Dratini and the Limits of Potential

Playing Pokemon for hundreds of hours has its rewards. Some appear within the confines of the game, others are more metaphorical representations of life.

My biggest lesson dealt with potential. The perfect application to this rule lies in a rare little creature called Dratini.

Dratini is a hard-to-catch dragon Pokemon, introduced in the original 150, capable of immense power. Even so, many trainers pass it by when confronted with the first opportunity to capture one. Catching a Dratini is not necessary to the game at that point and people question if its even worth it.

You find Dratini in an area called the Safari Zone, about three quarters into the game. You have to use a specific type of fishing rod and fish in a certain area. You keep fishing until you find one then pray that by the grace of chance that your flimsy Safari Ball captures the slippery little dragon. This process can take hours.

To add to the frustration, you catch the thing when it’s level 15-20 while the six Pokemon in your main party are around levels 30-40. It would take a lot of extra training to get a Dratini on par with your team while your other team members lose ground on opponents. Oh, and if you want him to reach his max potential, you have to get him to level 55 to become a Dragonite, which is a staggeringly high amount of grinding.

So you can see why trainers move on and save the trouble until they have beaten the Elite Four and become champion, which is the main goal of the game (besides catching ’em all).

But it also takes a long while to train for the Elite Four, but you don’t realize that until you get there. And it is much easier if you invested in a Dratini early on.

Pokemon have base stats in the game, and the total of each category (hit points, attack, defense, special attack, special defense, speed) constitutes their Base Stat Total (BST). For example, in Generation I, the fully evolved form of each starter, Charizard, Blastoise and Venusaur, all have a BST of 425. That 425 is not elite, but it is respectable. Dragonite, the fully evolved form of Dratini, tops out at a gargantuan 500.

Chances are, your starter will be one of your top three strongest when you face the Elite Four. Unless you enlist one of the mystical birds, Articuno, Zapdos and Moltres, your team will climb an uphill battle. Also, the birds all have a BST of less than 500. Mewtwo, the strongest Pokemon in the early games, has a BST of 590, but you can’t get him until you beat the game. Mew is also at 500, but you have to use various cheats to obtain it.

In other words, Dragonite is the strongest Pokemon you can have facing the Elite Four.

BST Rankins from Bulbapedia

And all you have to have is a little patience.

So that brings us to life and where to apply this knowledge.

It’s quite simple: Investing in an early set-back with huge potential can one day reap better rewards than sticking with the tried and true.

For employers, it means if you take a young-gun like me who has a thirst to improve himself over the complacent veteran who does sugar cookie work. He gets the job done, but with nothing to prove, it’s not going to be invigorating.

Pidgeot, the final evolution from the first Pokemon you ever caught, will be with you for the entire game. But one electric attack from the Elite Four and you’re looking for some revives. But a Dragonite will survive and retaliate.

After college, I remember being jobless and angry. I was a sportswriter (first mistake) and it seemed the only way to get a job was to be established in the industry. It was a catch-22: I needed a job to get a job. I wasn’t the best sportswriter, but I knew I could be if given the opportunity.

It’s just hard to convince employers of potential. Put my on your team. Train me. See what I become.

For a young employee, you have to think of this metaphor from a different angle. Try this: If you settle for a small job to grow at the start of your career, it may one day lead to your dream job. You just have to take the early sacrifice. Having a great job would be worthless if you don’t get the proper guidance up beforehand. You don’t want a Dratini facing the Elite Four, you want that Dragonite (shoot, even a Dragonair).

I could have gone to a university as a college freshman. That would have been easy – going to the established school for an almost guaranteed four-year commitment. But I opted for the slower route, the one that paid off.

Patience can help you access your potential.

I attended community college for two years before attending a four-year college and I’m glad I did. I wouldn’t have been able to try and fail and succeed without that platform of “figuring things out.” I wouldn’t have known the first thing about my industry. I would not have met wonderful people who influenced me along the way. And lucky me, I graduated in four years anyway, which is rare for a transfer student.

In the five years I’ve been out of college, I’ve had some terrible jobs but they were all means to an end. One thing led to another and, though I don’t exactly have that “dream job,” I have everything I could want. Every day, I could spew a Hyper Beam of joy.

It really is the end result that matters most. What fun is it to say that you succeeded all through life and never faced a test? Struggle builds stories and, most importantly, character. If you want to experience what you are truly capable of, a sacrifice must be made.

You just have to snag that Dratini when you find it.

What have you sacrificed today?


This is an updated version of a post from 2011.

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