The Tale of The Dragon Slayer

The time has come.

You’ve trained to the best of your ability, improved each skill to near perfection, upgraded your armor and weapons, forded every river, explored every cave, and climbed every mountain.

There is nothing left do but one final goal:

The Dragon.

Every moment in your life has lead up to this point.  It’s time to put your skills to the test, and your life on line.

It begins. 

You courageously approach the beast’s lair, every hair standing on end.   Sweat drips down your forehead and clouds your vision as you enter the cave; fear sinks its claws in trying to pull you back to safety with each passing step.

You press on.

Although it’s nearly pitch black, you can see it.  Despite the lack of rain, the air is thick and damp with it.  Although silent, your ears are filled with it.

Death.

The only question is, for whom?

Suddenly, he appears.  Standing ten stories tall and full of nothing but hate, this beast exists for one reason and one reason only – to kill.

As his fire-filled wrath and rage rain down upon you, your shield keeps you keeps you safe…barely.  You survive the initial onslaught, and regroup thankfully behind a nearby boulder.  Using every skill, resource, and trick learned during your training, you slowly start to wear down the monster.  Hacking, slashing, tucking, rolling, jumping, hiding, parrying, and climbing, you’ve brought the dragon within an inch of his life.

Good thing, because you are too.

A misstep by the dragon leaves himself exposed for a finishing blow from your sword, which is now almost too heavy to wield.

You strike, and it is done.

The beast has been defeated, and you have succeeded.

With tears in your eyes and the beast’s head in your hands, you return to the village a conquering hero.

Congratulations, dragon slayer, you’ve re-written history.

Now the true test begins…

Happily ever after…

The dragon is dead.

The creature that fueled every decision you’ve made over the past few years, is now a trophy mounted above your fireplace.

The hours and days and weeks and months of blood, sweat, and tears resulted in an ultimate epic victory…truly something you never thought you’d accomplish.  But you did.

Life is now different.

You have a sense of accomplishment that you didn’t know existed.  The local townsfolk look at you differently now too – tavern-dwellers are always eager to buy you a beer and hear the tale retold; your old friends have a greater level of respect for you too.  Heck, even the children of the town look up to you, pretending to slay their own dragons while running around the school yard.

For a few weeks, life is grand.  Everybody wants to hear how great you are.  You start saying things like “I’ve earned this” more and more frequently.

And yet…

Something is missing.

The dragon has been slain, the day has been saved, but something in the back of your mind tells you that your work isn’t done.  Sure, you can sit around for the rest of your life, getting fat and happy, reliving the glory days of that one time you killed the dragon.  However, as the days go on, you start to realize just how much the training you went through to fight that dragon meant – each day was filled with purpose, each step taken was one step closer towards a final battle.

With no dragon to fight, no mountain to climb, there’s no real need to train with conviction anymore.

Waking up early to work on sword skills or staying up late to practice archery no longer serve a purpose.  Because nothing feels like a life-or-death situation, missed workouts or skill sessions are no longer a causer for concern, for there is nothing to fight towards.

Pretty good is enough.  Mostly right is plenty.   Tomorrow is a much better day than today.

So you’ve come to a crossroads, and you have a decision to make.

..but before we get there…I’d like to share with you one of MY favorite tales.

Saint, the Slayer of Dragons

Do you remember the story of Saint the Brave?

Many months ago, in a land dozens and dozens of miles away, a young man by the name of Saint lived in a town where everybody sat around talking about how one day they were going to slay the evil dragon, Sixab.  And for a while, Saint was content to be one of those people. As long as the Dragon stayed on his mountain in the distance, it was easy to talk about how he would kill him eventually, without ever actually having to do anything.

Time passed…and nothing changed…

And then one morning, destiny took hold of Saint.

On a day just like today, Saint decided that he would stop talking and start dedicating every waking moment of his life to conquering Sixab.

You see, Saint was up against an hourglass on the brink of running out – in just a few months’ time, he was to wed his lady Sarah, but couldn’t do so until Sixab was vanquished.

Thus, he began to train. 

Day in, day out, Saint trained as if his very life depended on it.  Fat gave way to muscle as Saint began to transform from a pudgy squire into uber-strong barbarian.

As the hour glass raced through its final grains of sand, Saint doubled his efforts, and pushed himself harder than he had ever pushed before.  With not a moment to spare, brave Saint strolled up to Sixab’s lair, battled heroically, and smote the horrible beast on the mountainside.

Just a few days later, he wed his lady Sarah and sailed off into the mystical land of Hawaii for a grand celebration.

