06 October 2018

Heroism Interrupted: A Cautionary Fairy Tale for Leaders

This page is a script for a video preface to Leadership in Education: How to Play the Hero's Game.
Once upon a time there was a king whose kingdom had fallen on hard times. 
First, a pestilence struck his kingdom and as people got weak with hunger they fell victim to a terrible plague that even killed the queen. 
The king did not yet have an heir so he took the first opportunity to marry a princess from a neighboring kingdom. 

Unbeknownst to them, their misfortune had attracted the attention of a trio of terrible dragons in the mountains above the kingdom. 
After watching the people of the kingdom get decimated by the calamities that befell them the dragons interest was piqued by the grand show of wealth and finery that the wedding celebration brought about.
The dragons began to approach when they saw that festivities were underway. 
Just after the king had exchanged vows with his new queen, Varda, they burst upon the scene. 
The blue dragon struck first by eating the king and capturing the maid of honor, Lady Geniveve. 
The red dragon stole a chest that held the kingdoms most valuable treasures. 
Finally, the yellow dragon snatched the new queen. 

After the panic had subsided the king's regent, the ancient Sir Grenadier, seized the moment to offer the entire kingdom to anyone who could rescue Queen Varda and recover the treasure. 

The drunk 8th Earl of Poselthwaite boasted that he would defeat the dragons and immediately set off to the dragon's lair with nothing but a bottle of spirits and a short sword. 
He boldly walked right down the middle of the valley that lead to the dragon's mountain lair bellowing his boasts all the way. 
Thus, he never saw which dragon brought his end because it swooped down from behind to eat him in a single bite. 

Later, two itinerant knights, Sir Wallace and Sir Monty, stepped forward simultaneously from opposite sides of the courtyard to offer their services. 
They both rushed off trying to be the first to sneak into the dragons' lair. 
Sir Wallace, the first to arrive, discovered the yellow dragon standing guard over the chest and the pair of fair ladies. 
He bravely confronted the beast and was able to get between them. 
Then with his shining broad sword he made a mighty sweeping blow that lopped off the head of the dragon, but, alas, on the backswing … took off Lady Geneveive's head, too. 
Upon realizing his deadly mistake he cried out in aggrieved surprise at his stroke of incompetence. 
But before his cry had echoed back the blue dragon flew down, pinned him to the ground, and prepared to feast on the knight. 

Meanwhile, Sir Monty had been observing the incompetence of his colleague and seized the moment to approach the blue dragon from behind. 
Just after the dragon had dispatched Sir Wallace he was decapitated by Sir Monty, who was careful to avoid creating collateral damage. 
Then the hero freed the young queen, grabbed the chest, and in a rush of triumph they hurried back to the castle as quickly as they could. 

The regent was grateful to the hero for his brave rescue of Queen Varda (though disappointed at the loss of Lady Geniveve) and asked that the chest be opened. 
The lid was lifted revealing that it was filled with plain rocks. 
The regent sadly shook his head in disappointment and clucked his tongue. 
The hero was so ashamed and furious that he rushed back to the dragon's lair only to be eaten by the red dragon, who was clever enough to have hidden the real treasure and set an ambush after discovering the loss of his companions and the chest. 
The red dragon also returned to the castle later that night and boldly recaptured the queen from her tower bedchamber and once again the kingdom was stricken with great dread at their misfortune.

So, the old regent asked once again for someone, anyone who would be willing to fight the red dragon.
Eventually a rather modest looking warrior in dilapidated armor, Reginald, stepped forward. 
The regent gave him a great steed to get him on his way more swiftly and the courtiers whispered amongst themselves that he was doomed. 

Knowing that his chances of success were slim Reginald visited an ancient reclusive monk who lived on the opposite side of the valley from the dragons. 
The monk was moved by the misfortune of the kingdom and the sense of duty that motivated the brave warrior. 
He said that he only had one thing to offer the brave knight. 
It was magic mirror. 
It's magic was to reflect only the gazers greatest fear. 
He gave Reginald the mirror wrapped in coarse cloth and sent him on his way. 

