your orientation towards your goal.

Like I said, another way to think about this is to understand first what your goal is, and then shift the lens of how you're looking at things with that goal in mind.

What if blogging daily has nothing to do with getting traffic? What if I'm not selling anything? What if the point of writing daily is to give me a platform to meet and network with new companies and people I don't know?

Just because someone assumes they know what you're doing and why you're doing it, doesn't make them right.

Don't worry about those folks and their assumptions.

What do you want to do?

Want to grow your revenue? What if you don't actually need more leads? (I'm talking about this at the upcoming Web Agency Summit.)

I told you not to worry about other people and the assumptions they're making, but let me push you even a bit more – question your own assumptions. Might they be getting in your own way?

Know this: the enemy's gate is down.

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Chris Lema
Chris Lema has been working with WordPress since 2005. Over the years he's been a blogger, a speaker at WordCamps, a coach for WordPress product companies, and the founder of the conference for WordPress business owners, called CaboPress. Today he's the VP of Products at Liquid Web, where he manages the world's first managed platform for WooCommerce stores.