Enter the Warrior Dragons

Warrior dragonsAs I have previously mentioned Prince Luan was the product of a wealthy family that carelessly indulged his every whim and desire when he was a young boy.  They produced a spoiled self-absorbed young man who had no patience and was quick to throw flaring temper tantrums. To safe guard the innocent that Luan might harm I introduce in this post the last type of characters in my story – the Warrior Dragons.

Luan’s behavior may be commonplace in what we call the civilized part of the world where parents in their misdirection look to wealth and power as the major goals in their life instead of incorporating love and discipline into their family structure.  The people of the Princess’ the kingdom were completely surprised by Luan’s behavior, in fact they were stunned.  Before he made his second visit the Emperor and the High Council turned to the Dragon Council for help since they expected another confrontation from Luan.

You may remember from earlier posts that the dragons of this land took care of the people giving them wise advise and counsel but since they were gentle peace-loving creatures they were no match for heavily armed soldiers.  Fortunately the earliest dragon councils knew of the evil tendencies that humans can exhibit and provided for the possibility of cruelty by creating a group of dragons that could protect the weak.

These Warrior Dragons were trained in the martial arts and carried simple but deadly weapons.  They didn’t belong to any of the regional dragon communities but traveled in groups of three throughout the different areas of this country much like rangers.  At the sign of danger they positioned themselves in a triad attack formation ready to go into action.  Then when they attacked they moved with such blinding speed and violence they created an assault that was so ferocious that no one ever survived.

 

A positive way to deal with adversity

The emperor and his council were stunned when Prince Luan presented the long lost contract that the emperor’s father had signed seventy-five years ago.  As they realized that they couldn’t repay the loan and Prince Luan would take Princess Leizu as payment they were paralyzed.  When the dragons saw that the emperor and his council couldn’t decide what to do the Dragon Council was assembled to address the situation.  They wanted to see if the legal dragons could find any discrepancy in the contract, unfortunately they couldn’t so they went home leaving The Littlest Dragon by himself.  At this point the Old Dragon Sage reenters the story and gives The Littlest Dragon some of the most important advice of his life.The Old Dragon Sage

It is times like this when all hope seems to vanish that we have the opportunity to learn about our character, our courage and our resolve.  The dilemma is used as an opportunity to reveal and reinforce the value of learning how to lead a positive optimistic approach to life.  To introduce and affirm one of the most important principles that Napoleon Hill ever taught, the insight “That with every failure and defeat comes with that situation a seed of equal or greater importance.”

I find that by taking this approach one can begin the process of stepping back from the tragedy rather than being swept away by the pain, shock and hopeless confusion that it can bring.  It allows us to switch from reacting subjectively to the situation to one where we can begin to evaluate it objectively.  It puts the mind in gear to look for some benefit from the horrific situation, at times there are many.  By looking at the information that we encounter and learning how to filter it by the possibilities that we can take rather than by necessities we begin to see that very rarely is there a situation without hope or benefit.

 

Leizu’s character flaw

Perhaps it was because Princess Leizu was raised in such a poor land that she was so dedicated to her responsibilities.  Perhaps it was because she was so young when she was put in a position of authority that some of her youth melted into a compulsion to follow what seemed to be her duty.   Perhaps it was because of her karma that lead her in a direction where she blindly accepted her reality and her fate regardless of how dire it was.

When she faces a crisis in the middle of the story because she makes her decisions through what she feels she must do, by necessity rather than by opportunity, she eliminates any other possibilities that might set her free from the dilemma.  And as great as Leizu’s character is, kind, hard working, pleasant attitude, cheerful spirit this is her one unresourceful trait.

Fortunately because The Littlest Dragon had been just average in intelligence when he grew up that he had to develop self-discipline to be able to complete his classroom lessons at school.  It was this experience that lead him to deal with the crisis in a different way.  His ability to stay focused on a problem until he found a solution combined with the wise words of the Old Dragon Sage would spin the conflict in the middle of the story in a different direction.

It is common in today’s society to refer to this as the ability to think outside of the box. Too often we don’t know how to develop this ability and when we think we’ve identified the box and are outside of it we don’t realize that we’re just inside a larger box that surrounds the old box.

An essential approach in thinking outside the box is to understand how we make our decisions and of how our operating system works so that we can discard approaches in solving problems that don’t work.  The first step in this process is to understand how we make decisions, how we filter the external stimulus and what filters we use to help us make these decisions.

 

The value of self-discipline

Recently I had the chance to watch Lindsey Lohan’s 2004 film “Mean Girls.”  I hadn’t realized it when I first saw this performance but it was brought to my attention that it was based in part on the nonfiction book, “Queen Bees and Wannabes,” by Rosalind Wiseman.  This insightful look at the social dynamics of teenagers gives parents advice to help girls survive cliques, gossip and other issues at school.

