This Medieval Fantasy Helped Me Navigate Modern Life

Quotes from Brandon Sanderson’s “The Way of Kings” that changed how I see the world.

This Medieval Fantasy Helped Me Navigate Modern Life
The Stormlight Archive box set my brother gifted me for my birthday (Image by the author).

Quotes from Brandon Sanderson’s “The Way of Kings” that changed how I see the world.

I held off on reading Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings for the longest time.

This book is the first in The Stormlight Archive, a 10-book series set in a medieval world beset with magical spheres that leak lifeblood, mythical creatures that have a gemheart people kill each other over, and a centuries-old prophecy that ties the lives of the characters together.

I love reading fantasy, but sometimes, the size of a book intimidates me. 

I wasn’t sure if I was ready to commit to a 10-book series, especially since it’s ongoing, and there’s no clear indication when the author would complete it.

But when my brother gifted me a trilogy of the first three books, I somehow felt compelled to read them. This time, I didn’t think how I’d have to complete 12,000+ pages. Instead, I told myself to take it one chapter at a time.

And one chapter at a time, I fell in love.

I fell in love with Shallan, the princess from a fallen kingdom who goes on a quest of sorts to save her family, but ends up getting tied up in a scheme far beyond her wildest dreams.

I fell in love with Kaladin, the surgeon’s son who grew up learning to save lives, now forced to kill to save his own.

I fell in love with Jasnah, the heretic, a princess too proud to listen to anyone’s rules but hers, fiercely carrying out her research to uncover her father’s death plot.

But more than anything else, I fell in love with the strong undertones of hope in the story. This medieval fantasy gave me tools to better deal with struggles of my own. And in this article, I’ve listed some of the most powerful quotes that gave me a different perspective of life. Read on, and if you find something that makes you smile, let me know your thoughts in the comments.

“Bitterness is repaid more often than kindness.”

How often we remember when a person caused us pain. 

We keep score, run tallies in our head, and never forget how to treat them when we next see them.

But when it comes to remembering kindness and repaying it, we’re selectively oblivious. We take kindness for granted, and behave we’re entitled to everyone’s best behaviour.

My tryst with spirituality has taught me we’re entitled to nothing. 

Any good that comes our way is a gift from the universe. And like all gifts, we should cherish it and try to repay it as often as we can.

Let this be a reminder to treat yourself and the world around you with a little bit more kindness today. Give without expectation, spread sunshine wherever you go, and know the rewards will come to you in due time.

“We are not creatures of destinations. It is the journey that shapes us. Our callused feet, our backs strong from carrying the weight of our travels, our eyes open with the fresh delight of experiences lived.”

All through 2022, my goal from my business was to make $10k in a month. I felt when I finally make that money, my happiness will know no bounds.

When I hit that goal in December 2022, I felt nothing.

It was just another task on my to-do list, and all I could think of was, “What next?”

The year-end reflection that followed made me realize a dangerous truth: our goals are exciting only until we’re working towards them. Once we reach them, they become a milestone in our journey and no longer fill us with adrenaline.

This was when I consciously started celebrating being in the moment. 

I mindfully took great pleasure in cherishing all the small steps of my journey. I didn’t let my life center around work or a particular financial goal. I took up new hobbies, started spending more time with nature, and let go of my obsessive need to be productive all the time.

Having goals was still important. But I wanted to focus on how the road to reach that goal would change me as a person, and what other potfuls of happiness I could pick up along the way.

When I read this quote by Brandon Sanderson, it felt like an affirmation to the lifestyle change I’d adopted. What use is reaching a destination if all we’re focussed on is where to go next? What use is achieving your dreams if you can’t enjoy the journey?

“Sometimes the prize is not worth the costs. The means by which we achieve victory are as important as the victory itself.”

Another reason achieving my financial goal in December 2022 didn’t excite me as much was because back then, I was putting in 8–10 hours of work each day.

All my free moments would be spent in front of a computer screen. Whenever I wasn’t working, I was thinking of ways I could grow my business. I attended 3–4 meetings each day, and consistently explored opportunities to make an impact with my work.

The emptiness that hit me when I reached my goal was proof that there was something wrong in my way I’d wired my brain.

If making money required me to be on my toes all the time, was it even worth it? And honestly, why did I even pick $10k? It was just a fancy number I saw freelancers on the internet throw around in educational videos and newsletters. I convinced myself that’s something I needed to achieve too if I was to be considered successful.

