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.

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