The Story of the Taoist Farmer (How to Develop a Resilience Mindset)

The Story of the Taoist Farmer (How to Develop a Resilience Mindset)

We’ve all dealt with setbacks – perceived setbacks rather I should say. And if I’m being honest, setbacks honestly suck every time, frankly.

“The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” – Steve Furtick

But, similar to the power and benefits of mindfulness meditation, the key is to bounce back as quickly as possible. Shorten the time gap between negative event, emotional response, and return to equilibrium of general positivity. How does one reliably accomplish this? No idea, but I think doing what it takes to build, foster, and maintain a resilience mindset helps.

As is with (and hence my love for) comedy, stories pierce through our psyche in a way that factual dribble drabble or self-help generic white noise can’t. So with that logic, I’d like to present to you another favorite short story.

The Story of the Taoist Farmer

This farmer had only one horse, and one day the horse ran away. The neighbors came to condole over his terrible loss. The farmer said, “What makes you think it is so terrible?”

A month later, the horse came home–this time bringing with her two beautiful wild horses. The neighbors became excited at the farmer’s good fortune. Such lovely strong horses! The farmer said, “What makes you think this is good fortune?”

The farmer’s son was thrown from one of the wild horses and broke his leg. All the neighbors were very distressed. Such bad luck! The farmer said, “What makes you think it is bad?”

A war came, and every able-bodied man was conscripted and sent into battle. Only the farmer’s son, because he had a broken leg, remained. The neighbors congratulated the farmer. “What makes you think this is good?” said the farmer.

You can look at the farmer’s life over the course of time, and see with 20/20 hindsight vision what was initially thought to be tragic ultimately was not. Do you ever give yourself the same advantage? Have you ever looked back on negative events and reframed them in a positive, “because of X-negative event, Y-great things manifested in my life,” light? That’s level 1 that most people can do. As Steve Jobs said, you can always connect the dots looking back.

Level 2 is taking things in stride, with the resilience mindset, minimizing your emotional downtime. I’ve found it most helpful to maintain the farmer’s open curiosity, questioning how things will unfold in the future. Since we never have the privilege (would it be?) of knowing happens in our future, merely speculating with a positive outlook helps tremendously.

  • Lost your job? Wonder if this will open up new doors for you that ultimately put you on a career path more closely aligned with your interests.
  • Injured? Wonder if your extra time not exercising will lead you to better leveraging your mind, possibly finding your next passion.
  • Wasted your time reading this blog post? Wonder if my apologies will suffice.

Level 3 is refusing to conform to everyone else’s opinion and maintaining your independence of thought. This will help with investing and finances as well.

“Be Fearful When Others Are Greedy and Greedy When Others Are Fearful” – Warren Buffet

‘The average man is a conformist, accepting miseries and disasters with the stoicism of a cow standing in the rain.” – Colin Wright

There are no isolated incidents, so deeply question how any event will affect other aspects of your life now or in the future. Seeing things in full connection to everything else is your right brain’s highest calling.

The Story of the Mexican Fisherman

The Story of the Mexican Fisherman

Wait but why? For what purpose? Below is one of the greatest and most eloquent reminders to enjoy the process and perpetually ask yourself, “To what end?” If you’re solely focused on the future, with no appreciation for the present, you’re all success and no happiness. If you’re fully present with no regard for the future ever, you’re all happiness and no success. Life is a rigorous balancing act, and if you’re anything like me, you lack the latter – overemphasizing the future at the expense of your happiness and presence.

Don’t get swept away in the American mania. Delayed gratification in pursuit of a worthwhile goal is noble. Grinding yourself to the bone and transmuting yourself into a miserable wreck as you chase (probably) someone else’s dream is not.

“Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.” – Jerzy Gregorek

Enjoy this short story and use it to add awareness to your direction, purported destination, and how you are managing the process.



The Story of the Mexican Fisherman

An American businessman was standing at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish.

“How long it took you to catch them?” The American asked.

“Only a little while.” The Mexican replied.

“Why don’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?” The American then asked.

