In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, there’s a scene in which Elsa, Indy’s love interest, is hanging over the edge of a cliff. With the precious treasure they want to obtain on a ledge so close she can almost reach it, Elsa desperately tries to grab the golden object while Indy begs her to let it go. Without a second hand to hold on to, Elsa begins to slip, and then…
Many an action movie has a scene like this. “Forget the Sword,” we might call it. The hero is outnumbered, outgunned, or simply out of luck. Regardless, they still hope to accomplish their mission, and so, against all odds, they reach for the sword, jump for the gun, or try to snatch the treasure when, actually, it would be about time to retreat and recover.
Often, it takes a kind voice — though, in light of the immediate danger, it might be screaming — to remind the hero: “Forget the sword! Let’s GO!” Later, the friendly face will comfort our hero, telling them that it’s okay to not achieve everything on the first try, but for now, safety is the number one priority.
In our everyday lives, the danger is not a mortal enemy or a literal abyss opening beneath our feet. Our threats likely pertain more to our happiness than our livelihood. It could be a business proposal from a potential partner your gut tells you you shouldn’t trust, a serious cold telling you to slow down at work, or your pension account dwindling despite you doing your very best to feed it. In those moments, when defeat feels inevitable, recall your favorite movie. Forget the sword. Get yourself to safety, and take some time to regroup.
You can’t double down when you’ve got no energy, and especially if you’ve tried doubling down before, chances are, it’s time for a new approach. Let go of your ego. Abandon the idea of a silver bullet. Whatever the shiny thing that seems like the perfect solution, even if you could reach it, it would most likely turn out to be nothing more than a movie prop.
When prospects are dire and time is pressing, don’t be ashamed to look after yourself. Forget the sword, and remember: Every story has more than one act. Even if you retreat now, you’ll still be here tomorrow, and tomorrow, you’ll get to try again.