“Always do what you are afraid to do.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Smaug, from Wikipedia

The image of Smaug found in my copy of The Hobbit, borrowed from Wikipedia.

If you know The Hobbit, then this tale will sound familiar. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been led on an adventure–several, actually–where I found myself doing and saying things altogether unexpected. I was plucked from my comfortable seat beside the fire (where I was, of course, enjoying second breakfast) to go on a crusade against dragons. I didn’t go looking for this trouble, mind you; it found me. But, like Bilbo Baggins, I turned out better for it in the end.

Ok, maybe the title of this post is a little misleading. I don’t mean Smaug-type real dragons. I mean the metaphorical kind: things that scare the crap out of me and make me wish I had a magical ring that lets me disappear. But instead of running from these things, I picked up my sword and waved it around at them.

The crusade wasn’t always pretty. I lost my footing a couple of times, thought for sure my hair had been singed off, and even felt downright nauseated a time or two. But damn it, I did it: I became a dragonslayer!

Here’s what I’ve learned about conquering dragons:

What constitutes as a large dragon for me may not be so big for someone else. And that’s ok. The more dragons we conquer, the smaller they may seem in comparison. For someone who has been slaying dragons for a while, mine may seem more like lizards. But that doesn’t diminish them in my eyes nor does it detract from the sweet sense of victory I feel once I’ve conquered one.

Not all dragons breathe fire. I grappled with one last week that displayed a mirror-like substance instead of flames. Now the fire may sound worse, but I assure you, what I saw reflected in the mirror was pretty painful. Let’s just say that Bilbo’s lesson equaled my own.

One size sword does not fit all. In fact, some dragons cannot be conquered by the blade at all. Each dragon is unique and must be handled accordingly. What does that mean? A whole lot of patience and sussing things out. Use what you’ve got, and always trust your gut.

Some dragons really do guard treasure. I’m not saying every dragon you slay will yield copious riches and jewels. What I am saying is that sometimes dragons get in the way of other stuff–important stuff like personal relationships, business relationships, opportunities, how we spend our time, and more. And if you’re anything like me, these things are the treasures in life.

Not all dragons are made for conquering. Sometimes, you have to sheathe your sword and just run the other way. Tackling dragons takes effort and time. If investing these two things doesn’t translate into some sort of benefit–if this dragon is simply a soul-sucking energy vortex–it may be best to put the sword down. Recognizing and distancing yourself from these types of dragons is a feat of its own.

Conquering dragons is addictive. Once you start overcoming these scaly obstacles, you’ll feel so good, so empowered that it will be difficult to stop. But should you find yourself fearfully faced with a formidable foe of a dragon, remember the words of the great dragonologist JRR Tolkien: “It is not the strength of the body that counts, but the strength of the spirit.”


  1. Found another dragon quotation today from Rainer Maria Rilke, and it is too long to tweet: “Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.”

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