A note from the author:
The prince has overcome the first two challenges. In this chapter, we find out the fascinating, unexpected way he conquers the third challenge, and we discover the best ways to discover our own personal strengths. Enjoy!
Learn how to discover your strengths
The return of the prince for the third challenge
Flash forward six months, the prince has returned and has overcome the first two challenges, and is about to attempt the third…
Now that the prince had overcome the first two challenges, he shook his head to clear it of the memory of Ras’ lesson, and focused on the task at hand, completing the third challenge: to stop his own heart from beating. The prince promptly sat on a bench and took off his outer vest, leaving only a loose fitting shirt, so that the court doctor could examine him.
“The third challenge” said the prince quietly, his eyes closed in concentration, Ras’ intelligent face in his mind’s eye as he whispered:
“Education and an open mind make the impossible, possible”
Because he was so well respected in the community, the prince gave the learned court doctor one of his arms, and proffered the other to the poor-but-wise-man. “Feel my pulse,” he commanded, and shut his eyes again.
The crowd had held its breath for a full minute when suddenly the doctor and the old man looked up at each other in surprise. The doctor dropped the prince’s arm as if it were cursed, and yelled “He has done it! He has no pulse! He has stopped his own heart from beating!”
The poor-but-wise-man could also feel no pulse and admitted to the crowd that he had no explanation for this feat, except that it was a miracle.
The prince stood up and said to the crowd, “This was no miracle. No man can stop his heart and live. But with knowledge of the body, and careful observation of the wise, wonderful magicians in the distant land where I spent time, I learned one can stop the flow of blood to one’s arms with these!” He reached under his loose-fitting tunic and took out two small balls that had been concealed within. “A steady pressure against the balls, properly placed, momentarily stops the flow of the blood to my arms, so that in time, it appears my heart has stopped beating. Now, onto the last challenge—to defeat the best swordsman in all the lands, while I am blindfolded.”
Know your strengths by finding your ideal conditions to be creative
The prince spent the entire next day time traveling. Throughout the day, he looked at the world anew, like a child experiencing life for the first time. He was still breathless with laughter at the memory of what he had done that day when, as impossible as it seemed, the prince found himself walking in the clearing with his friends for the final evening of lessons. He knew the teaching may be over tonight, but it would take a lifetime to fully grasp the powerful lessons his dear friends had taught him.
After the usual good-natured joking and camaraderie, the group settled comfortably down to give their full attention to the teacher of the final lesson, Art.
Art looked at the prince and smiled warmly. “Well, peer pressure works on magicians too. I was going to change my name to something fancy, but as it turned out, mine worked as it was given to me at birth…but, I still had to stretch it a bit. For you see, I believe that to be the most productive, you must know yourself. This means knowing and capitalizing on your strengths. It also means understanding and appreciating your weaknesses and knowing how to manage around them. For example, even though you may want to be a composer of music, it would be infinitely more difficult if you didn’t like music, and couldn’t play a musical instrument.”
“Knowing yourself means knowing your strengths, and it also means finding the ideal conditions under which you are most creative. Is there a time of day or night when you feel most creative? Mine happens to be very late at night, after everyone is asleep and the night is still. When do you feel most relaxed? Do you need a deadline? Do you need a very neat room, or is a little clutter more relaxing? Do you sit in a straight-back chair, or lay on a couch? Music playing or no music? Bright lights or dim candlelight?”
Know your strengths by finding your natural talents, interests and passions
“Knowing your creative self to that degree of specificity, and knowing what your strengths and weaknesses are, can greatly increase your creative potential. That is why I stayed plain old ‘Art’ which is short for Artery, for you must know what is in your heart!” Art finished with a flush of pride at his cleverness, and at his deeply held convictions.
Art continued, “We feel most alive when we fully utilize our strengths, when we use every talent we were born with, and develop them to the fullest extent.”
“Could you possibly tell, just by looking at us, what each of our natural talents and strengths are? Of course not. Remember:
“It is not enough to know the appearance of someone, one must know what is in their heart”
“That applies to you personally prince. You must know yourself! So then the question arises: ‘How do we discover our strengths?’ A good place to start is by asking some questions, and answering with brutal honesty. Don’t answer to impress someone else, or answer how you think someone else would like you to answer.”
Art gave the prince three questions to ponder.
- What do I enjoy doing with my free time?
- What do people compliment me on?
- What comes easily to me?
The prince went for a solitary walk in the woods to help clear his mind and begin to answer those questions. He thought deeply for a very long time.
Know your strengths by appreciating and utilizing the strengths of others
When he returned to the clearing, he shouldn’t have been shocked, but he was. Each of the magicians was busily doing something. Tony look like he was learning to juggle, and E’mussa was creating a larger-than-life sculpture of the four magicians. Ras, bent over a small table, had several small tools and was fashioning some most beautiful jewelry from thin gold wire. And Art? Well, Art was trying to saw off his own hand!
The prince looked around for a while, listening to the friendly chatter and easy laughter among the magicians. He was deeply impressed with them, because he realized at that moment that they really lived the lessons they taught. They didn’t just talk about feeding the mind, being excited by new ideas and challenging assumptions. They really lived those lessons. He was pondering all of this when Art noticed his presence.
