Every morning, I write down three things I’m grateful for.
When you learn how to practice gratitude, you can apply it in different directions. You can use gratitude to understand that your life isn’t so bad and this will help you when you feel down. You can also use gratitude to keep yourself from always wanting more and never being happy.
There’s also an unusually powerful form of gratitude that few people practice. We don’t practice it because it seems strange to be grateful for some of the things I’m about to mention. It seems strange to be grateful for the things I’m about to mention because of the way you’ve learned to view the past, present, and future.
You almost always tend to draw the wrong lessons from the past and apply them to the present, which leads to a worse future, thus starting the loop all over again. It’s never the events in your life themselves, but the way you interpret them that causes you to create these self-fulfilling prophecies.
What if there was a way to make every moment of your life useful?
Everyone loves to talk about stoicism, but when it comes to some of its most important lessons, few people practice it. Many of these unusual things to be grateful for draw from these lessons and teach you counterintuitive lessons.
“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” – Maya Angelou
There’s a scene in the movie A Bronx Tale where the main character, Sonny, is chasing after someone who owes him $20. He doesn’t catch him. His pseudo father figure and mentor, “C” has this to say when he complains about losing the money:
Look at it this way… It costs you 20 dollars to get rid of him. He’s never gonna bother you again. He’s never gonna ask you for money again. Out of your life for 20 dollars. You got off cheap. Forget it
You should be grateful when people reveal who they truly are. You should be especially grateful if you catch it early. Better to have someone show you who they are early on so you can sever that tie instead of suffering a bigger blow later.
The point isn’t to become cynical about people either. Instead, if you view people using the right lens you just come to understand that certain people can’t help themselves.
You don’t need to hold grudges or become paranoid about who you let into your life at all. You’re simply more conscious and aware. You can trust people until they give you a reason not to.
Instead of being someone who cuts people off at a whim, you just become someone with healthy boundaries who learns that not everyone who enters your life is going to be a net positive.
When they’re a net negative, you let them go. You let them go in a healthy way without carrying that malice. You avoid bitterness, which is “like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”
“Further, my characterization of a loser is someone who, after making a mistake, doesn’t introspect, doesn’t exploit it, feels embarrassed and defensive rather than enriched with a new piece of information, and tries to explain why he made the mistake rather than moving on.” – Nassim Taleb
I wouldn’t change anything about my past because I don’t know if I’d be in such a great place today if it weren’t for the mistakes I made back then. I got arrested and put on felony probation for five years, dropped out of college, got addicted to drugs and alcohol, and did a bunch of other dumb stuff — I have stories for days.
Sometimes I think about what my life would like like if I did everything right back then. I was a smart kid. If I kept my nose clean I would’ve graduated and likely got a nice corporate job.
Maybe I would’ve still become a writer, but who knows? I could find myself in the position a lot of corporate people find themselves in — the most comfortable prison in the world, bound by ‘golden handcuffs.’
I focused so much on building my writing career back then because I knew my prospects I’m the corporate world would be limited with my criminal record. The alternative route seemed like the best route to get the type of financial security I was looking for.
When it comes to the writing itself, the chaos from my past and the fact that I used to be a thug makes for interesting stories to tell and gives me a unique style to tell them. A lot of people like my writing because it’s coarse and has rough edges to it. Too many self-help writers are boring and seem like they never went through any actual adversity in their life.
Don’t get me wrong, when you make mistakes in the present moment, the immediate consequences can suck. But, you can come to appreciate them later on because they may have pushed you in a direction you wouldn’t have otherwise gone had you not made those mistakes in the first place.
Mistakes are teachers as long as you don’t keep making the same mistakes over and over again. You should be grateful for your mistakes because, if used wisely, they can create a course correction mechanism to help you get what you want.
“We all have our flaws. But we overcome them. And sometimes, it’s our flaws that make us who we are.
I’m absent-minded. If you visit my apartment you’d see open cabinets, bottles with caps missing, oddly misplaced items, etc. I have a hard time paying attention to details and staying organized.
You could look at this as a flaw. For a good chunk of my life, this flaw kept me from finishing anything I started. You can also see hidden benefits in a weakness.
I found a career that’s perfect for someone with their head in the clouds all the time. I can bring myself to write often because I don’t suffer from perfectionism. There are people like editors, assistants, and contractors I can work with who are good at the things I’m not, which leaves me more time and energy to focus on my strengths.
