Title: How to Fight a Hydra: Face Your Fears, Pursue Your Ambitions, and Become the Hero You Are Destined to Be
Author: Josh Kaufman
Key Takeaways & Highlights
I will persist. I have made up my mind, and I will follow through with my plans. I accept the risks. What I am doing may not work. I might be wasting my time. I may end up worse off than I am now. I cannot control the outcome of my quest. I can only control myself: how I prepare, how I manage my fears, and how I conduct myself in the battle to come.
Fighting a Hydra is not a battle with a single opponent: it’s a battle with many opponents at the same time, all intent on introducing you to your doom.
This is not appealing, but I must go to the Hydra: it will not come to me.
I will not trust my fate to unreliable tools.
I have also set myself to physical training. I must be strong enough to swing the sword with force, and quick enough to apply the torch while dodging the enemy’s vicious strikes.
I am afraid. That is not a reason to avoid the beast. Courage means being afraid and acting anyway.
I have been exploring the wilds for a week, and I have made no progress.
Every day is the same: I am forced to hunt and forage for food, which reduces the time I can spend searching for the Hydra.
The routine is comforting. I don’t have to make new decisions about what to do each day. I’ve already decided, so I don’t have to think: I can get straight to work.
Every time I’m tempted to complain about the difficulty and unfairness of life, I remind myself that I knew it was going to be hard before I left home, and that there is no victory without struggle.
As I stand outside the cave, I’m forced to admit: I really don’t want to go in there. I always have a reason to delay: I need to sharpen my sword. I need to make better torches. I didn’t sleep well last night. I may be coming down with a sickness. It’s too cold, too windy, too rainy. All excuses designed to fool myself into avoiding the confrontation. Where is the courage I felt when I set out on this journey?
Patience. I must keep my goal in mind, but act with prudence. Better to wait until the wounds heal over before I strike out again. If I act before I’m ready, I risk permanent harm.
I have persisted with my strategy, and have managed to excise two more heads. Only one remains. If all goes well today, I will accomplish my goal. May Fortune smile upon my efforts.
After each battle with the Hydra, I had hoped the next would be easier. It wasn’t. This line of work is worthwhile, but it is never easy.
For every adventurer who has been defeated by a Hydra in combat, thousands have been defeated by their own minds and refuse to face the Hydra at all.
The world is full of caverns. How can you know which ones hold treasure? You can’t know for sure, but there are clues. The shallow caves you can see into from the outside don’t contain anything worthwhile. They’re too easy: anything they once held is long gone. You’re looking for a deep, dark, ominous cavern: something that scares you.
Invest your gold in well-forged weapons. Keep your sword sharp, your torches ready, and your armor well-maintained. Take care of your tools, learn how to use them, and they’ll serve you well.
Adventuring requires trust in your own skills, judgment, and resilience. That’s the primary benefit of experience.
Wisdom consists of anticipating and preventing avoidable mistakes.
No matter how careful you are, you will make mistakes. After every engagement, there will be a hundred things that, looking back, you could’ve done better. Since that’s the case, the best approach is to make valuable mistakes: experiments that give you useful information and help you improve.
Knowing it’s going to be difficult makes it easier to keep going.
Everyone wants a guaranteed reward before they put themselves at risk. The world does not work that way. Not everyone succeeds. No matter how much you plan or prepare, a good portion of the outcome will remain in the hands of Fortune and happenstance. Generations have railed against this reality to no avail.
On the other hand, you can’t succeed if you never try. Fortune tends to smile on those who act, even when the final outcome is not guaranteed. At some point, you must choose to move forward, do what you can, and hope for the best.
Everything you want to accomplish in life will require you to grapple with the unknown, unsure of the outcome of your actions and decisions. Knowing this in advance makes it easier to keep going when the going gets tough.