Now, most would assume the story ends here – Saint conquered Sixab, got the girl, and saved the day…and they lived happily ever after, right?  Well, while Saint was training for his battle with Sixab, he began to realize just how much he enjoyed waking up and pushing his body to the limit each and every day.  He enjoyed having an arch-nemesis that fueled his desire to succeed.  Although he trained to complete a quest, the training became a part of him.

So, after Saint returned from his celebratory globetrotting adventure, did he sat around telling tall tales where the dragon grew bigger with each retelling?  Most folks would – after all, looking back at how great things used to be requires almost no effort at all.

Fortunately, Saint isn’t like most folk.

He’s a true Dragon Slayer.

Which is why he set his sights on another dragon even more dangerous than the last.

And then he got back to work. 

What kind of dragon slayer are you?

We all have dragons in our lives. 

Some are big, some are small, some are pushovers, while others are truly worthy opponents.  Some require a few days of training to conquer, while others require an entire lifetime of dedication.  Yes, our dragons may be tough, but they are not invincible, and one day…they will fall.

That’s when the real work starts.

I ask you, my friend, what kind of dragon slayer will you be?

Has-beens look back at what they’ve accomplished, pat themselves on the back, and give up doing everything that made them successful in the first place – after all, the task is done, the item has been crossed off the list, and a “well-deserved break” quickly becomes a permanent retirement.

Nobody writes fairy tales about has-beens.

True dragon slayers?  They stay hungry.  They remain unsatisfied.  After slaying a dragon and saving a town, they set their sights on a bigger dragon, on a bigger mountain, in a land even farther away.  They understand that there’s as much purpose in training for a quest as there is in completing it.  They know that stronger adversaries will elevate themselves to a even higher level.

They never say: “I can’t wait til this is over.”

They say: “I can’t wait to find out what’s next.”

These are the slayers that live on in legends. 

These are the slayers that change history.

 While has-beens sit around talking about the dragon they slayed, real heroes find another f***ing dragon.

And so that brings me back to my question:

What kind of dragon slayer will you be?

-Steve

###

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  • http://nesbot.com Brian Nesbitt

    First thought that popped into my head… maybe the best video game ever…. I was eagerly waiting and finally disappointed that a screenshot didn’t make it into this post! :-)  
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragon_Warrior  Can’t even remember how many times I finished that game for my NES way back when.

  • http://colebradburn.com/ Cole Bradburn

    By far the nerdiest article to date….and of course I loved it.  Totally had an NES RPG feel.  Grinding away to level up, even when it’s the last thing you want to do.  There is always another challenge out there waiting, and a true warrior will remain in vigilant preparation.

  • Carl

    This is cool. I just was writing up a list of exercises to put on playing cards to break up my workout. Some of them are lifting based and some are movement based for stretching and flexibility. Long story short…one of them is “pretend to fight a dragon”.  :)

  • http://twitter.com/BrianSchwantner Brian Schwantner

    I’d say go farther than “pretend to fight a dragon”, you should set your sights on a new dragon.  Maybe you’ve conquered one arena, but there’s always a new place to fight.

  • Jaradel

    And see, I was thinking of Bilbo and Smaug (probably because of the picture of Hobbiton you included), which is funny because over the last two days I finished watching my LOTR Extended Edition Blu-Ray that I got for Christmas. ANYWAY… great article, and great point. In terms of fitness it’s good to always have another goal to work towards. One of the reasons I sign up for 6 to 8 5K races a year is because it gives my running purpose, gives me a goal to train for. Also why I like studying TKD, the belt promotions give my training focus.

  • Jaswandi

    This is the coolest article I have read in a long time. I loved the analogy. Inspiring post. Kudos to Saint! What a dragon slayer!!

  • http://www.hrostoski.com/ Mike Hrostoski

    This is awesome dude. Great analogy and congrats to Saint for not getting complacent and going after more. Great read.

  • http://www.chriskurdziel.com/ Chris Kurdziel

    Been playing Skyrim, lately, eh? :)

  • Jen Cywinski

    Yes! I hate the idea of “maintaining” after reaching a goal, because it sounds so boring. I want to hit the next battle, not just go through the motions!

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  • DaveSix

    Excellent post! Fitness is a mountain. No matter how far you’ve come, the summit is still a long ways off.

  • Pedrodizzy

    I have a special alarm set in my cellphone just for the days i wake up early to work out. At 7, i’m woken up by a loud FUS RO DAH, followed by the original soundtrack of Skyrim. Every workout feels epic. After this post, it will get even better.

