The old man watched as the boy struggled against himself. His great challenge was not the task in front of him, these were merely obstacles in his way. He had to find a way to overcome the limitations which he had placed on himself.
The old man remembered his own struggles with fear, how it would leave him paralyzed, unable to act, and defeated. Much the like the boy in front of him, the problems that plagued him were ones he had played such a large role in creating. But what were the origins?
Was the old man solely responsible for the beliefs he had grown so faithfully to accept? Was he truly weak like he believed? Had his intelligence actually been so limited that he could not see this firsthand? Here is a question, if you’ve gone crazy, like truly lost your mind and experienced dementia, how long does it take for you to find out?
Questions were all the old man could offer, but what the boy needed was answers. He wanted to know things for certain. But is there anything that fits that expectation? Could we truly know anything for sure? We can hope to know, but not much more than that.
When the old man asked the boy, what was stopping him, the boy said it was just that he was too tired. He needed more sleep, and he wasn’t getting enough. Then the old man recommended that he go get some rest and try again the next day.
As the next day arrived, the boy returned rested and ready to conquer his challenge. But this time, he failed too. So the old man asked him what went wrong? The boy said he didn’t eat a breakfast, and that he didn’t drink enough water. The old man sent the boy to get some food and drink, to get rest.
The next day, the boy returned with a stomach full of food and having drank the right liquids. He was rested and ready to go. He had never felt better, but again, he failed. Now the boy was confused. He couldn’t say why he was failing, and when the old man came to ask the question, he dropped his gaze and said he is not good enough.
When the old man, who had done this over 1,000 times approached the boy, he said, well good. Now that you know you’re not good enough, take a rest. Leave the task, and never come back again. I never want to see you try, and I don’t want you to even think about coming back.
At this, the boy cried. He went home and he had no appetite, he couldn’t sleep, and he ignored his thirst. The boy had felt so sad, because even after each failure, he loved that he got to try. Now he couldn’t even experience failure.
The next day, he wandered about aimlessly, and this continued for several days. The boy began thinning, waning, nearly disappearing. Everytime he looked back where he would stand, tears would flow down his face. He looked at the old man, and the old man pretended that he didn’t exist. He never returned his gaze.
One day, after many such days, the boy returned to play the game. He failed again, but he still tried. The old man still didn’t mind him, but the boy thought less about that. All he wanted to do was try.
When it came time for him to return home to sleep, he didn’t notice it. He fell asleep at the game, and he missed meals, and he forgot to drink water. He didn’t talk anymore, he just played. Try after try after try. The voice inside of him grew bored of calling him a failure, and he stopped believing he was not good enough.
The old man had to pull the young boy away to get his attention, and when he did, he confessed that the game was meant to be hard, impossible to figure out, that nobody really had the answer. Everyone wanted to know the meaning of the game, but that no one acknowledged the game meant different things to everybody. The boy could barely keep his attention, he wanted to return to the game. So the old man said to him, Son, you’re done. You have discovered the meaning of the game.
At this the boy paused, what he had found in the game was so much more. It was validation, a personal weapon that killed the doubt he created. He loved it so much, he tried to fill all of his days with it, and he did.
Eventually, he grew up to become an old man too, and he understood. The point is not to succeed, it’s to do it over and over again. Day after day, because that’s all you know.