Wiseman’s book fundamentally changed the way that parents look at their daughter’s friendships and conflicts.  It encourages them to become proactive in their children’s social development suggesting how to choose best friends and how to express anger.  Similar articles on child development stress that self-discipline is a very important skill to teach children.  By directing ones’ actions according to what one thinks instead of how you feel you can build your self-discipline.  After the novelty of beginning a new sport or musical instrument wears off one is tempted not to practice however by acting according to what we think rather than what we feel will help us attain our goal.

The background story of The Littlest Dragon and the Princess deals with incorporating positive growth principles into our lives.  It reinforces the important Napoleon Hill’s “Twelve Great Riches of Life,” presenting them as specific objectives that will increase peace and joy into our lives.  Hill’s list is prioritized with the most importance at the front but as important as “positive mental attitude” is I wonder if number nine, “self discipline” is perhaps equally important in one’s life.

Life can have challenging times and if we don’t learn to discipline ourselves to prevail we face discouragement, defeat and failure.  Repeatedly The Old Dragon Sage encourages The Littlest Dragon to face the bulling difficulties at school with self-discipline and not by responding to his teasing classmates.

Attainment of the Twelve Great Riches of Life is a life long pursuit but parents can ensure their children a greater likelihood of success by building self-discipline during the early years.  After winning the 2012 Olympic Gold in time trial U.S. cyclist Kristin Armstrong credited her success to self-discipline, “This is an amazing moment for me…I read about things like Michael Phelps.  But I always feel like I’m the normal one, the normal kid that never was told by their coach that I have anything special…It was just the determination and sacrifice that I had, all the way from when I was in elementary school.”

The importance of a positive mental attitude

The advice that The Old Dragon Sage gave to The Littlest Dragon, to ignore the bulling and it will usually go away, is an important approach to this type of situation.  The harassment in this story was more like mean teasing and not as severe as some of the hurtful things that happens in our Nation’s schools each day.

After The Old Dragon Sage encourages The Littlest Dragon to ignore the mean teasing he moves on to a more important part of his advise to the little guy.  One of the most valuable aspects of our mental make up has to do with having a positive mental outlook about one’s self.   That would be hard to do if The Littlest Dragon believed he was a nobody so The Old Dragon Sage begins a conversation about self esteem and his beliefs about himself.

As we grow up not only do we create an operating system that kept us safe during the formative years of our life, during this time we also accumulated a great number of beliefs about ourselves.  One of the most common approaches of looking at these beliefs is to evaluate them as whether or not they are true or false.  Unfortunately we can always find evidence that support a belief even if that belief isn’t true.

I’m not suggesting that truth is relative and you can make up your own reality and set of rules about life.  To do so would be dangerously heading down a very slippery slope.  The type of belief that I refer to has nothing to do with topics like, “is there a God?” “Is man basically good or bad?” etc.  The beliefs I refer to are the ones that we hold to be true about ourselves, of those in relations to others and to the world.

Instead of looking at beliefs as whether they are true or false The Old Dragon Sage suggests that a better approach is to look at your beliefs about yourself as whether or not they are resourceful to you.  Thinking that you’re insignificant, a looser, unlovable or a misfit doesn’t do anything but bring unhappiness.  These types of beliefs should be discarded and replaced with ones that affirm uniqueness, success, talent and goodness.

I expect that some would feel that presenting this information to my target audience, 8 to 12 year olds might be a bit too soon, perhaps, but one of the driving forces behind this project is that I didn’t encounter the 12 Great Riches of Life or positive life coaching until much later in life.  The question “Why I was unaware of these insights” turned into “What can I do to interject this way of thinking to the youth of our society,” hence The Littlest Dragon and the Princess.

How to deal with classroom bulling

There seems to be numerous items in the news each week about the trials our young go through at school.  One of the most disturbing is when an unfortunate youngster is picked on, worst still when they are bullied.  In this story The Littlest Dragon is teased about his height because he is about the size of a chipmunk and most of the other dragons were as big as horses.

Dragons in this society were supposed to be symbols of power and respect and like many different societies that lived in this area size mattered.  If you were big you seemed more important than others.

During the first year of The Littlest Dragon’s schooling some of the other dragons in his class begin to tease him about how small he is, they even try to convince him that he is so small that he is a nobody.  At the end of a rather grueling week instead of going home he retreats to the high mountaintops to be by himself and think.  It is in this area that he encounters one of the oldest dragons he has ever seen.  He is about the size of a dog.

The Old Dragon Sage listens patiently about how the other classmates have teased The Littlest Dragon.  He then gives him advise about how to create a situation that would reduce the amount of teasing and bulling.

Most of the classroom teasing and bulling is decreased if the individual being bullies doesn’t respond.  The more kids see that their target is uncomfortable and bothered with the verbal assaults the more they continue but if the target doesn’t react the bullies soon move on to other classmates who will become upset with the mean teasing.

The Littlest Dragon’s character

I have the utmost respect for Eoin Colfer, the author of the very successful series of children books Artemis Fowl. In these books the precocious and very intelligent young boy, Artemis Fowl II, attempts to regain his family’s fortune by researching clues on the Internet.  He is a twelve-year-old criminal mastermind who helped in his quest by Domovoi Butler a huge Eurasian manservant bodyguard.   I can see why this story and Artemis would entrance many young boys because they adore the antics of this preteen James Bond. 

