by Gary Knight

So the big event is almost upon us. The days of despair, deceit, treachery, treason, false alliances, grand gestures and downright lies are drawing to a close. A new enemy has arisen, but can we forget our differences, build new bridges and gather our forces to save the Kingdom from an eternity of dark times? No, it’s not the final Brexit plea but rather a more wondrous thing – the last series of ‘Game of Thrones’ fast approaches.Although one could be forgiven for confusing the two items (and particularly which one contains the greater number of actors?).The White walkers are on their march to Westeros, intent on destroying all in their path and claiming the much-fabled Iron Throne. No, this is not another blog on the power of emotional storytelling (although there is plenty of that in both places) but a moreover reflective tale of what we can learn, anchored here in the 21st century, from such dramatic journeys. You do not have to be a fantasy novel fan to appreciate the magnetic pull of these epic tales, as their origins are all deeply embedded in our DNA. Whether George R. R. Martin drew upon inspiration and historical source information from the War of the Roses, the Norman Conquest or even the Roman/Greek/Persian empire gigs, the simple fact is that these grandiose voyages relay the story of all of us. Our aspirations, frustrations, desperations and imaginations are all played out in this fictional world, with only a few dragons thrown in to disguise the reality of our own backyard. It is no wonder that my youth, and those of my children, have found sanctuary amongst the pages of The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. Like the song of the Sirens they entice us away from the safe shores and into deeper, dangerous waters with the promise that our hearts will finally be satisfied. Sometimes we escape into these sagas to whisk us away from the mundanity of modern life (and for some to escape the horrors of it) and for a brief instance to be free to dream of the life we wished we had. None of these fabulous books/films/tv series offers us a comfortable ride into the potential state of nirvana. Just like reality they are full of villains, and heroes. After all there is a balance at play, a permanent dance between the Yin and the Yang, the Light and the Dark. We may find predominantly ‘happy endings’ contained within their pages, but these stories leave us with a very strong hint that the good guys will still be under threat from the bad guys.The Elves abandon Middle Earth, even though Sauron has been defeated. They have killed the White Witch in Narnia yet the threat of a new, eternal winter remains. Wizards and witches will continue to betray each other and the peace between Muggles and the Magical world is fragile in the shadow of Hogwarts. None of this should surprise us, as Winning is only a temporary state, and there will always be new battles to fight. When we are born we have the amazing opportunity to make the most of the Quest we are on, a Quest whose ultimate end game we all share. After all Death is our final destination, at least in ‘this place’. No wonder that so many great minds (and a few religions) have advised us to enjoy this journey, as brief as it is. Not to take things too seriously, not to cause unnecessary suffering and to try to live a ‘meaningful life’ as far as we can. Respecting other people, other species and our planet are increasingly a main narrative in this ‘meaningful vision’. I am not foolish enough to attempt to unveil all my views on why G.O.T mirrors but also teaches us vital life lessons in this blog. Rather, I will focus on the world of work, one which Jon Snow may have referred to as the ‘Eighth Kingdom’, the most feared and least understood of all the lands.So let’s open our minds and hearts, feed our dire wolves and head off for some old-fashioned education.
> Lesson 1: The gravitational pull to occupy the highest seat in the Kingdom often creates an insatiable thirst. People will do literally anything to get this prize. Want to be the next CEO/Director/Manager? How far are you prepared to go? In our fictional world our characters often risk everything, abandon all previous principles and ditch close aides around them. Sound familiar? Exactly.
> Lesson 2: Working in alliance with your enemies ( competitors) is only a temporary state of play. Often when bigger, badder, better beasts appear on the horizon then you club together. Even if you defeat this new foe, then the chances of a new eternal partnership are limited. In our hearts we are never, ever going to like them very much (or trust them)
> Lesson 3:  In Westeros the word ‘No’ is a powerful concept (and not a frightening one). The word ‘maybe’ is , rightly regarded as useless and in essence is a ‘sin’. Personally I got fed up during my corporate career when my Lords & Masters proclaimed ” never, ever say ‘no’ to a client or an idea’. What utter claptrap! Positive thoughts, ideas and actions are generated when you get rid of the false ’yes’s’, clear out the infinite number of maybe’s and get on with the stuff you can really do to the best of your abilities. Unless you make room in your life for all the fab things you want to do, then you will never find a true harmony. Draw out the dagger of ‘no’ without fear.
> Lesson 4: As another great fictional character stated, ‘ Failure, the greatest teacher is’. All our main players fail in G.O.T, often frequently, but the ones who learn vital lessons from their mistakes are destined to become the true heros of the piece. Failure begins with the permission to enact a task which takes us back to the art of delegation. So many Leaders find failure an unacceptable art within their teams yet they refuse to allow them access to the wider decision-making activities. There is no point spending a fortune on training if you do not operate this first base principle.
> Lesson 5: All the family groups in the 7 Kingdoms are massively dysfunctional (ok, I know that makes for an interesting story but it reflects real life). All teams in the workplace are dysfunctional to a similar degree. Do not fear this because it does not mean that some of these families are not highly successful. They often manage to use this dysfunctionality as an advantage. Do not stress about this, find the best way through the maze and learn to accept this trait as part of the natural order of things.Watch your enemy’s attempt to solve this riddle and seek perfection while you steal their lands and chattels. 
>  Lesson 6: A crisis is a crisis in our mythical world. They do not panic, stress, bully their staff, lose all moral judgement or scream in agony over trivial matters. In the work environment I have witnessed unbelievable behaviours over the minutest of issues. Missed responding to that half-formed brief?  Missed a small clause on a rights contract?  You may have well unleashed the Dragons and asked them to breathe deadly fire down upon all your clients. For goodness’ sake, focus your efforts on the big tasks, handle the small hiccups as they should be treated, i.e. minor bumps along the path.More angst and mental health issues are caused in this area than most of the others combined.  
> Lesson 7: Don’t forget the quieter, good guys and girls working away in the background. Often they do their jobs to the best of their abilities, cause no disruption and treat everyone with a massive amount of respect. All great teams need people like these. Don’t forget them, acknowledge them and smile in their direction. Sam and Hodor are 2 of the most liked characters in G.O.T
> Lesson 8:

 Make the most of your lot (and don’t whine on about what a hard time you are having). Tyrion Lannister may be a dwarf, may have a family who loathes him, may succumb to bouts of heavy drinking and womanising but he definitely lives a full life. He is bright, sharp, sees the bigger picture and has a genuine concern for most of his fellow beings. By no means perfect, he makes several boo-boos but has the resilience to bounce back. He may well be the ultimate hero in the story. You can learn a lot from him.
> Lesson 9: Great Empires rise and fall. Nothing lasts forever.  Dreamed of a job for life? Banking, insurance, retail, A.I? Remember to enjoy the ride, always learn new tricks and be prepared to step across the great divide to that ‘next land’ before the days catch up with you.
> Final lesson: We are only playing a ‘game’ after all. So don‘t sacrifice yourself (and those surrounding you) as though the ‘game’ is all that matters in your life. Work often attaches a ‘hyper serious’ label to itself, don’t believe it. Work, of course, is a large part of most of our lives but always keep a firm perspective on its role in your brief time on our planet. Remember that, just like the Great Houses in G.O.T, most Companies are only interested in their own survival and wealth. They do not love you and when the time arises, they will abandon you and cast you adrift into the wilderness. Keep this in mind and you will be fine.

Some final words of reflection from George R. R. Martin, ” Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Armour yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.”
The new series of G.O.T is on Sky in mid-April, so if you are a big fan of the series there are exciting days ahead.
Namaste x 

Gary Knight
About Gary Knight