There once was a young, aspiring fencer who had an opportunity to bout before a renowned maestro.  Giving his fencing his most heartfelt effort for over an hour, the young man paused at last for the master's hoped-for approval.

"Well, how was I?" he implored.  "Was I good?"

If the young man was given the encouragement he desired, he would dedicate his life to fencing.  In time, he hoped to become a national champion, maybe even an Olympic competitor.  After that, he would strive to become a fencing master.

The old man, who had sat quietly and impassively during the fencing, looked squarely at the young swordsman and said, "You lack the fire."

The young man was crestfallen.  He rushed away, sold his equipment and immediately found employment with a large corporation.  He forgot about fencing.

Years later, the would-be champion, now the president of his own successful company, ran into the old master at a society function.

"You changed my life," the businessman told him.  "I was crushed when you told me I'd never make it as a fencer, but I finally accepted it.  Today, because of what you said to me, I'm a man of business instead of a man of the sword.  But tell me, how could you tell so easily that I lacked the fire?"

"Oh, I hardly watched your fencing," the old master explained.  "That's what I say to everyone who fences for me--that they lack the fire."

The businessman staggered back, barely able to comprehend what he'd just heard.  "What?  How could you do that to me!  Perhaps I could have been a great champion, a master, another Santelli or Faulkner or Elthes."

The old man shook his head.

"You don't understand.  If you had the fire, really had it, so that it burned inside you with an unquenchable passion, you would have paid no attention to what I said to you.  You'd have stuck with fencing, no matter what.  You gave up the first time your dream was challenged.  You, young man, answered your own question."

"Oh," said the former fencer.

The secret of success is now before you.

From The Art and Science of Fencing, by Nick Evangelista

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