I have a hard time focusing on minute details because my mind tends to be elsewhere — in a higher, birds-eye view, philosophical realm. Many people are so organized and task-oriented they spend their entire life running errands and miss the bigger picture.
Kanye West has a great song called Everything I’m Not Makes Me Everything I Am. The message is evident in the song title. Take someone like West who has several glaring flaws. Well, the egomaniacal energy that causes problems in his life also motivated him to create some of the most classic art in his genre.
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes your flaws can be fatal. Sometimes you can let your flaws push you too far in the wrong direction. But wisely learning to be grateful for certain shortcomings can move you in the right direction because you spend less time focusing on them and more time focusing on what you are good at. Or, you can see the upside to your flaws and find the hidden benefits in them.
Just like people who lose their vision compensate by improving their hearing, this effect can happen in your life, too. It’s better to develop a healthy, even loving, relationship with your flaws if they’re things you truly can’t change.
Too many people in society miss their blessings because they look at their flaws in a negative light. Remember, everything you’re not makes you everything you are.
“One of the best predictors of ultimate success … isn’t natural talent or even industry expertise, but how you explain your failures and rejections.” – Daniel H. Pink
Doesn’t matter whether or not it’s true, but it’s powerful to tell yourself that the times you were told no, the times you were rejected, and the times you didn’t get what you wanted were paths to something better.
Rejection can help you work harder. You can interpret it in multiple ways, too.
Sometimes you get rejected because you do need to improve what you’re offering. Other times you get rejected just because the other person can’t see the vision, which is fine because it means you can end up finding someone that does.
Two Kanye West examples might be two too many for a blog post, but this story is telling, too. In his song, Last Call, he has a monologue at the end where he talks about signing with a label, only to have them pull out of the deal last minute. Instead, he ends up signing with Roc A Fella Records, which leads to him studying underneath and working with Jay-Z. One door closes, another opens.
Rejection can also help you build a supreme level of self-confidence. Why? Because you learn that rejection won’t kill you. Not only that, sometimes it’s the path to success. I read in a sales book once that this sales manager ran a contest to see who could get told ‘no’ the most. The salesperson who ended up getting the most ‘no’s also ended up with the most sales.
Much of success in life is a numbers game. You just have to put yourself out there enough times to find the right people who get it. You can learn to be grateful for rejection because it simply means you’re getting closer to your goal by removing the people who don’t get it from the equations.
All great spirituality is about what we do with our pain. If we do not transform our pain, we will transmit it to those around us.” – Richard Rohr
Overall, you want to learn to develop an appreciation for obstacles, struggle, and pain. Again, not all levels of struggle are created equal. You wouldn’t want to start off in a position of, say, living in a third world country and having no access to running water, electricity, or food.
That being said, there are people who do start off in that position and sometimes make it out. Imagine the deep level of pride they have from escaping that situation.
As much as you think you’d want to win the lottery, you don’t. Just look at trust fund kids who do win the lottery just by being born. Often, they end up depressed, anxious, troubled, drug-addicted, etc. Why? Because they get their brain blooded with unearned dopamine.
When you don’t earn your success, it’s harder to appreciate your success. Again, this is tricky because it’s only true to a point, e.g., I didn’t earn being born to a middle-class American family, but I earned my writing career with hard work.
Anyway, the point is that pain is an overlooked and powerful tool. You wouldn’t want to live a life without it because happiness, pleasure, and contentment only carry weight in contrast to the opposite. People who can’t experience physical pain tend to live terrible lives because they have no signal when they’re being harmed.
Psychologically, pain can be your signal to change. You’re in pain because something is wrong. What you do with that depends on what the pain is. Sometimes improvement can help. Sometimes the path to acceptance works better. Other times, you realize the pain is something you’re bringing onto yourself.
Regardless, you should be thankful that you don’t always feel good. It’s not normal to always feel good. It’s not even a goal you should aim for. You always want to be putting yourself under some level of positive stress — pushing yourself physically or mentally.
Winning isn’t just fun because you won. Winning is fun because winning is hard.
Think about your life right now and think about all the times you get down on yourself and feel self-pity because of the pain and challenges in your life. What if you could flip all of those moments and use them as teachers?
That’s what all these points are about.
Anytime you experience anything ask yourself what you can learn from the situation. Ask yourself what you can be grateful for. Look for the hidden benefits.
This is how you develop wisdom.