Top Ten Life Lessons We Can Learn from Game of Thrones

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Game of Thrones can be arguably called the best television show ever produced. 8 seasons in and 9 years running, it still never ceases to amaze its viewers. But beyond breaking records and all the fan theories, its really about the characters who feel relatable with each having their own flaws and virtues. Every character makes a decision and every decision has a consequence. 

Each of these consequences, apart from providing some great TV moments, also belie a lesson to be learnt. Most of them can be applied to our lives as well. Keeping that in mind, here are the top ten life lessons to be learnt from the game of Thrones’ characters and their actions:

(Warning: Game of Thrones spoiler ahead!)

1. Infinite power corrupts you

The particular lesson is so apt for the series it might as well be their tagline. From even before the iron throne saga had started, the statement has been proven right. The mad king was thus called for his rash decision (to put it mildly) of burning the entire city. 

The same lesson is proving to be right for his daughter as well in the final season as if the mad king’s genes are catching up with Dany! There are countless other examples of people changing their attitude and personas once they are in power. 

Theon Greyjoy is one of them, who takes Winterfell by force and tries to kill the remaining Stark family, the people he once thought of as if his own. It’s clear that keeping your head straight and not getting drunk on power is not everyone’s forte (maybe Jon Snow would fare better).   

2. Surround yourself with smart people 

The advice usually given to the startup founders plays a big role in Westeros. All the talk of people getting appointed as the hand of the king since season 1 inspires this valuable lesson. Surely, an individual cannot acquire all the knowledge in the world, you need help. 

And the best help can come from smart, sensible people who know you and can understand the gravitas of the situation. 

Daenerys probably is the best example of this lesson. Her advisors have surely rotated over the years, but they all have had common traits. They are smart people who know her, who are trustworthy, and know the game they are in very well!  The most important part of the lesson is that the dragon queen keeps them close.

A line in season 8 summarizes this pretty well when she forbids Tyrion Lannister, her hand, to go and fight in battlefield rather wanting him safe, in order to “use his brains in future”. Well done, Mother of Dragons!  

3. Seeking revenge can be your downfall

Almost all characters, right from the beginning are seeking revenge. Although it propels the drama forward, these people become blindsided due to the sole motive which ultimately leads to their demise. A case in point is Rob stark’s pursuit of the Lannister’s. While pursuing his motive of achieving justice for his father’s killers, he forgets a common rule– keep your allies close, and we all know what happened after. 

Another point of reference can be Prince Oberyn Martell, whose sole purpose of exacting revenge from the Mountain results in his demise. The horrors of being motivated only by revenge are probably best summarized by the Hound in season 8 when imparting the life lesson to Arya. “Don’t be like me” he says.

4. You learn from your experiences

Although there is a lot of chatter about reading books in the series whether, by Sam Tarly or Tyrion Lannister, the best lessons are learnt from experiences, through either travelling or learning from other people. For example, Arya has come leaps and bounds in season 8 from the spunky girl we saw in season 1. Her growth can be attributed to her adventures on the road be it in terms of skills or her thinking. She learns her lessons not just from other people (the faceless assassin) but from the hard life she has lived on the street as well.

This lesson, however, is most true for Tyrion Lannister and Sansa Stark. The former knows more about people by his interactions with them and the latter never forget the lessons she learnt from her horrid journey down south. In fact, she is the only one who catches Cersei’s bluff in season 8 while everyone else is fooled. 

5. There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance

The Oberyn Martell example given above might seem to be the perfect fit for this lesson. But for the sake of not repeating myself, I’ll use one of the others in the show. Such as Cersei’s humbling by the High Sparrow, who she thought could do her no harm. But let’s take Littlefinger as an example. It can be said that he has too much confidence in his abilities to manipulate, and rightly so. He has been successful in it for the longest time. Turning families against families for god knows how long. It’s probably then due to his arrogance that he is caught off guard by the Stark sisters in season 7. The one who matched even the great Lord Varys in intellect, forgot one simple rule, take nothing or no one for granted.  

silver-colored Winter Coming Stark pendant necklace

6. Never underestimate others

The Battle of Blackwater is a fine example of a war strategy gone wrong. The capital city’s defences were weak, and Stannis Baratheon thought half the war had already been won. Little did he know about Wildfire – the secret weapon his opponents had, and he paid a heavy price for it. 

Other examples include The Waif underestimating Arya leading to her death. The same could be said of Ned Stark all the way back in Season 1. Yes, he was honourable, honest and all that, but had he given Cersei a little more credit of being the conniving person she is, maybe he would have survived. Although it would have made for a boring first season, and we got a lesson and great villain out of it so all’s well, I guess.  

7. Blind faith helps no one

Faith is a good thing. It helps us to push to the limits, to go that extra mile. With faith on our side, we have the power to do unimaginable things. But blind faith can be disastrous. It makes us vulnerable as Stannis Baratheon would tell you. Melisandre sold her prophecy, blood magic, sacrificial ceremonies and lord of light to Stannis and he bought it all. None proved to be useful to him. Maybe he should have focused more on the strategies of war and who knows what would have happened.

But a lot of the religious stuff shown in the show resembles the world we live in too. Every family in Westeros believes in a different divine entity for instance. Further, the Sparrow proves itself to be a dangerous religious sect in one of the seasons.  And the monarch and the faith locking horns only resembles our time more.

8. Great power means more responsibility

Almost everyone in the kingdom gets elated when faced with the prospects of getting a new title or being the king. But only a handful understand its true meaning – responsibility. Dany learned her lessons several times, such as during the liberation of slaver’s bay. When freeing the slaves from their masters she became responsible for their lives as well. But the freedmen now lived in poor conditions, many starving and dying. It is then that she understood that conquering wasn’t enough. There is a higher responsibility attached to being the leader – the wellbeing of your people. 

No one understands this more than Jon Snow. Every time he accepts a title; he is given a higher one. And with every ounce of great power granted to him, there is a slight worry on his face too. He knows it’s not enough to just “have” a title, he must fulfil the responsibilities that come with it too.

9. Every action has a reaction

Another probable tagline for the show. Think about it, Cersei killing Ned Stark in season 1 started everything. It came to a full circle in season 8 which only goes to prove that what goes around comes around. It’s a universal law, things you do catch up with you sooner or later. And no one is exempted from this. Rob stark rejecting his allies’ proposal of marriage caught up to him in the worst possible way. 

The same can be said for Tywin’s and Littlefinger’s respective deaths as well. A valuable lesson indeed! 

10. Winter is coming – Let’s see the bigger picture here!

And finally, we end with an actual tagline of the show and a hidden lesson in it. The characters have been bandying around about ‘the long night’ from the first episode, but they do not realize the extent of the threat. They keep squabbling about power, titles and iron throne without considering that the force of nature might be stronger than any of them. And all the other discussions and plans would be rendered useless once nature takes over. 

In short, they fail to see the bigger picture until Jon Snow reminds them to (Thank god for him).

The lesson is there to remind us to always keep a focus on the larger picture and not obsess over the trivial details. On a more global level, maybe white walkers are akin to the major geopolitical problems we are facing right now like climate change. While nations keep quarrelling over nuclear power or immigration, the force of nature, one day, might render these issues as trivial. 

What are some other lessons you think might be hidden in the show? Let us know in the comments. 

- Kartik Kukreja

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Top Ten Life Lessons We Can Learn from Game of Thrones Top Ten Life Lessons We Can Learn from Game of Thrones Reviewed by EMN on May 14, 2019 Rating: 5

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