Sadly the very few preteens have the skills and aptitudes of a character like Artemis Fowl and when they are confronted with the normal issues and problems when growing up they need direction and good advise.  It was my goal to create a character that was normal, perhaps even challenged in some areas to serve as an example to school age kids of how deal with adversity.

The research that dealt with Chinese dragon mythology revealed that these beneficial dragons could vary in size from as small as a chipmunk to as large as a school bus.  Because our society usually makes such a big thing about the importance of being big I choose to have my young hero be the smallest that had ever been born.  I also felt that if his character was based on goodness and perseverance his actions could serve as a role model for the youth of today.  His main strength was that “He was able to stay focused on a task or problem for a long time and eventually always found a solution.”  Because he wasn’t gifted and had to work hard to learn a lesson he developed a strong self-discipline.

Self-discipline is one of Napoleon Hill’s Great Riches of Life and usually it is the ninth one listed but I feel that it is one of the most important.  Even though we have the intelligence and skills to achieve we can fail if we never get started achieving our goals.  Whether it is the objective of being physically fit, at peace with our relatives or giving attention to the other twelve riches of life self-discipline is needed to attain that goal.

 

 

A few more thoughts about the origins of this story

The years between the initial story that was created for a presentation for J. Paul Getty’s Educational seminar and the final version were filled with turmoil, challenge and personal rebirth.  This rediscovery of what I was capable of came to be through the exploration of a number of personal growth books, lectures and meditation.  A great amount of this rediscovery was centered on the insights of Napoleon Hill.  I was enlightened by his knowledge shown in the “Twelve Great Riches of Life,” or The Magic Ladder to Success.  I was a little frustrated that I hadn’t come across this knowledge earlier in my life.  That thought turned into the question, “Why did it take so long to discover this knowledge and how can I change that for others?”

Until recently, I was an art teacher at Santa Monica High School.  During short art history lectures, many times I would weave in a life principle concept or some other insight from Hill.  The feedback was terrific. The value of these insights was enormous. When the story was rewritten, I decided to add the character of the Old Dragon Sage, who would introduce these personal growth concepts into the story and therefore introduce the reader to these valuable insights.

How successful individuals deal with adversity is a major part of this story.  If we let external situations create bad feelings about ourselves, we become victims; instead we can use negative situations as a reference point to stand back and look at our lives and ask the question, “Who do I want to be?”  “What must I do to I achieve it?”

As we grow up, we form an operating system that will keep us safe during our formative years.  If we had a safe, loving environment, this system would be normal and give us the results in life that we want.  when we face challenging situations we must overcome, we sometimes make decisions that don’t always work to our advantage.  The problem stems from the fact that this operating system works subconsciously, kind of like being on automatic pilot.  We can engage in behaviors that don’t serve us well. Such behaviors can be discarded but it’s not always an easy task.  By watching ourselves with awareness and facing the frustrations of life with courage, resolve and dignity, we can turn into the person that we want to become.

Please know that I don’t sit in some remote ivory tower untouched by human difficulties.  The observation about facing life’s difficulties was inspired during a religious ceremony that I attended at the end of the writing part of this project.  I was reading a passage in a Bible that talked about trials from above and how to face them.  I believe that God allows us to encounter difficulties with our own free will and how we respond to them defines our character.  I included this insight (how to face life’s challenges with courage, resolve and dignity) in the conclusion of the story.  Strangely as soon as I did so, I found myself entangled in difficult situations that tried my own resolve and patience.

I hope the challenging days are on the wane and i am looking forward to getting this story published.  The key illustrations are completed and will be displayed in later posts.

Some thoughts about stature

I find it interesting that we as a society have a tendency to reject that which is different; those characteristics in others that are unfamiliar to us.  We seem to make fun of those who are unusual.  Rudolph was excluded and teased because of his nose but when Santa found a use for his difference his shallow reindeer friends reversed their scorn and loved him.

The background motivation for this story came in part from several sources and observations but primarily the idea that height and importance are not interrelated.

I’ve often been amazed at how society gives so much attention to the powerful and notable individuals.  Being tall and powerful is important if you’re playing for the Lakers or fighting the Minotaur but I wonder, does size always matter?  I know our civilization has historically found favor with those who are tall but could it be that some of our comments to young children make the situation worse.

Quite often when we encounter a friend or relative’s child that we haven’t seen for a while we comment on how much they’ve grown.  “Look at how big you’ve become,” we say.  Perhaps noticing how much they’ve grown creates a background situation, an unconscious mental process that works in a negative way with some children.   When they don’t grow as much as others especially compared to their classmates they could feel that they haven’t improved, that they’re not as important than the others because they’re short.

The main character in The Littlest Dragon and the Princess is excluded and teased at school due to his small size.  Fortunately he meets an Old Dragon Sage who is able to introduce him to alternate ways of thinking, of the importance of having a positive mental out look.