The unassuming warrior found the dragon's lair and came up with a plan. 
By throwing small parts of his armor behind the dragon he tricked it into thinking he had snuck by and gotten inside the cave. 
The dragon chased after the sound assuming the warrior was heading directly towards the treasure, but instead lead him to the hidden trove. 
Reginald hid in a side passage when, after searching in vain for the source of the sound, the dragon returned to the cave entrance to guard the queen. 
Reginald put the magic mirror at the end of the passage where he had hidden and then he once again enticed the dragon into the cave but this time down the dim dead end passage. 
When the dragon looked at the end of the dim passage it just saw a knight sitting with the queen before the treasure chest which was set as if it were a dinner table. 
They were about to eat a large red dragon steak served up on a shiny silver platter. 
The dragon was enraged by this sight and attacked the image with all it's might. 
But, of course, he was actually looking into the magic mirror and so he slammed himself into the wall with such force that he knocked himself out and Reginald easily dispatched him. 
The warrior gathered up as much treasure as he and the queen could carry together on the mighty steed and headed back to the castle. 

But alas, while recovering Queen Varda and the treasure was a great accomplishment, the warrior could not outwit the plague and the pestilence, so everyone got sick and died. 

The End

Now you must be wondering what kind of fairy tale is it that ends such. 
It might be the truth of our own future if we do not learn from those who failed in this story. 

The hero's challenge is first to survive and, then, thrive. 
A hero attains that status by having hard goals that have a major obstacle that prevents just anyone from achieving them. 
But, there are also inherent boundaries to how those goal states must come about and those boundaries create the playing field that defines what game the hero must play. 
In order to become a hero you have to play the right game for the circumstances. 
When the drunken 8th Earl of Poselthwaite shows up to play with dragons using only his dulled wits and a short sword, he fails. 
He did not really understand the game he needed to play. 
If you don't pay close enough attention to the right details of your situation you can inadvertently put yourself in harm's way. 

On the other hand the two knights seem to be playing the right game, but still broke the implicit rules for success. 
Sir Wallace's killing one of the the damsels in distress was a losing move. 
You have to stay within the bounds of the playing field because sometimes thinking “outside the box” is a losing move, not a creative one.

Sir Monty's accidentally recovering worthless stones was also a losing move. 
You have to keep your eyes on the prize, it's just no good to let your success get to your head and lose track of what you have to do. 

And finally, let's consider Reginald.
When he cannot cure the plague and stop the pestilence, he loses, too. 
And when the hero fails, the whole kingdom continues to suffer.
In this case it is a challenge that is simply beyond his ability and resources to handle. 
They were living in the time of knights-in-shining-armor and kings-living-in-castles. 
All the wealth in the world could not buy the public health measures that did not exist for them. 

Today, however, we have everything we need to play and win the heroic game of our time. 
The problem is knowing what the game is and the implicit boundaries that define success. 

The heroes of today are also going to rescue the vulnerable, retrieve a valuable treasure, and provide for health and wellness. 
  • The realm in dire straights that my work addresses is K-12 schools. 
  • The game is paradigm change. 
  • The vulnerable are the children. 
  • The treasure is optimal states of mind. 
  • And, finally, providing for well-being requires a multi-level ecological perspective on the true boundaries of the playing field.

    On the one hand, we know that primary human needs give us one level of the necessary boundaries.

    On the other hand, we know that supporting need satisfaction requires us to see how each individual with those needs is embedded in a network of different levels of influence; such as one-to-one relationships, ecologies, organizations, and society. 

You can find out more about how to understand the heroic game of paradigm change in K-12 schools on my web site Teach-Kids-Attitude-1st.com. 
By clicking on the leadership button you will find my explanation of the game and it's boundaries. 
Thanks for watching.
This page is a script for a video preface to Leadership in Education: How to Play the Hero's Game.

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