by Niall Doherty

Thinking back on some of the “bad” things that have happened to me over the years.

For most of my teens and early twenties I truly felt cursed because of an operation I’d had as a baby. But as I wrote a couple of years ago in a post entitled, My Biggest Secret

Looking back, I feel grateful that I had to overcome what I did. […] Without it, I may never have had reason to dig deep and discover what I’m capable of when I put my mind to something. Not many people believe they can live their dreams, but I know I can. I’m one of the lucky few.

About a week after moving my entire life to New Orleans back in 2007, I got blackout drunk and awoke in a strange bedroom with a random dude’s hand down my pants. I was really freaked out by the incident and didn’t tell anyone about it for several months.

Nowadays that little misadventure has become a funny story I often tell at parties. I actually revel in the telling of it. I think it’s pretty hilarious, as do most who hear it.

I could pull out several more examples from my own life, but I think you already get the point here: It’s not unusual to end up thankful for the “bad” things that happen to us. Today’s trauma often leads to tomorrow’s triumph.

It helps to keep this in mind when you’re going through some tough shit.

We’ll see…

Here’s the same lesson summed up in fable form, via Derek Sivers

A farmer had only one horse. One day, his horse ran away.

All the neighbors came by saying, “I’m so sorry. This is such bad news. You must be so upset.” The man just said, “We’ll see.”

A few days later, his horse came back with twenty wild horses. The man and his son corralled all 21 horses.

All the neighbors came by saying, “Congratulations! This is such good news. You must be so happy!” The man just said, “We’ll see.”

One of the wild horses kicked the man’s only son, breaking both his legs.

All the neighbors came by saying, “I’m so sorry. This is such bad news. You must be so upset.” The man just said, “We’ll see.”

The country went to war, and every able-bodied young man was drafted to fight. The war was terrible and killed every young man, but the farmer’s son was spared, since his broken legs prevented him from being drafted.

All the neighbors came by saying, “Congratulations! This is such good news. You must be so happy!” The man just said, “We’ll see.”

Double fault

The above examples demonstrate how the simple passage of time can often reshape how we feel about specific events in our lives. But you needn’t rely on time to reshape things. A simple shift in perspective can often provide the same benefit.

Timothy Gallwey illustrates this concept nicely in The Inner Game of Tennis

…imagine a singles match being played by Mr. A and Mr. B, with Mr. C acting as the umpire. Mr. A is serving his second serve to Mr. B on the first point of a tie-breaker. The ball lands wide, and Mr. C calls, “Out. Double fault.” Seeing his serve land out and hearing, “Double fault,” Mr. A frowns, says something demeaning about himself, and calls the serve “terrible.” Seeing the same stroke, Mr. B judges it as “good” and smiles. The umpire neither frowns nor smiles; he simply calls the ball as he sees it.

What is important to see here is that neither the “goodness” nor “badness” ascribed to the event by the players is an attribute of the shot itself. Rather, they are evaluations added to the event in the minds of the players according to their individual reactions. Mr. A is saying, in effect, “I don’t like that event”; Mr. B is saying, “I like that event.” The umpire, here ironically called the judge, doesn’t judge the event as positive or negative; he simply sees the ball land and calls it out. If the event occurs several more times, Mr. A will get very upset, Mr. B will continue to be pleased, and the umpire, sitting above the scene, will still be noting with detached interest all that is happening.

I know, I know…

Pretty easy to nod along and agree with all this in theory, but when you’re out of work and can’t afford to drive and you’re walking to the job interviews and that shrapnel in your ass is giving you chronic hemorrhoids… yeah, not so easy then to step back and appreciate.

Still.

Try.

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