When you're no longer excited about your job, or when you're feeling blocked and another passion is calling you, it may be time to quit, says best-selling management author and CNBC contributor Suzy Welch. After watching this week's episode of HBO's "Game of Thrones," titled "Eastwatch," she would likely agree with Samwell Tarly's decision to leave the Citadel midway through his training, even though it might mean abandoning his dream of becoming a maester, or doctor-scholar.
Sam's mounting frustration with his superiors peaks when they resolve not to act on a message from Winterfell revealing an existential threat: Bran Stark, now also the mystical Three-Eyed Raven, saw an army of the dead marching beyond the Wall. Sam, who has encountered and fought the White Walkers himself, recognizes the danger.
He also understands the influence and power of the Citadel, and he first urges the maesters to act. "Everyone in Westeros trusts and respects you," he says. "If you advise all the lords to send their men north to hold the wall, they'll do it."
Sam isn't a boss hater or the Westeros equivalent of an entitled millennial. He's been trying his best to demonstrate his skills and follow instructions while also, at times, taking initiative. Earlier this season, he even figured out how to heal Sir Jorah Mormont from an advanced, thought-to-be-fatal greyscale infection. And he didn't pout when he didn't get a promotion, just more scut work, instead.
It seems clear that the problem is on the part of the institution, in this case, and not the employee.
The maesters of the Citadel just shrug at Sam. They laugh over past false warnings of supernatural terrors and speculate that the message is a ploy from Daenerys Targaryen, the Dragon Queen, to open the North for easy conquest.
Sam's bosses don't listen to or respect him. He's being underutilized. He can tell there's no advancing here.
It's evident that Sam no longer trusts the maesters' judgment, either. And he shouldn't. Ebros confesses to the others that he has not had the heart to inform Sam that his father Randyll and brother Dickon were executed by Daenerys when they failed to bend the knee after the Loot Train Battle, even though it affects Sam both personally and politically.
According to mental coach Graham Betchart, the greatest leaders are open, honest and have a willingness to be vulnerable. Though the maesters are the most respected intellectuals throughout Westeros, they are lacking as leaders.
As Sam knows, there is value in hard-labor to shape an apprentice and develop wisdom and experience. But he also understands that there is no time to waste in the fight against the White Walkers. He expresses this in his study during his rant to Gilly: "The secret to defeating the Night King is probably sitting on some dusty shelf somewhere completely ignored."
Sam decides he will be of more use fighting the army of the dead if he goes North, old scrolls in-hand, even though it may mean dropping out of his medieval PhD program.
Adam Grant, the No. 1 professor at Wharton Business School, would probably approve of his choice: "Don't give up on your values, but be willing to give up on your plans," he says.
When Sam arrives, he will have missed a few familiar faces, such as a now healed Jorah and Jon. Alongside a rag tag band of fan favorites making surprise appearances in the episode, like the Hound and Robert Baratheon's bastard son, Gendry, they have embarked on a journey beyond the Wall to retrieve a captive White Walker to bring as their "show, don't tell," briefcase-technique element for their next negotiation with Queen Cersei.
If the gang is successful and returns with a zombie soldier, their hope is that Cersei will agree to an armistice with Daenerys, and that those united by the fact that they are breathing will put their differences aside and fight the Night King.
However, an even tentative alliance with Cersei, who is known to act brutally towards her enemies, may be a mistake. When her brother Jamie returns from the battle against Daenerys' dragon and army of Dothraki, depressed and disillusioned, Cersei tries to strengthen his commitment to her by telling him that she is pregnant with their child. If she is indeed expecting, that may provide the Lannister queen yet more motivation to shape and rule the world for the baby's benefit, no matter the cost.
The developments of "Eastwatch" set viewers up for excitement both north and south of the Wall. And Sam's decision to abandon his goal of becoming a maester could change the outcome of the game of thrones.
But he has to stay focused. He can't afford to miss details like the one mentioned by Gilly, who, like a good coworker, has been reading the meticulous notes of an old maester. She stumbles on and tries to share the revelation that Prince Rhaegar, Daenerys' brother, had his first marriage annulled and then underwent a secret ceremony in Dorne, but Sam doesn't listen.
HBO has already confirmed that the Rhaegar is Jon Snow's real father. If he and Jon's mom, Lyanna Stark, had actually eloped before procreating, that would make Jon, not Daenerys, the rightful heir to the Seven Kingdoms. And if Sam hadn't been distracted by his own frustration, he could have revealed that insight to Jon himself.
Hopefully the book Gilly was reading was one of the handful Sam decided to swipe on his way out of the Ivory Tower and back to the real world.
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