But the reality is different.

Living in India, $10k is way more than what I can spend in a month. In fact, with my current living expenses, even $1k a month is more than enough. Why then, do I need to work so hard to achieve a goal that isn’t even something I came up with myself?

Brandon Sanderson’s quote spoke to me because it advocates the same. If the road to reaching your goal shapes you into a stranger, is that a goal worth having?

Your struggle should make something out of you. And that version of yourself should be true to your core values. Anything else, and you need to redefine your goals and strategy.

“To lack feeling is to be dead, but to act on every feeling is to be a child.”

As I sit writing this, I’m going through one of the worst phases of limbo in my life. 

Because of an upheaval in my personal life, I don’t have the bandwidth to dedicate time and energy to my work. 

I’m so focused on making it from one day to the next, that sitting in front of the computer to articulate my thoughts feels like a luxury.

On days like this when my stats are dropping and money isn’t flowing in steadily, I question every decision I ever made. I find myself wondering if it was a good idea to quit my job and become a full-time writer. I look at my old work and feel I’ll never be able to reach that level of dedication again.

These are the days when gloom threatens to overpower me. I feel a strong urge to delete every social media account I have and start from scratch.

These are also the days when I have to force myself to be stronger than my impulses. 

I need to remind myself that I am not my emotions. 

My track record speaks for itself, and I know I can make my way back from any slump. I just need to give it some time, and things won’t be this bad forever.

This quote from The Way of Kings speaks of something similar. You might have good and bad days when strong emotion makes you want to make major life changes. But every emotion isn’t the truth. Every impulse isn’t to be acted upon. 

To know when to act on what feeling is what makes you an adult.

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool.” — Richard Feynman, Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman!

“Sometimes we find it hardest to accept in others that which we cling to in ourselves.”

A business owner friend of mine is fiercely ambitious. She draws strict professional boundaries and never hesitates to put her foot down when her friendships threaten to come in the way of her work.

As a business owner myself, I acknowledge and appreciate this quality. But as her friend, I also expect some leeway. Like, when I miss a meeting with her, I expect our friendship is strong enough that she’ll reschedule it to some other time.

What I don’t understand that even though I’m her friend, when we’re talking on professional terms, I need to respect her time. If I don’t show up for meetings without informing her earlier, the onus is on me to book another meeting. Expecting her to cut me slack is plain unprofessional.

This was a hard pill to swallow. 

Until a few days back, I used to hold grudges every time she made me pay for a meeting I didn’t show up to. I thought it was rude of her to not honor our friendship.

Reading this quote by Brandon Sanderson made me look inside.

When people book consultation calls with me, I put in my hundred percent to be present for them, physically and mentally. A no-show is a huge turn off. All my effort and preparation goes to waste, and I feel it’s fair to charge them even if they don’t show up.

If I do the same, how can I expect my friend to bend the rules for me?

Doing business with friends is not the best idea, I know, but having strict boundaries is the only way to go about it. As an ambitious person myself, I understand my friend better now, and try my best to respect her time more. 

Not having any expectations from her has eased our relationship, and also removed any bitterness that might have inadvertently crept up from my side.

Talking about expectations, the next quote is something along the same lines.

“Expectations were like fine pottery. The harder you held them, the more likely they were to crack.”

As an adult, the hardest truth for me to accept was — just because you expect something from someone, doesn’t mean you’re entitled to it.

People go through life living in their own reality. Your expectations from them might not align with how they see themselves, and this will often lead to clashes.

If you can’t lower your expectations from them, you’ll let bitterness seep into your heart. Your relationships will suffer, as will your peace of mind.

The solution?

Do your best, but be prepared to tackle life if things don’t go your way.

This is the ultimate Zen life hack I’ve learned from my tryst with spirituality. It’s true for expectations from others, and from yourself as well.

Expect the best. But when things don’t work out, learn how to regulate your emotions. Emotional self-regulation will be the most important skill you’ll learn as an adult.

“This world, it is a tempest sometimes. But remember, the sun always rises again.”

Yes, there’ll be bad days, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad life.

Minor hiccups happen all the time. It’s arrogant of us humans to think we can control our life.

The universe is chaos, and most of what happens to you isn’t in your hands.

What you can control is how you react to situations.

If you give yourself grace and don’t let your emotions rule your decisions, you’ll be better equipped to handle the challenges life throws at you.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” — Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search For Meaning.

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