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Why slaying dragons guarantees you win big in business

This post connects the dots between fire-breathing lizards and a psychological issue that holds entrepreneurs back from their biggest goals.

I’ve wanted to write a post about dragons for a long time. Weird as it sound, dragon’s fascinate me. Not in the lame dungeons and dragons way either. By the time you’re done reading this post, dragons will fascinate you too. I guarantee it.

The dragon is a universal legend. Almost every human culture’s mythology makes a mention of dragons. It’s astounding that, while our cultures are so vastly different, this one myth is so consistent across the globe.

The dragon myth exists in Chinese, Indian and every European culture. The scaly beasts are also known for the same infamous characteristics, no matter where you find them.

Beyond the wings, fire breathing and general serpent-like appearance, dragons have a reputation for:

  • Guarding vast treasures
  • Being violent and vile tempered
  • Being wickedly persuasive (yes, they speak!)
  • Instilling fear in puny humans
  • Being ancient

Tolkien’s dragon Smaug, from The Hobbit, is probably the ultimate representation of the dragon in modern literature. Ancient Smaug guards a fantastic treasure, insidiously erodes Bilbo’s confidence and violently terrorizes a town of innocent people. As dragons go, Smaug checks all the boxes.

I’m an entrepreneur. Why do I care?!

Good question. Unless you’ve been living under a cave for the last year, you’ve probably heard about Seth Godin’s book Linchpin. I’m a huge fan of the book because it introduces the concept of the “Lizard Brain” – the part of our brain that unconsciously creates fear.

Working with the Lizard Brain is a big part of what I do. If you hang around this blog enough, you’ll figure out that I talk about overcoming fear quite a bit.

Here’s the thing about the Lizard Brain:

  • It comes between you and the vast treasures your entrepreneurial career could bring you
  • It can be violently abusive and self critical, torching your confidence
  • It is the most persuasive part of your inner consciousness. It pulls emotional strings and blackmails with psychology.
  • Creating crippling fear is it’s favourite extra-curricular activity
  • The Lizard Brain literally is ancient, it’s the oldest part of our brain we’ve inherited from our reptilian ancestors.

If you’ve ever wondered why dragons are such a widespread myth then wonder no more.

Dragons are the ultimate antagonist of the oldest stories, serving as the final obstacle between the brave hero and his ultimate prize.

The dragon metaphor is present everywhere. Our ultimate succumbing to the lizard, driven by serpentine persuasiveness, begets original sin in the world’s most famous creation myth. In fact, the King James bible uses the words “serpent”, “dragon” and “devil” interchangeably.

Dragons are the story of our Lizard Brain. They’re a cultural metaphor for the darkest, most destructive part of ourselves. They are a representation of fear itself.

Entrepreneurs are the dragon-slayers of the 21st century

To win in business, you must take action that overcomes the dragon inside of you. You silence the persuasive inner critic, push through the fear and ignore thousands of years of reptilian conditioning intent on holding you back.

You shoot for the pile of treasure.

As entrepreneurs, or perhaps as Artists, slaying the dragon is the most significant step we can take towards doing the work that will transform our businesses, lives and perhaps world.

The Lizard Brain is a mighty enemy of the modern entrepreneur and it defeats the vast majority of the wannabes. Books have been read, coaches hired and blogs trawled… all to aid us while we desperately seek the elusive how-to-guide for conquering fear.

Meanwhile, the answers have been around for thousands of years, passed down through tales of dragons. The secret to the Lizard’s defeat is the stuff of legend.

How to slay the Dragon in your mind

1. Don’t allow the dragon to speak

Dragon’s know exactly how to manipulate the minds of humans. They know how to pull the strings to fill you with fear. They also create greed, which is really just fear with more bling!

Watch out for your dragon’s silver tongue – it’s just as dangerous as the fiery breath. Every syllable it utters will be laden with deceit. Your dragon will encourage you to make short term, cowardly decisions. Even worst, it’ll pretend to be on your side.

The only solution is to ignore it completely. When you enter the lair, be ready to block your ears and sing “lalalalalala! I caaaan’t heeear you!”.

Dragon’s use their persuasive voice as a backup defense. They prefer to torch their enemies swiftly, but when they know they’re really in danger they unleash their verbal manipulation.

Know this: When your dragon is muttering in your mind, it mean’s you’ve got it scared. You’re already halfway to defeating it. Ignore it and keep moving!

2. Be the unlikely hero

A dragon’s lair is littered with the char-grilled remains of wannabe heroes. Ever notice how all of these skeletons are wearing pieces of once-shining armor?

There is a reason that in all but the most cheesy stories, the dragon is not defeated by the Prince – despite his shining armor and white stallion. Just ask Shrek.

The dragon is ready to do battle with a foolish hero charging into it’s lair. It expects that kind of attack. After all, the dragon knows the stories too!

The best way to defeat a dragon is to be a little wily. Through stealth and cleverness, the sneaky hobbit Bilbo Baggins stole into Smaug’s lair without being barbecued. By spying on the sleeping dragon, Bilbo discovered the secret to Smaug’s defeat.

Don’t be fooled. You do not need the shiniest (most expensive) armor or a custom-forged sword. A stallion is not necessary. Besides, all that stuff may just make it easier for your dragon to spot you.

