Don't believe in yourself as long as you're not a hundred percent sure that the outcome will favor you.
A novel I liked a lot is "Warlock", by Wilbur Smith. This time, I'll stop over one certain fragment which I reread today and I consider it very important.
One day, pharaoh Nefer Seti invited the beautiful princess Mintaka, whom he was in love with over his head, to a duck hunt. They agreed to have a contest: whoever kills more ducks will be declared the most skilful hunter.
Nefer, determined to impress the princess and very confident in his skilful hunting abilities, decided to use spears instead of the bow and arrow, being certain that she wouldn't have the strength and skill to handle the heavy weapons, thus having an advantage.
The first flock of wild ducks came unexpectedly, each bird having a distinct mark on their beak. They made a wide circle on the sky and then started to descend in a line. They spread their wings and then plunged, quickly losing altitude, passing over Nefer's boat and then over Mintaka's boat.
Nefer calculated very accurately his time, then, suddenly, he stood up and threw his spear towards the leading bird, but he only succeeded in wounding its wing. The duck fell into to the water and swam quickly so it couldn't be caught. Nefer missed a great chance.
From the next boat, the princess' boat, one after the other, two arrows flew to meet the group of ducks, and the sound of the double impact was heard clearly in the entire lagoon. Immediately after that, two birds fell inertly, with their wings spread and heads hanging, cleanly killed, in the air, in the moment they were hit by the arrows. They fell in the water and remained there, floating still.
Nefer instantly realized that only an experienced archer could have hit two ducks, one after the other, in such a short time, at that height and speed. Mintaka was more than a princess, she was a cunning hunter.
From that moment, Nefer, completely dopy, first by his miss and then by the unexpected skills displayed by Mintaka shooting with the bow, he moved his attention to the boat she was standing in. In stead of focusing on his own performance, he constantly looked over to see what happened in the other boat. The results were as unsatisfying as they could be. Losing his sense of measure, disoriented and feeling humiliated, he threw the other spears directly, without concentrating, either to soon, either too late, until his hand grew so tired that he almost sprained his wrist.
In the end, Mintaka was the winner.
What seems impossible may, actually, be possible
Who knows, maybe if his mind hadn't wondered, if it hadn't been for that feeling of superiority deep in his mind, Nefer would have won the contest. But when he saw how skillful the princess was, he was overwhelmed by a feeling of inferiority, by fear well rooted in his bones, thinking that he wouldn't be able to impress her anymore. Lost in his dark minds, he became increasingly careless and started missing blow after blow. This is what happens when you start off with the prejudice that it's impossible that something bad may happen.
Nefer thought, no doubt about it, that hunting is a strictly males' occupation and a woman could never have enough experience, dexterity, flair and an unmatched confidence. But he didn't know the princess at all, he couldn't have known that, in fact, she has trained daily, for many years, that she had participated in many hunting parties and that she handled the bow better than many men. And Mintaka knew how to profit from the advantage that she had, the ability, the experience and the training. Thus, the winner is the one who knows how to take advantage of his qualities and the opponent's weaknesses.
What do we have to learn from Nefer's experience? That we cannot assess something as impossible if we lack enough information on that something, be it a person or an action. Should we have absolutistic convictions, based on false prerequisites, we risk failing in everything we have set our minds to and even shame ourselves. We will never be able to reach a superior level of performance if, when we see a light at the end of the tunnel, we strongly believe it's a train.
Think how to win the match
Nevertheless, the impossible occurred! And when Nefer saw himself facing reality, which was totally different from what he expected, he suddenly got out of "fuel". Disorientation decreased his performances, slowed him down and made him careless. Which lead him to failure. Reality beat him.
When you want to assess your chances compared to your opponent, always gather as much data on it as possible, as well as on its performances. Don't star from the prejudice that you are the best. Sure enough, there are situations when you don't have enough information and you cannot obtain them. In this case, it is necessary that you develop your abilities and competences in good time, as you never know who have to deal with.
P.S. Don't believe in yourself as long as you're not a hundred percent sure that the outcome will favor you. Reality can defeat you.
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