What I learned from Game of Thrones series, the books not the TV show

the execution of Eddard Stark

My fellow voyager, every time I think about you, I feel all fuzzy inside. Your beautiful soul reminds of all that is pure and right in this world. It is rare to encounter someone who brings out the best in me. So anyway, I will dispense with the flirting and get right into it. The events in these past few weeks have challenged me to be more open about my thought process specifically how and why I came to have the beliefs I hold dear about life and the entire human experience. Today I want to talk to you about books specifically, the game of thrones of series (well technically the series is called a song of ice and fire if we are going to be anal about it).

Initially I was a non-fiction snob, I only read books about factual things, I had no patience for stories that were not firmly based in reality (read biographies, business books, psychology books, et cetera). However, with the stress of medical school I slowly started drifting towards stories that were created in someone’s head and had things that did not exist in our reality. The surreal stuff, magical and its twin brother Sci-Fi. So I started reading plenty of epic and high fantasy stuff (lord of the rings, the magicians, harry potter series, the kingfisher series, the list is long). One of the best was the song of ice and fire series (AKA game of thrones series). I started watching the TV show after a friend recommended it. Let’s say it was not what expected, the author kept killing of all the characters that I liked and especially when they were about to prevail. After going through the seasons, I switched to the books and my oh my! It was so much richer, people who read the harry potter books and watched the movies can relate. The books are always so much better.

Good people sometimes lose

What struck me about the books in this particular was how realistic the characters seemed, although magic excited in their world they did not believe in it. Although in their world dragons existed some of them thought that it was nonsense, can you believe that? Okay do not get impatient, let me get to the lessons. I know I have a convoluted way of doing things, and that I take a roundabout way of explaining things but you should be used to this by now my dear fellow voyager. The lessons are as follows:

  1. Good people sometimes lose
the good guy & hero of the first book eddard stark, lord of winterfell and warden of the north

In the story this exemplified by Eddard Stark, a pious high noble and leader of the house of Stark. He was a good father, a great husband and a loyal friend to the king. He had the qualities that you would expect from a great human being. He went above and beyond, doing more than what was expected of him.

bad people are generally more prepared than good people are. They are more calculating and cunning

He even brought up his bastard Jon Snow (ok illegitimate son, but think medieval England and the words they used) alongside his legitimate children even if it made some people in his household squirmish, his wife Katelyn was not pleased. Long story short he was executed by beheading at the end of book. The house of Stark was branded traitors to the realm. This was despite that fact that he actually working towards the best interest of the realm. The take away here is that bad people are generally more prepared than good people are. They are more calculating and cunning. they are utterly ruthless and committed to their goals. I think it is only that good that good guys learn some few things from bad guys.

2. The truth will not always set you free

Queen Cersei and her twin, lover and co-conspirator Jamie Lannister the king slayer

I know the theme is headed towards the dark side but indulge me.

Being good and right alone is never enough

Am sure this has happened to you before, maybe when you were in preschool or maybe when you were in high school. Someone has accused of doing something bad, you know they are making stuff up. So you shout and call them liar but nobody believes you. In fact, they are looking at you with disdain and anger. They cannot imagine who raised you. Sounds familiar? We have all been there at some point, in the book Eddard Stark tries to expose queen Cersei. She has a dark secret; all her children have been fathered by her twin brother Jaime (the king slayer) as a result of their incestuous relationship and not by king Robert Baratheon. Unlike Eddard, Cersei is skilled in the dark arts of skimming and deception. She quickly does away with the king by way of poisoning and then frames poor Eddard for attempting a coup d’état. So yes against my mother’s wisdom and the one who came before her, my grandmother, it does not always pay tell the truth. Be truthful when you can but be strategic about how you go about it. Sometimes you have to lie, for a good cause of course. Being good and right alone is never enough.

3. A Lannister always pays his debts: the value of reputation and keeping your word

the house of Lannister and some of its most famous members, Lord Tywin, queen Cersei, Jamie the king slayer and oath breaker and Tyrion the half-man or the imp

This is one of the sage saying that most characters in the book are familiar.

Most importantly don’t make promises you cannot keep, there isn’t a worse poison that kills the reputation of one’s character like someone who does not keep his word

The house of Lannister is a well-connected powerful and uber wealth family of Westeros. In fact, they shape much of the story alongside other high noble houses such as the Stark, Baratheon and Targaryen. Cersei, Jamie and Tyrion all come from this exalted house but here is the catch, everyone hates them, well almost. They are so wealthy that they act as though the rules do not apply to them, this makes them step all over everyone. Despite all this, their word is never taken lightly. They always keep their promises, if they say they will kill you then you are good as dead. If they owe you a favor, they will always return it. If they promise to make you rich, consider yourself retired to wealth and splendor. Hence the saying a Lannister always pays his debts. Be true to your word whenever you can it can be quite useful especially when you are cornered. Most importantly don’t make promises you cannot keep, there isn’t a worse poison that kills the reputation of one’s character like someone who does not keep his word.

4. You are at your weakest when you think you have won

King Robb Stark, the young wolf, the king of the north after his murder and mutilation

King Robb stark, son and heir of Eddard Stark felt great after routing the knights of the realm in the Westerlands. He let his guard down and forgot to keep an eye of those he had wronged.

enjoy your victories but like the proverbial rabbit sleep with one eye open

Due to his boosted moral he failed to notice that Walder Frey was not pleased about his Robb’s failure to keep his promise to marry Frey’s daughter. While he wined and dinned savoring his victories, his enemies slit his throat and sewed his wolf’s head on his body. The fact is after doing something marvelous we feel invincible, it allows us to lower our guard. Always maintain a cool head it helps. Enjoy your victories but like the proverbial rabbit sleep with one eye open.

6. Plan for success: yes it actually a thing

Petyr Baelish, master of coin, lord little-finger, brothel owner extraordinaire

One of my favorite characters of the entire series is Petyr Baelish (not because we are namesakes).

There is no such thing as free lunch, everything has a price

Through ingenuity, he rose up in ranks to wield massive political power. I cannot possibly elaborate on all he has done to get where he got (that may actually result in a novel, no seriously). Okay fine I will tell you among other things, he ran a brothel and used the prostitutes to glean information from state officials. He then used this information to manipulate the royal court to his advantage.

be clear about your goals but flexible in your approach

The fact is that he had his goals and worked tirelessly to achieve them. There is no such thing as free lunch, everything has a price and in my experience the price of success is the hard work you put in. The moral of the story is have your eye on the ball, be clear about your goals but flexible in your approach.