  • http://cmgalvin.com/ Charlie Galvin

    Awesome article! I feel really in tune with this mindset. Two years ago I beat one of my first dragons; coincidentally called Eye of the Dragon ( http://www.fleastcoastrunners.com/Races-Eye_Of_The_Dragon_10K.html ). It is a 10k in Florida that sends you over the back of the Dragon (one of the intercoastal bridges) twice! Two of my friends and I became Dragon Slayers that day. 

    This past weekend my fellow Dragon Slayers led three more of my friends in battle against said dragon. I unfortunately couldn’t join them as I had already made a greater commitment. I took on a bigger dragon at the South Florida Super Spartan Race. I was glad to have claimed victory ( http://www.flickr.com/photos/cmgalvin/6936957625/ ) over this dragon!

    My next dragon looks to be Sixab as well. Help prepare me for even faster dragons.

  • sara donahue

    Yes, there is no “arrived” state in fitness. As far as I’m concerned, it’s an ongoing quest!

  • Rosie

    Awesome post as usual steve! From now on I’ll be thinking of every challenge it set myself as a dragon to be slayed and me crossing the finish line, getting stronger and getting fitter will be me chopping its head off!

  • lessjos

    This post was written for me I think :-) I was trying to figure out where to post this on the boards for a few days now. I conquered my (first) dragon last year (lost 72 lbs) and was afraid of the whole maintaining thing. Seems daunting with no goal in sight! 

    So I figured my goal this year is getting fit. It still is but the last few days I realized something. I have always been big and I wanted to be “normal”. I wasn’t dreaming of being skinny or pretty like most women. This is kind of weird I know. I just don’t think beauty is that important. I used to shake my head at people who went to gyms and got all muscled and trim. I didn’t get it. I might still not get their reasons. However, now I finally found what I am looking for. I want to be strong! I can’t believe that it took me decades to understand. I guess I never realized it is possible. I want to be able to lift, bend, push and pull my body. I want to be able to do cartwheels, chin ups, handstands and all that. I mean isn’t it amazing what the body can do when it is trained?

    I have a loooong way to go but the goal is in place and I will just chip away, day after day, and I will get there.

  • Quixotica

    AMAZING article, Steve!!  Bravo!! 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1800840 David Puffer

    This article started to read
    like a DragonAge/Skyrim novel. That being said, I’d say my dragon to slay
    is the Sixab/Saint. I’ll catch that kid, even if it puts me in the
    hospital.(I do work with him so I have to put with his “Rahness” on a
    daily basis.) Have fun on the boat trip!

  • Kim

    I’m not even a nerd (please let me stay, please let me stay), but now I want to find another f**king dragon. Lucky for me, there are plenty. Thanks for the post and the inspiration.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1088945995 Paulo Torres

    I too am a dragon slayer! This reminded me of a music video: 

    “The world is saved… but who cares, we both know that’s not what you came for”
    :)

  • Crystal

    I haven’t even beat my first dragon yet, but now I’m trying to decide what my next one will be!!

  • ducatisteve

    Awesome progress, Saint, you’re looking good!

  • Arenow

    I used to be a Dragon Slayer like you, but then I took an arrow in the knee.

  • http://www.highenergyfitness.com/ Walking Tall

    Keep on training as if your life depends on it. Never give up that dream. Great post!

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  • Josh Kelley

    Steve, you’re the man!  That post got me pumped and now it’s time for me to sign up for the new six week challenge!

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  • Starrluna

    I was sitting here tonight feeling like garbage because I, yet again, gave in to what I call The Binge Monster. (I have binge eating disorder.) I’ve been trying so hard to figure out how to overcome this, and I happened on this post. I absolutely LOVE this analogy. It was EXACTLY what I needed to read tonight. Thank you!

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  • Khaled Allen

    This is straight out of Joseph Campbell’s theories on self-realization myths. Of course, I always try to take these sorts of things as literally as possible. It makes life more interesting. Very inspirational story.

  • NJ

    Saint’s photos have reaffirmed to me that you can either be fat and happy, or in shape and miserable.

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  • Dragon 9

    I love dragons. The dragon in my life helps me!

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  • Gyp Kenton-Romay

    Here’s something nerdy: Story telling metaphors go straight into the subconcious mind and start working thier magic on the imagination, trickling up into conscious mind to manifest in your life. This story is a classic! Loving it! Well done Saint.

  • David Benjamin

    What was the next dragon?