Kill the Boy and Let the Man be Born

By Marty Callahan

“You will find little joy in your command, but with luck, you will find the strength to do what needs to be done. Kill the boy, Jon Snow. Winter is almost upon us. Kill the boy, and let the man be born.”

-Maester Aemon, Game of Thrones

If you’re a Game of Thrones fan you will recognize this quote. The message behind it is that unless you put aside being a child you cannot grow into the man or woman you are meant to be. This applies to you, the parent, and to your son or daughter, as well. As the parent, you are responsible for the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual growth of your child. If you don’t teach him to ‘kill the boy’ he will stay a child. If you don’t believe this; look at our prisons. There are millions of, mostly young men, who never grew up into responsible and productive members of society. The adults in their lives never taught them to ‘kill the boy’.

If you ask a child if they want to grow up or grow down, in other words, to go back to being a baby. They will always say that they want to grow up. When I was in my thirties, I was riding my bike and needed air in my tires. I stopped at a gas station and as I was down near the ground doing this the attendant walked up and said to me, “Hey, boy, what are you doing?” I was 30+ years old; I was an adult; I was a Black Belt, and I was not going to let anyone call me a boy. I was a man. I had earned it through my blood, sweat and tears. To me this was a huge insult. I stood up, looked him in the eye, and said firmly, “I’m not a boy.” I held my gaze prepared for what might come next. After a while, he turned and walked away.

Children are in a constant search for fun. If they had their way, they would play all day every day. But adult life isn’t this way. Adult life is about being responsible. It’s about doing what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, whether you feel like it or not. The constant need for excitement and pleasure must be put aside. This is the boy that needs to be killed. In its place must be put the awareness, focus, and strength to do what needs to be done.

In the first part of the quote from Game of Thrones above, Jon Snow seeks Maester Aemon’s advice on a decision he has to make that he believes will cause the men under his command to hate him. Maester Aemon tells him that half the men already hate him and that he must trust his command.

This is the message we must give the children under our care. That life is not all fun and games. Life is, in part, about trusting yourself to make the hard decisions that have to be made and living with the consequences good or bad.

Game of Thrones

Jon Snow enters to speak with Maester Aemon in private. He needs the maester’s advice on a controversial order that half of the Night’s Watch will hate him for. Aemon tells Jon that half the men at Castle Black already hate him, but that he should trust in his command. He says that Jon will not enjoy being Lord Commander, but with luck, he may find the strength to do what needs to be done. Jon is told to “kill the boy, and let the man be born.”


Marty Callahan has spent his life understanding and improving the lives of students both young and old. His passion led to the founding of Shotokan Karate Leadership School in Santa Rosa, CA in 1981 with a dream to awaken the extraordinary leader in his students. Having inspired, taught, coached, supported, and trained over 15,000 students in 40,000 classes in Santa Rosa, Marty has become Sonoma County’s preeminent martial arts leadership instructor. His students, hundreds of whom have gone on to become leaders in their chosen fields, appreciate his engaging, student centered approach to teaching and they believe you will too.