Tuesday 23 April 2019

John Daly: 'Life lessons from 'Game of Thrones''

Notebook

'As Cersei Lannister says:
'As Cersei Lannister says: "When you play the game of thrones you win or you die. There is no middle ground."' Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO/PA

John Daly

Winter is coming, and it's not just about the wicked April hailstone showers we've been having lately.

With the very last episodes of the long-running 'Game of Thrones' due to screen next week, its global fan base is already suffering an even worse cold turkey withdrawal than previous iconic binge boxes like 'The West Wing', 'Breaking Bad' and 'ER'. As Cersei Lannister says: "When you play the game of thrones you win or you die. There is no middle ground."

Given that the ultra-violent Iron Kingdom saga has captivated us hook, line and guillotine, there's always the option of a college course to prolong our fascination with that fantasy world of fire and ice.

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'Game of Thrones' circles many universal themes, ranging across conflict, loyalty, diplomacy and strategy. More than anything, though, the series is about power - how to take it, wield it and hold it - and it's inevitable that such lessons would make their way on to a university course.

Bruce Craven, author of 'Win Or Die: Lessons in Life from Game of Thrones', has made the series his life's calling: "A lot of fiction has the capacity to be mined for the lessons we can extract from it. 'Game of Thrones' offers a trove of leadership lessons for managing and implementing change."

As a professor of business management at Columbia University, Craven is also the creator of the 'GoT'-inspired MBA course, 'Leadership Through Fiction'. "Students recognise their life is a story that they're shaping as they accept challenges, using that story to convey what's important and what they stand for as a leader."

Indiana University has a class called 'From Westeros to Wall Street', while Canada's University of British Columbia features lectures on 'The Song of Ice and Fire as Contemporary Medievalism'.

Since Ireland provided the fertile ground for much of the filming, one wonders if colleges like Queen's, UCD or NUIG are missing a trick by not offering business modules based on the House of Stark's expert advisory on backstabbing and chicanery?

Yet, for all the macho posturing in that virile world of sword and shield, 'Game of Thrones' is often at its finest when showcasing its pantheon of fierce and resilient women - a #MeToo cabal eons before its time.

From the ruthless Cersei down the line to Daenerys, Brienne, Margaery, Melisandre, Ygritte and Olenna - all embody a gritty female challenge to the posturing patriarchal order.

Arya Stark, the smiling assassin driven by familial revenge, gets some of the show's more memorable lines: "The man who fears losing has already lost. Fear cuts deeper than swords." Her comment following another bloody aftermath - "leave one wolf alive and the sheep are never safe" - even merited the ultimate endorsement of a T-shirt slogan one summer.

The 'GoT' lessons on offer for the graduating entrepreneurs of 2019 are essentials in the financial playbooks from Henry Ford to Warren Buffett - always pay your debts, stand aside while competitors annihilate each other and constantly seek to cultivate influence from unexpected quarters.

Most importantly, though, never get too big for your boots. "I don't distrust you because you're a woman, I distrust you because you're not as smart as you think you are," says Tywin Lannister. "A wise king knows what he knows, and what he doesn't."

Smartest of all the 'GoT' characters, the one most likely to survive the coming final bloodbath, is Tyrion the dwarf who employs wit and intellect to overcome a lifetime of prejudice: "Never forget what you are, for the rest of the world will not. Wear it like armour and it can never be used to hurt you." Timeless counsel all of us would do well to abide.

Irish Independent

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