What can classic mythology teach us about MS? Well, it can certainly teach us how to slay a giant.
Most of us are familiar with the story of David and Goliath. David killed Goliath not with a broad attack but by finding a very small weak spot in the middle of his forehead.
Similarly, Achilles was invulnerable except for one small spot. When his mother dipped him in the secret sauce, she held him by his heel. Thus, he had a small – but important – vulnerability.
Less familiar perhaps is the story of Siegfried, the champion of the German epic, the Nibelungenlied. Siegfried slayed a dragon and then bathed in its blood. As you may know, when dragon’s blood touches your skin, you become invulnerable. Unfortunately for Siegfried, a leaf fell into the small of his back while he bathed and no blood touched him there. Like Goliath and Achilles, Siegfried had a small but potentially fatal vulnerability.
What do these stories teach us? To slay a giant, think small not big.
For most of my career, I managed small software companies that competed against much larger, more established companies. I used to give pep talks to our employees that the way to beat our giant competitors was to focus on small advantages and market niches. As long as we maintained our discipline, the strategy worked remarkably well.
Now I have another giant in my life: MS. I try to follow the same philosophy, however. MS is bigger than I am. I’m not going to beat it with an all-out frontal assault. That would simply exhaust me. But I can perhaps hold it at bay by doing small things in a disciplined manner.
So, I try to do something every day – even very small things. MS could affect my balance, so I brush my teeth on one foot. Upper teeth, left foot; lower teeth, right foot. It’s not much but it’s something and it reminds me that there are many ways to push back. I also do thought experiments to affect my mood. By focusing on certain words and images, I can “prime” my emotional state. (More on priming in a future blog).
Some days, I do more – a bike ride, yoga practice, or a session with my trainer. I also take a nap every day to preserve my energy and improve my mood. Every day, I do something to remind myself that MS doesn’t define me. Even the smallest actions can strengthen my resolve. In fact, I’m reminded of yet another classic story – the Dutch boy who saved a town simply by putting his finger in the dike. Small actions can create huge results.