The Case for the Wooden Sword
One of my favorite games is Chrono Trigger for the SNES.
When you start the game, the main character (Crono) starts with a wooden sword.
The wooden sword/shield is a familiar troupe, much like in Half Life where you start with a crowbar.
I was playing the original Dragon Quest and when you start out the king, the literal king, gives you a whopping 300 gold, a torch, and an herb.
Looking at this from the perspective of the adventurer, all I can say is seriously?!
Can’t the king spare a bit more? Especially since I’m going to save his daughter!? 300 gold buys you a set of leather armor and a bamboo pole.
Then you go out with your shiny new stick and all you can poke without getting your butt kicked are slimes… and maybe red slimes if you’re lucky.
But then you get level 2 and the slimes are suddenly far more manageable, red slimes become the new base.
Then level 3, 4, 5, and 6 come up. You’ve added a leather shield and gotten yourself an a copper sword.
Things are starting to come along quite nicely, then BAM! the bad guys start throwing fireballs!
But do you turn back or do you keep going after the princess?
Well since it’s a game, you either stop playing or you keep pushing and take setbacks as they happen.
The Value of Wooden Swords
The sword is a tool that exists purely for the purpose of killing.
When you start studying a sword art, you often start training with a wooden sword. Be it a bokken or a shinai.
The thing is while swords can be awesome instruments of destruction, they take a lot skill to wield properly. Without the skill you can’t properly use the sharp edge of the blade and there’s a good chance you’ll actually destroy the blade.
Wooden swords can take a beating and if they break, you’ll only out a piece of wood as opposed to a finally crafted piece of metalwork.
Being Strong Enough
While I’m writing this I’m reminded of an episode of Conan the Barbarian, an animated show from the early 90s. In the first episode Conan is a boy and his father forges him a sword from a rare metal.
But Conan’s father doesn’t give him the sword after it’s done, he puts it in a stone box and covers it with a heavy slab of rock.
Conan is, understandably, confused as he can’t use the sword. Conan’s father tells him that when he’s strong enough to move the slab, he’ll be strong enough to wield the sword.
As a kid I couldn’t understand what Conan’s dad was trying to do.
But what if there’s a reason we have to work at things to get (and stay at) a high level? Be it financially, physically, or romantically?
Getting What You Want
The results are just like you’d expect: the winners most often ended up blowing all their money. Some of them tried starting business and making investments with the money, unfortunately they often didn’t pan out.
I found it really interesting to think about as I look back over the last year and what’s happened.
I’m recently divorced and after all the real fireworks happened I started digging into my finances and found that I was 2+ months behind on most of my bills.
The price of not taking an active part in managing my family’s finances I suppose.
I remember not having money for anything, things like ordering a $30 car part when something broke was something that worried me. Let alone something major like a differential or a transmission going out.
So I spent a month eating pretty much nothing but chicken, rice, and vegetables while not going out.
But I managed to get caught up in a few weeks.
After that I cut a bunch of expenditures.
Then I stocked a small emergency fund and upped my general savings contributions.
As of now, I’m not bullet proof, but wow… I can weather a major event.
It’s a different feeling.
I can take my new girlfriend out without every week worrying about how much money is in my bank account.
Discipline = Freedom
I listened to a Joe Rogan podcast with Jocko Willink a while ago and something Willink said has really stuck with me: “discipline equals freedom.”
Yeah, its the title of his new book, but the idea is interesting to consider.
I’ve been pretty damned disciplined getting to the gym the last couple years. Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Usually before anyone else gets there.
You know what it’s gotten me?
The ability to squat almost 300 lbs and the ability to lift almost 150 lbs over my head. I’ve maintained weight the last couple years despite drinking a pretty decent amount of beer, and my body composition has actually improved ~20% to ~15% body fat.
With my financial goals, while I’ve lost focus as of late, I’m still keeping going with my other goals.
I was able to take a vacation with my girlfriend and see the 2017 solar eclipse at totality with the rest of my family.
It was an amazing experience.
Better yet, I’m home and not worrying at all about being able to deal with a major financial event.
This blog is supposed to be a way for me to exercise my creativity.
But I still want to put something useful out into the world.
We all have setbacks.
I had a relationship I needed to end (and finally did).
After that I’ve gotten myself into a much better place with some hard work and most importantly some discipline.
Discipline is what makes you get up and do uncomfortable things like push and pull weights that might hurt you.
But that same discomfort is what also allows you to build funds in your bank account that will reduce your worry that Murphy might come knocking and then might punch you in the face when you’re still trying to figure out what happened.
All that discipline has to start with something out of place, be it smashing aliens with a crowbar or monsters with a wooden sword.
You have to build strength and momentum to handle greater things.
If you receive things too quickly then there’s a good chance you’ll crumble just like lotto winners.
If you can learn to wield that wooden sword, then you can move on to a finer quality sword and not only wield it, but understand what makes it so much better than what you had before.