“Hey, our pupil is back!” shouted Art. Tony, E’mussa and Ras immediately put down their projects, and Art put down the fake arm illusion he had been diligently sawing on and came over to say good night for the evening. The prince learned from the magician’s example how to be a part of a creative, innovative group. All of the magicians were alike in attitude: they were all innovators, constantly challenged their own thinking and expanded their knowledge daily. The prince also noticed that absolutely none of them seemed the list bit afraid to try something new.
Yet, all the magicians were different. He saw that each of the magicians brought something special to the table. If they had all been the same, the quality and quantity of the ideas they generated would not have been nearly as rich. It seemed as if providence or some unseen force had brought these four remarkable people together. They all seemed to know and understand this. They put this into practice by truly appreciating the strengths and talents of each other, encouraging each other and helping to create an atmosphere in the group that was free from threat.
They all worked hard to continue their own personal development as well, knowing that their strength came from the group, but the group was strong because of their individual strengths.
Know your strengths by learning to let go of your ideas when they no longer work.
When the company reconvened in the clearing in the wood, the fire cast strange, dancing shadows on the surrounding trees. The prince was not at all surprised to find that he was bursting with anticipation, eager to continue his education.
As soon as they were seated, Tony jumped up and looked at all of them, his eyes ablaze, ready to continue the lesson. As expected, the three others wizards simply smiled at his enthusiasm, and waited for Tony to begin.
Shut your eyes so you can see
“Well prince,” said Tony, “You know some ways to generate ideas. Now you must learn to be cautious. You must not become blind. I do not mean blind with your eyes. The culprit we must watch out for is a different kind of blindness. Shut your eyes so you can see…”
Sometimes what you “DO” is stop doing
The prince, now completely trusting, immediately shut his eyes. He could feel Tony’s hand on his forehead, and heard Tony’s voice say “Now, you will see of what I am speaking.”
When the prince opened his eyes, he found himself alone on a grassy plain, riding a horse. He could hear Tony’s voice in his head but could not see anyone. Tony spoke…hushed…urgent– “Prince, look behind you—danger.” Sure enough, the prince saw a group of what appeared to be fierce bandits closing fast upon him. He could hear the metallic clank of their weapons against their rusty armor, and the labored breathing of their mounts as they were pushed to their limits to overtake him.
The prince did the only thing he could think of– he yelled at his mount and dug his heels into its side, urging it to a full gallop. To his utter horror, his horse, rather than putting on an extra burst of speed, took a few faltering steps and collapsed to its knees.
Rather than get off the horse and run for shelter, the prince stayed on the horse. He began slapping the horse’s hindquarters and pulling violently up on the reins, the rough grass of the plains cutting his legs through his fine silk garments.
The horsemen were within a few yards of The prince when, despite his frantic urgings, the mount leaned over to the right, collapsed dead onto the earth, and pinned The prince’s right leg underneath its great weight. The prince could only wait in fear as the largest of the bandits came toward him, raised his sword and…
Tony’s gentle voice was heard again. “Prince, open your eyes, you are safe.” The prince, upon hearing the familiar voice, opened his eyes just a slit, testing the waters before opening his eyes fully.
“That” said Tony, “Was learning to stop! You have just experienced the golden rule for letting go of an idea, which is:
When the horse dies, dismount!
“A truly creative, flexible mind can bring forth very personal ideas, and at the same time, be objective enough to display the habit of being able to let go when the idea isn’t working or needs to be
Be Flexible in your Ownership
“Often times human beings spend much of their energy defending their original idea, as opposed to being flexible and being open to new ideas, or changes in their own original idea. The capacity of being flexible in your ownership of an idea and to objectively know when to give it up and move to a new plan, can be priceless.”
The prince, who had been sitting down, trying to catch his breath since almost losing his head to the all-too-real bandits, said “This makes so much sense, Tony, and at some level, I already knew this to be true.”
The magicians, in their wisdom, gave the prince some time to think, and patiently answered the questions he put forth. Finally, E’mussa chimed in. “We are getting much too serious here. Let me tell you a story to illustrate this phenomenon. I remember a story that was old when my great grandfather first heard it–about a village that had a metalworker. He carelessly kept his forge lit and left his workshop, and in his absence the workshop caught on fire and burned to the ground.”
“The amazing thing of this story was that, as a metal worker, he had some copper and tin ore lying around his shop. As a result of the intense heat of the fire, a bit of each metal melted, then melded with the other metal, making a much harder, more durable metal we now call bronze.”
“The twist in the story is that for the rest of his life, anytime the metal worker needed more bronze, he filled up an abandoned building with ore and burned it to the ground!”
The easy laughter of the group again energized the prince.
Art made the connection of the story to the lesson of the evening by saying “If the metal worker had only learned to be flexible in his ownership of his great idea, and allowed others to help him improve upon that original seed of brilliance, he could have saved a lot of time and many houses!”
The Tony spoke up. “This is where we will end for the evening Prince. Knowing your strengths and knowing the strengths of others can be a wonderful tool for understanding yourself and your fellow human beings.
“Tonight completes our teaching, now you can focus on the business of learning. Stay with us as long as you feel you need to get these lessons, these thoughts and understandings, to be a natural part of you.”
Copyright © 2020 Gerard A. Evanski. All rights reserved. Reproduction and distribution without written permission of the author is strictly prohibited.