Going it Alone
Especially when it comes to self-development, it’s essential to have a support network — not one that always agrees with you and flatters your ego but one that is going to help you live up to your potential. Such a group isn’t going to listen to your excuses. Sometimes with some stern words, it’s going to encourage you to cultivate your strengths and face down your weaknesses.
Nevertheless, there are times when we all have to go it alone. Maybe we have to move city to study. Or perhaps we need to leave to find work. Or, perhaps, our friends begin to resent our motivation to improve some aspect of ourselves — mental, physical, or financial — and try to hold us back. If that occurs, you might have to choose growth over a group of friends who want to stay where, and exactly as, they are.
Around fifteen years ago, I translated the Old English Rune Poem (written around the ninth century) from Anglo-Saxon or “Old English” into contemporary English (the two English languages have little in common). The translation and a paper explaining my findings was published in the academic Journal of Indo-European Studies.
As I was translating it, one stanza that really jumped out at me was Rad (“Riding”). To paraphrase slightly, it says,
Riding (Rad) in the hall is gentle to every warrior,
But very bold when he sits
On his horse, over miles of path.
At its most basic level, the poem reminds us that some things are easier at home and more difficult and dangerous when we’re far away from it.
The poem, of course, is most literally about riding a horse but perhaps “riding” is a double entendre, referring partly (in the sense of modern slang) to sexual activity (and comfort) with one’s partner at home (or “in the hall”) which has to be given up if the warrior is to go out into the world, where his only companion is his horse.
Or perhaps “Rad” might also suggest debating or reasoning. Discussing, debating, and speaking our mind with friends and family poses little risk. Even if an argument occurs, others are likely to intervene to help smooth everything over. But out in the world, in unfamiliar places, we have to be more on our guard with what we say and, of course, with what we do. Different places and people might have customs and rules that we don’t understand or even know about.
Fortune has a strange way of mixing things up so we can’t always know where we’re going. But, luck, as is often said, is preparation meeting opportunity. And it is best to prepare now.
- Work on new skills that you can turn to your advantage if you need to later on.
- Develop basic communication skills in particular. Know how to converse with people. Be able to speak in public. Know how to write. Understand how to express yourself in words. (You might have noticed that many wealthy people seem to have no skills at all except their ability and willingness to speak in ways that put them in a good light.)
- Take an interest in your health and fitness: Work out, eat clean food, and get enough sleep (that means close to eight hours a night).
- Cultivate your mind and control your emotions: practice meditation, self-hypnosis, positive thinking, or get some training in this area (just as you should in the area of physical fitness).
- Find a mentor. Find people you respect. And associate with those who can inspire you to step up and work to be the best you can be.
It might be true that, on their death bed, no one has ever wished they spent more time at the office. But no one ever wished they had spent more time lounging around on the couch either. No one ever wished that they hadn’t got so fit or healthy. Or wished that they hadn’t made their mark in some field.
People regret that they never became the person that they could have been.
Perhaps you don’t have people around you right now that want you to excel. That’s not unusual. But, if so, you have a choice: stay where, and as, you are. Or go it alone with the aim of finding others that might inspire you.
As the rune poem reminds us, staying home is easy and comfortable; going out into the unknown is harder. But only on the journey into the unknown can we discover who we are and meet others who share the same spirit of daring.