Forget Thor! The true return of the ways of the Norse men is to be found in History Channel’s Vikings. The show is loosely based on the legendary epic of Ragnar Lothbrok and while the historical accuracy of the show is questionable at best (this is the same network that brought Pawn Stars to the world) the entertainment value and applicable lessons can not be denied.
I’ll try not to spoil anything substantive as I highly recommend you binge on this program at your earliest convenience. Of course, some spoilers are unavoidable, so you have been warned.
The narrative centers on Ragnar’s personal quest to rise above his station. He is a poor farmer with exceptional fighting skills who claims to be the son of Odin. Whether or not this last part is true is irrelevant. It merely demonstrates Ragnar’s desire to be more than he is and to rise to the level of the gods themselves. His path has been blessed by the gods, so how could it be denied. After all, he is a son of Odin.
Which brings us to the first lesson of Vikings: screw the gods and the fate they bore you into. Ragnar cares not for the simple life of a farmer. He aspires to something greater. He will kill, fight, and deal to rise above his station and for the betterment of his people. Though Ragnar does not disrespect the gods, he does not allow there will to determine his fate. His mind and blade will be the things that choose his destiny. If you have the drive and will, you will not succumb to any limitations and put your all into achieving your desires.
Of course, Ragnar’ rise is not without its perils. He is very much usurping the natural order of established things. There are those who do not like Ragnar’s machinations nor his victories. Throughout the series current two season run (fingers crossed for a season three), Ragnar is faced with betrayal, doubt, and sabotage from both inside and outside his circle of allies. Some of these obstacles are of Ragnar’s own making, but many are merely the works of his opponents. The only thing that keeps Ragnar alive and able to persevere is the aid of those he deems friends and allies. Without the intercession of his brother, wife, and “special” friends like Loki and Athelstan, Ragnar would have been a dead man long ago.
So, the second lesson: no one reaches lofty heights alone. Ragnar’s people and army are the what gain him his power. It is their loyalty and willingness to follow his crazy schemes that allow Ragnar the authority and ability to rule. Without his people, without his war band, Ragnar is nothing.
How does a simple farmer manage to obtain power and position? How can he overcome the forces of fate and the will of those he wishes to usurp? It’s actually a rather simple answer; Ragnar is playing chess while his enemies played checkers. Or to be a bit more accurate, he is playing the long game and everyone else was looking at the short term gains. Obviously, Ragnar also played other mind games and made the right deals, but a large part of his success was his patience and willingness to wait for the appropriate time. He knew that his enemies would stumble or hang themselves if given enough rope and time. This is especially true in season 2 when Ragnar plays a long con over his enemies. It’s success is irrelevant. What matters is he took slings and arrows knowing what was playing out in the background and willing to wait for its fruition.
Thus, the final lesson from Vikings; always play the long game. Wins and victories are always enjoyable. We want to experience the thrill of beating our opponents, whoever or whatever they may be. However, real success, the kind that lasts generations, takes time. You can settle for short gains and their allure, but everything and anything worth obtaining requires sacrifice and patience. It’s not always glamorous, but the view from the top will always be worth it.
In closing: make your own fate, keep a group of close people who will help and temper you, and always have the patience to play the long con. That is today’s lessons.