Instead, play it smart. Be the unlikely hero. Get stealthy and sneaky. Find your dragon’s weakness while it’s snoozing and then….

3. Aim for the weak spot

Bilbo discovered Smaug’s weak spot – a gap in his armor, on his soft underbelly. Smaug was slain by a single arrow that was aimed right for this vulnerability.

Every dragon has a weak spot and when we’re dealing with the dragon in your mind, that weak spot is always psychological.

Dragons may be cunning, but they’re also predictable. We can guarantee that they’ll always react like a dragon. This predictability is the weak spot in their psychological armor. We can exploit it.

Your dragon is greedy and will be highly motivated toward anything shiny. Your dragon is also afraid. The fear it tries to instill in you is really just a projection of it’s own unresolved psychological issues. Freud would have a lot to say about your dragon!

Clinging to treasure is a sure sign of some serious baggage. The fire breathing and scaly armor is just compensation – your poor dragon is trying to make sure no one sees past it’s tough exterior to the kitten within.

Yes, your dragon is misunderstood. You really want to defeat it?

Feel sorry for it. Look down upon it’s greed and fear. Doing battle with your dragon only enables it. Instead, when it spouts flames, simply give it a pat. Say “yes dear, you roar away and show me how tough you are.”

The last obstacle

The mythology of dragons is evidence of the significance and universal impact of the Lizard Brain fear. Defeating your dragon is the secret to entrepreneurial success.

Your ideas, business strategy, sword and armor… don’t matter. They’ll all get you nowhere until that final dragon is defeated.

Want to slay your dragon and defeat fear for good? Get the how-to guide here.

What do you think? Is there a dragon living in your mind?

10 Comments

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  1. I think your dragon metaphor is right on point. I do have a dragon living within and it begins to speak, every time i get closer to my dreams and stuff starts falling into place.
    This is what she says, “You’re getting overwhelmed, take a break , slow down, aint no rush!” Yes my dragon is a woman, a cunning, deceivingly tricky, slick talking predator. Sometimes I outsmart her, but truthfully sometimes she gets the best of me. I want to learn how to defeat her for good!

    1. Hi Fabian!

      Sounds like your dragon can be a handful! The trick is to prove to it that stuff gets better when you keep your “rolls” rolling. Don’t get confused between the state of TRUE overwhelm and the self sabotaging thoughts that your dragon creates. They ain’t the same thing.

  2. Fantastic post. Great metaphor, just what I am working with (again).
    I am coming to understand that I actually do not connect with the label
    ‘entrepreneur’ which makes so much sense at the struggle to act like one, dream like one, be one.
    Fantastic insight – now I need to slay or love my dragon into submission and acceptance of the rewards of being outstanding.
    “I act boldly, for I dare to be great.” Quote thanks to Randy Gage.

    1. Interesting comment Bonny…

      I wonder, do you know what label or identity might suit you better? Is finding a label even necessary? Or, do you have what it takes to make up your own label?

      No answers from me… Just good questions 😉

  3. Yes, all too familiar with lizard brain theory but as you point out that doesn’t usually help to defeat the effects, which for me revolve around “Oh, why do I want to go bothering those nice people that I’ve worked for in the past?” So I’ve bought the book, since I never know when I’m going to stumble across the magic bullet, or arrow (good news for bookshops at airports).

    As a big fan of metaphors both verbal and visual (or better still the ‘visual proverb’), I loved the dragon idea, as it helps to understand that you need a proper plan to defeat this beast (most lizards being a bit less scary). This is priceless: ‘clinging to treasure is a sure sign of some serious baggage’. Ouch!

  4. As a Tolkein fan you instantly hooked me in when you mentioned Smaug. It’s funny how mythology can teach you so many valuable life lessons if you care to look past the surface. It’s perhaps the same thing with ghosts -they generally inhabit the deep and dark corners and scare the bejuses out of folks but confront them and poof,they are just vapour.

  5. How did I miss this post?! Too funny, I actually used to blog about applying the lessons learned from defeating dragons to business, and will get back to it one day, I’m sure, at http://defeatdragons.com.

    I LOVE your definition of greed as “fear with more bling”. It makes me chuckle and pat myself on the head, although (Chinese astrology) I’m more Rat than Dragon.

  6. I found this post in search of dragon metaphors…I thought someone must have said this better, but in dealing with a long drawn out, life sapping work situation, I had the following thought. Sometimes the dragons one must slay, look and act nothing like dragons. Hope I’m not going too off point, but I work in the public sector and was in an acting supervisor position for 3+ years. An employee in my group choose to not do his job – take 6 mos., a year, etc…to complete assignments, some of which would take a new employee a day or two This resulted in a number of citizen and within agency complaints. I documented this employee for all of the 3+ years (it is very hard in the public sector to terminate someone for just not doing their job and that decision was above my pay grade). This employee had for many years flown under the agency’s radar, did not make waves and pretended to be my friend. When counseled about poor production, the employee said he had no excuses – just didn’t do the work; never showed/indicated an intention to improve. Very frustrating situation – it sucked the life out of me as I’m not into power-tripping or needing to show I’m the boss. While pursuing disciplinary action through HR, upper managers finally decided to move said employee to another office. I finally achieved some relief – but no feeling of victory…a learning experience????…..

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