The Fire: A Story
By Nick Evangelista
There once was a young, aspiring fencer who had an opportunity to demonstrate his skill 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 he was given the encouragement he desired, he would dedicate his life to fencing. In time, he hoped to become a great competitor, a national champion, maybe even an Olympian.
The old man, who had sat quietly and impassively during the bout, looked squarely at the novice swordsman and, with a shrug, announced, “You lack the fire.”
The fencer was crestfallen. He rushed away, sold his equipment, and immediately found employment with a large corporation. He forgot about fencing.
A number of years later, the former fencer, now the president of his own successful company, ran into the very old fencing master at a society function.
“You changed my life,” the businessman declared. “I was crushed when you told me I’d never fulfill my life’s ambition in fencing, but I finally accepted it. Today, because of what you said to me, I am a man of business instead of a man of the sword. But tell me, Maestro, how could you tell so easily and quickly that I lacked the fire?”
“Oh, I hardly watched your fencing,” the venerable 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, one of the luminaries of the fencing world.”
The old man shook his head.
“You don’t understand. If you’d 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’d have proven me wrong. But 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 all success is now before you.
From Nick Evangelista’s The Art and Science of Fencing