“I have enough to support my family’s immediate needs.” The Mexican said.

“But,” The American then asked, “What do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos, I have a full and busy life, senor.”

The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds you buy a bigger boat, and with the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats.”

“Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the consumers, eventually opening your own can factory. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But senor, how long will this all take?”

To which the American replied, “15-20 years.”

“But what then, senor?”

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO (Initial Public Offering) and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions.”

“Millions, senor? Then what?”

The American said slowly, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos…”



Parting Thoughts

Yesterday I got off a two-hour sales call that should’ve ended in half the time, and he didn’t purchase, meaning I lost and utterly wasted my time. But did I? In fact, I chose to keep the call going, knowing fairly well he was dead-on-arrival, because I was truly enjoying the process (/and his amusing squirrely ass). If you’re doing the right things in aggregate, why fret about the micro setbacks and self-perceived losses?

Easier said than done, but why not try to build this mindset? Even if you don’t give a damn about presence and happiness, and really only care about accomplishing your goals, this will still help you – high energy, optimistic people are more effective at life (don’t just take my word for it, read The Magic of Thinking Big).

Once you’ve rationalized that you will reach your end destination, if there is such a thing, you’re liberated to freely layer in mindfulness and appreciation along the way.

Find you motivator and make it happen. Mine is health. Gratitude and daily mindfulness = better health. The fact that it also allows me to be more productive and effective is simply a welcomed additional perk.

What’s your fish IPO and how are you faring in the process?

P.S. Though you’ve likely seen this, a highly recommend complement to The Story of the Mexican Fisherman: Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen

How to Avoid The Crab Mentality And Why It’s Killing Your Relationships

How to Avoid The Crab Mentality And Why It’s Killing Your Relationships

Wisdom is often taught best via parables and stories. That, plus it also helps me appear less sanctimonious when it’s coming from someone besides myself – some unknown source passed from generation to generation.

Read this short story below and see if it hits home as hard for you as it did for me.


THE STORY OF THE CRAB BUCKET

One time a man was walking along the beach and saw another man fishing in the surf with a bait bucket beside him. As he drew closer, he saw that the bait bucket had no lid and had live crabs inside.

“Why don’t you cover your bait bucket so the crabs won’t escape?”, he said.

“You don’t understand.”, the man replied, “If there is one crab in the bucket it would surely crawl out very quickly.

However, when there are many crabs in the bucket, if one tries to crawl up the side, the others grab hold of it and pull it back down so that it will share the same fate as the rest of them.”


Don’t be one of those bottom-feeding, jealous crabs. How often have you tried to move up in the world, only to find your friends and those close to you apathetic at best, or welcoming you with subtle jabs to marginalize your efforts and pursuits? Step one would be to eliminate or severely limit your exposure to those types of crabs holding you down, but sadly it’s widely pervasive.

A dual approach would be to control what you can control: yourself. Break the crab mentality. When you feel that ping of jealousy or envy, pause and decide whether you want to be the crab or you want to NOT take it as a personal insult on your ego/life and use it as FUEL to better yourself by learning from that crab crawling out of the bucket ahead of you in any given life domain (health, business, relationships, etc.)

I recently encountered an acquaintance’s  blog that is 10x past yours truly, and I felt the negative ping. If you don’t believe there are more popular blogs than mine, Google <fill in the blank anything> and you might be able to confirm. In my proudest meditative zen moment, I felt it, acknowledge it, and decided to learn from him to better my own success rather than twist my life lens kaleidoscope in such a way that I could still see him as inferior to placate my petty ego.

Champions don’t have a panic button. Champions focus on what they need to do to up-level themselves, putting in the right work day after day. Champions don’t have crab mentality. And I’m an authority when it comes to champions since I won my high school football championship. O’Doyle rules! Side note, if my unborn child looks at my championship ring for at least two seconds I won’t consider it an utter waste of $300 bucks.

If you want a more eloquent explanation of this general sentiment, read about the Abundance Mentality.

Go out there, crush it, and don’t be the crab.

When was the last time you experienced the crab mentality, and how did you choose to ultimately respond?