It was perhaps the smartest (or the dumbest) decision I had made in a long while at the time and, boy did I get swept up and swiftly taken away. It was 2011 and my Game of Thrones (GoT) journey had begun. I can’t say I was a GoT original; the truest of the true, but I jumped on the wagon well before the craze that is the 'GoT madness' begun. I distinctly remember thinking, ‘yeah, I’ll try this out, I do like the medieval-styled drama’. Like so many of us, little did I know, what I was in for.
To some this George R. R Martin creation is more than just a tale brought to life in both book and television series; it’s a cult, a way of living, an entertaining date to look forward to and even a guide into the history of mankind, such is its lure. So, now writing about it, what am I going to concoct right now that will keep your eyes from closing with boredom? I want to share the reason I, like millions of others, live and breathe the awe-inspiring air of which GoT exhumes, like the fiery flames of the show’s great dragons themselves; and, furthermore, take the events jammed into one hour each Sunday as some of the most life-shaping you can ever come across. I thought I’d throw my opinions down with a sprinkling of wisdom from the wisest man in Westeros to back me in; giving me all necessary credibility. The brave, the quirky and charismatic smartass imp, Tyrion Lannister. So sit back and enjoy the insight. Here are five of the lessons I take from the show and additionally endorse you live by too.
Number One: Things don’t always pan out the way we want them to…
Like the hysteria around the whole television series itself, sometimes things don’t go to plan, the way we want when dreaming and scheming. In life, we set really high expectations on ourselves, it’s only natural. This is good thing, but also a really bad thing. In an ideal world, we find that perfect utopia; one where everything slides into place and we sit upon our throne basking in the joys of what lies before us. There’s a catch, everything you actually take pride in, realistically you’ve worked tirelessly for and that’s the true reward. “Being successful isn’t supposed to be easy, if it were, everyone would be”. The hardships make us who we are, life is there to be celebrated, in all its ugly glory! The confusion of what works and what does not allows us to grow and if life doesn’t end up the way it’s supposed to, try another way. “It is easy to confuse ‘what is’ with ‘what ought to be’, especially when ‘what is’ hasn’t worked out in your favour”. Try as many new things as you can and meet as many strange and interesting people as possible. “Try know as many people as you can, you never know when you’ll need them”. There’s a way things pan out just right, even if things are panning out poorly, as long as you’ve got the right people around you, your path will realign itself and the stronger you will unearth itself. Trust the game.
Number Two: Choice
Whether Danny and her reign of terror over King’s Landing, Bran’s climbing of the tower or Gilly’s will to save her new born son, Game of Thrones likens itself to life in all its power, we make choices and those we make have the ability to shape us permanently. There are good and bad choices but unless we chose to make one at all, nothing will ever happen and our very existence will be very bleak indeed. Watching in suspense, the characters in Game of Thrones take us all on a merry-go-round of choice. Imagine the outcomes had Rob followed his word and married Walder Frey’s daughter if Eddard Stark had have kept silent of the scaries he found in King’s Landing, and what of the events which followed the choices brave Arya made along the way. Although not as dramatic as our screened friends’ tales, we consciously make decisions to which will ultimately shape who we are and what we become. Whatever decisions we make, we must own them wholeheartedly. Remember, there are positive consequences too, let’s not overindulge ourselves in the fear of being wrong, getting caught out or losing what we thought we had. If we don’t have choice, the good things may never occur. “Perhaps that is the secret. It’s not what we do, so much as why we do it.” One thing is sure, when a choice is made, own it, don’t live in regret.
Number Three: Loyalty is just a key to unwarranted trust
Throughout the show, we see an unprecedented batch of betrayal, from nearly all characters within. Once again, despite not exactly mirroring the real world, it’s not too far off. We watch or read intensely as Petyr Baelish turned his ‘word’ into dust and burnt his friends and foes alike. We gawked in shock as the Red Wedding took its turn and we gasped in despair when Theon Greyjoy took to his childhood home and burnt its foundations. In everyday life, we almost set ourselves up for unpleasant dealings simply by trusting too many people, ALL the time. Even our most trusted peers, our family, often betray our trust. The question is why do we trust? As Tyrion puts so eloquently when his most trusted folk let him down too often, “my family has mistaken me for a mushroom, they left me in the dark and fed me shit”, it’s quite the quandary, this trust thing. I suppose, in life, like the show elegantly reveals, we must truly only trust oneself. Make good choices, create strong habits and wear all the consequences, both positive and negative, when they come our way. If we don’t play the game, to some extent, we may continue to miss out on the nourishment life brings. The pure-hearted Sansa Stark realised this, after several unwarranted and untrustworthy experiences, and, perhaps most importantly, she learned. She defied many and then finally, conquered her inner most fears. She played the game and she won.
Number Four: Pretending to be something you’re not, never works
“Why is it when one man builds a wall, the next immediately needs to know what’s on the other side?” It’s a battle in itself, this ‘finding of yourself’ thing, and life, just like GoT, has its way of telling you you’re not quite good enough. Arya Stark, perhaps the most important character of GoT in this sense, wars with the idea for the best part of the first six seasons; be it an escaping boy, a peasant or… 'no-one'. The triumph in her story is that she decides being herself is her true desire and the rest is history. In all walks of life, we constantly battle with the idea of being good enough for others, even in our own skin. The key lesson here is the longer we want something bigger and better in life, the more we hide the beauty that each and every day brings, right in front of our eyes. “Never forget who you are, the world will not”.
Number Five: Life is a conflict of SELF (a battle between head and heart)
The creator himself, George R. R Martin, continually harps on about the fact his writing is not just blood, terror, gore and fantasy, it a true life battle; of head and heart. He notes, “We should delve into our own minds when reading the books, for we, after all, are too, dealing with the conflict of self, a battle between head and heart”. In life, we seek gratitude and self-worth, value and belonging but truly the best victory in life is contentment. And the love of those who matter most. And that is both Game of Thrones’ (and life's) largest tragedy. “Wind and words. Wind and words. We are only human, and the gods have fashioned us for love. That is our great glory and our great tragedy.” Ah the battle of our inner-most thoughts and feelings, it really does make us tick. Like that daffodil sport, ‘loves me, loves me not’, we really create our own luck, stemming from both the place we start and the places we where we want to be. An ongoing battle, mind versus heart, but the only way to conquer really is to simply listen. Listen to your head, listen to your heart and listen to others. Peace comes through listening, not speaking. To finish, let’s, for one last time, seek the wise words of our favourite imp, “learn to use your ears more and your mouth less”, that is where the conflict of self is won.