Show Me Your Battle Scars

November 12th, 2005 by Steve Pavlina

Whenever you set an ambitious goal, it’s virtually guaranteed you’ll encounter some roadblocks.

There’s no reason to let that stop you though. A roadblock isn’t much of an obstacle for a human being. You can climb over it, walk around it, blow it up, get someone else to move it, or otherwise bypass it.

Roadblocks do an outstanding job of frightening away the timid. But to those with a modicum of courage, roadblocks have very little power. When a committed person tackles a roadblock, the roadblock stands very little chance. After a little time spent hacking away at the roadblock, the universe will tend to do the equivalent of saying, “Well, alright then… I was just checking to see if you were serious. I won’t stand in your way anymore. You’re free to proceed.”

Perhaps it’s a universal safety mechanism, something along the lines of survival of the fittest. Maybe the universe won’t allow weak-minded people to go too far down the path of goal achievement, since if they were to succeed in a big way, they’d just make a real mess of things. Strong-willed people are free to pass, while weak-minded ones get knocked back and have to train up a bit more.

Time for a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

When a resolute young fellow steps up to the great bully, the world, and takes him boldly by the beard, he is often surprised to find it comes off in his hand, and that it was only tied on to scare away the timid adventurers.

So the question is… are you a timid adventurer? Has the world been scaring you away from setting and achieving some really big and meaningful goals?

Is a scarecrow enough to derail you from getting what you really want? Have you been derailed so many times that you’ve stopped pursuing what you want and settled for what you think you can get?

Have you defined as “impossible” or “highly improbable” a whole host of possibilities that other human beings have already proven achievable?

Sure there are some goals that would be really tough for you to accomplish. Maybe you’re right about certain things being impossible for you. So let’s see your battle scars then. Show me the wounds you’ve endured as a result of pursuing goals you couldn’t achieve. Let’s see that bankruptcy, that broken heart, the rejection letter, the lawsuit, the divorce, the public humiliation. Show me the total failures, the brutal disappointments, the smack-downs.

Let’s see them battle scars.

What’s that? Do my ears deceive me, or are those crickets I’m hearing?

No scars, eh.

Alrighty, how about some cuts and bruises? … A skinned knee? … A boo boo? … Heck, I’ll settle for a henna tattoo at this point.

If you have no scars, then you’re a super-duper mega-achiever, right? You must either be a complete genius or incredibly lucky. Nothing but a huge string of successes one after the other.

That’s not it either?

But if you’re not experiencing unfathomable successes and you’re not taking heavy damage either, then what the heck have you been doing with yourself?

Playing it safe, eh? Playing… Pretending…

Did you really come here to live a pretend life? Perhaps you should stop doing that.

Think about living a real life for a change… the kind of life people write poetry about.

If this world were a role-playing game (RPG), would you be classified as an Avatar or an NPC (non-player character)? NPCs sit around and repeat the same actions day after day. Avatars go on quests, where every day is different.

Do you have a quest? Or just a queue? Those last couple letters make a big difference.

Is your life safe? The word safe is both an adjective and a noun. As an adjective it means “being free from danger.” As a noun it’s “an enclosed storage container with a lock on it.” If you’re living the adjective, you’re living the noun too.

The word brave is also an adjective and a noun, meaning “possessing courage” (adj) and “a warrior” (n). Same rules apply.

Put an ending to pretending. Design your character, train him up, buy him some cool weapons, and send him into battle. Leave the safe behind — it will only slow you down.

In other words, decide what you want, develop the required skills, acquire the necessary resources, and go after your goal with courage. Don’t let anyone or anything stand in your way. Be that resolute young fellow (regardless of your age) as opposed to the timid adventurer.

It really is true that you have nothing to fear but fear itself. If you get hurt along the way, then suck it up and keep going. Battle scars are a part of life. To deny yourself disappointment is to deny yourself victory. If you want to go on a meaningful quest, you’re going to have to risk losing some hit points now and then. Imagine playing an RPG without losing any hit points. You’d be playing scared, and it would be mind-numbingly dull and plodding. Is that how you’re playing the game of life right now?

Is your life full of ghastly defeats and glorious triumphs? Or has getting the mail become the highlight of your day?

Do something today that causes you to risk outright failure. Polish that old armor, and clean up those rusty weapons. Put some of those hit points to good use for a change.

If you fail, then nurse your wounds and celebrate that you’re finally living as human beings were meant to live — impassioned, emboldened, and completely unafraid.

But if you succeed, go find yourself a damned good poet.



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