Ah, Commander Shepard. What made him such an inspiring game character? I think it was the fact that he never gave up. Whether it was against Saren, Sovereign, Harbinger, or the Illusive Man, he always brought his best. For fans of the games, this is true whether you went down the paragon or renegade road. One (usually the latter) just got it done with a bit more, ahem, death and destruction. So, what did Shepard and his story teach me about maintaining the kind of perseverance that leads to success? I’ll let you know below
1. You Don’t Have To Be Anybody Special.
I mean sure, Shepard was a member of the elite N7 special forces and he later became a Spectre, but in relation to the people who either followed him or wanted him dead, he might as well have been just another guy off the street. To me, Commander Shepard was the archetypal “leader.” He had the ability to make key decisions and deal with the consequences. He wasn’t the best shot on his team; that title goes to Garrus. He wasn’t the best assassin; that would probably go to Thane. Nor was he the strongest (Wrex), or the smartest (Liara or Mordin), or even the best soldier (Zaeed or maybe Grunt). His companions, taken individually, were each better at their specialty than Shepard was. What made Shepard special, besides his leadership ability, was his tendency to put his own drama aside to deal with his friends. So, while each member of his squad may have been better than him on a singular basis, it was Shepard himself who ensured that all of the pieces fit. It was he who allowed Wrex and Garrus and Tali and Legion to work together. I think that’s a pretty good lesson to take with you into real life. While you may not be the best at anything, you can still go incredibly far by being a good person, someone who brings folks together rather than pushes them apart. Couple that with decent leadership skills, and you might just make a future for yourself.
2. You Should Rely On Your Friends.
As much as I pumped up Shepard’s ability to be the shoulder to cry on for all of those around him, it was often a two way street. Without his friends, there’s no way he could have accomplished anything, probably best revealed by the end of Mass Effect 2, where you literally fail the mission if you didn’t put enough time into growing and cultivating your squad. Often, the best way to persevere through life’s most turbulent curve balls is not to try and take it on all by yourself, but to mitigate the blow by spreading it amongst you and your loved ones. I don’t mean to say that you should try and transfer all of your pain and suffering onto someone else and make it their burden too, but that you should always seek out advice and support from those you trust. As Shepard taught us, you aren’t the best at everything, or perhaps even at anything, and thus it behooves you to grow friendships in order to make up for your deficiencies. While something may seem catastrophic to you, your friend might have just the right tools to help you get your life back in gear. Just make sure they’re not too busy working on some calibrations to help you out.
3. Don’t Let Your Doubts Keep You From Your Goals.
While the Shepard in Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 was relatively confident (for the most part), the third game revealed more of his doubts to us, which makes sense seeing as it was by far the most apocalyptic in the trilogy. Even still, when everything was crashing down around him (literally most of the time), he managed to stay focused on immediate goals. When Earth fell, he went straight to looking for a super weapon that might destroy the Reapers. When the Illusive Man turned against him, Shepard immediately began planning how to bring about his demise. Nightmares plagued Shepard throughout the third game, but he didn’t let them distract him from the endgame. In life, we often let our intangible doubts keep us from accomplishing real things. Shepard had the enviable trait of being able to acknowledge those doubts and carry on anyways, come what may. I don’t think I’m there yet, but I strive to keep a similar mindset everyday and so should you.
4. You Can Recover From Crushing Defeats.
In case you forgot, Commander Shepard died at the beginning of Mass Effect 2. Luckily for all of us, he was brought back to life thanks to the magic of science fiction medicine and lots of money. Not only did he die, but as a consequence he lost his ship and most of his crew from Mass Effect 1. Most people would take such a crushing blow as a sign to slow their roll a bit, but the revived Shepard forged on ahead anyways. I’m not sure if I’ve experienced anything I would call a crushing blow yet, but I have had my share of losses. It can be incredibly tough to see past your failures and move on towards the future, but those who can are better able to make up for past mishaps. In Shepard’s case, he used his defeats as a form of motivation. When he lost his ship, he didn’t call it quits. He got a new ship and a new crew, and took the fight directly to the party responsible for his initial defeat, destroying their ship and their base in the process. I’m not saying that you should go out of your way to crush everything responsible for your defeats. While that might be appropriate in some cases, in others it will suffice to just keep trying to accomplish what you failed to do in the first place. Though if you do happen to get the opportunity to tell off a few of the folks who have prevented your ascension to the top, be my guest and have at it!
5. Never Let “The Powers That Be” Dictate Your Journey.
We as a species are incredibly and hypocritically complex. On the one hand, we want our freedom and individuality. On the other, we often like being told what to do or being given direction of some sort. Otherwise, why would we have politicians, managers, bosses, etc. While they certainly have their uses, it’s also important to maintain your own identity, to not let those above you completely control your destiny. Shepard expertly straddled the line between willful disobedience and loyal employee. He didn’t take any crap from his superiors, and when they ordered him to do something ridiculous or illogical, he’d tell them off and get the job done his way. The right way. On the other hand, he never truly disobeyed his superiors, always completing the tasks they truly wanted him to accomplish. Shepard’s recalcitrant attitude towards those with dictatorial personalities certainly served him well. Had he blindly listened to all of the blustering words that spewed out of the mouths of the Council, Sovereign, the Illusive Man, Harbinger, and the Catalyst, there’s no doubt he would have failed in his mission.
While there were multiple possible endings to Mass Effect 3, I like to believe that the “destroy” ending is the canonical one, because it shows Shepard going against the will of a supposedly superior being one last time, defeating the reapers once and for all, and miraculously surviving the experience. Shepard knew when to follow orders, and he knew when he was getting his chain yanked by untrustworthy entities concerned only for their own gain. That is something you must be on the lookout for in your life as well. Be a good soldier when necessary, but don’t be taken advantage of. While you might not save the galaxy like Shepard did, you’ll certainly be more successful as a result of your ability to persevere in pursuing the things that you know are right for you.
And with that, as Commander Shepard would say, “I should go.”
Featured photo credit: Mass Effect 3/ dennisvillanueva84 via flickr.com