“All are lunatics, but he who can analyze his delusion is called a philosopher.” —Ambrose Bierce, 19th-century American author
In 2016, author Michael Hopf uttered what I consider one of the greatest quotes in our generation. He said, “Hard times create strong men. Strong men create good times. Good times create weak men. And, weak men create hard times.”
Let’s face it: When countries are in an expansion period, most leaders rarely consider the possibility of a recession, let alone prepare for it. Many companies experiencing exponential growth seldom evaluate the possibility of dwindling sales or the loss of key customers.
And the same is evident in our day-day lives.
When you have it all cool say a permanent, well-paying job; a stable relationship/marriage, profitable business etc, our lives seemingly operate under Newton’s First Law of Motion i.e running on autopilot unless acted upon by an external force. And that’s a dangerous way to live.
Let me put it this way: Good times are like the opium; they delude us into thinking that life will always take the ever-pleasant trajectory inasmuch that we forget to prepare for the inevitable randomness that can rock our lives in the twinkle of an eye. No wonder when life happens, many get into shock, which at times turns catastrophic simply because we least expected let alone planned for it.
In addition when our friends, family or anyone in society faces tragedy, say the loss of a loved one, being dumped by their “sunshine”, betrayal by a close friend etc, we are quick to condole and encourage them, which is, of course, the right and humane thing to do. However, the big question persists: During such moments, do we step back to imagine how our lives would be if the same happened to us?
It is in light of this deep reflection that I offer one big lesson I have learned. Make it a habit to periodically ‘stress test‘ your life. By definition, stress tests are forward-looking habits which aim at evaluating the impact of severe or adverse occurrences if they happened. This is commonly carried out by financial institutions and insurance firms. Ask yourself questions like: What would I do if I lost my job today? How would I react if my son/daughter started doing drugs or came out as LGBTQ? How would life be if my spouse woke up one day and called it quits on me? The scenarios are countless.
The objective is not to cause us to live a life paralyzed by fear of the unknown; rather the aim is to gauge our resilience so that when the exact or similar occurrences take place, our hearts are best prepared to absorb the shock thus, if possible our lives aren’t debilitated.
Equally, such stress tests will open our eyes to spot opportunities to better our lives or to appreciate what we usually take for granted. You’ll be challenged to look for an extra passive income stream or to learn a new skill so that if you lose the job, you won’t be adversely affected.
Similarly, we see the essence of safeguarding close relationships through intentionality and mindfulness regarding how we treat our loved ones. It could also teach us the importance of spending more time with our kids, parents, and close friends and enjoying every moment together, for we never know whether it might be the last.
Equally, we can also learn to use others’ experiences, not as an opportunity to critique or gossip. Instead, to use them for evaluating how best to prepare for adversity. When a colleague is suffering from a terminal illness, crashes into a road carnage that leaves them paralysed etc, as you offer moral support, may such experiences move you into accepting that life happens to anyone and that you are no exception. May it free us from the delusion of fair-weather life experiences.
In conclusion, I hope that this poetic prose by 19th Century Lebanese writer Kahlil Gibran teaches us how to view life in a new light and most importantly, may it remind us that daily we are suspended like scales between our joys and sorrows.
“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked…
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.” But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced. When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.”
Purpose to join me next week for the second episode discussing the theme: The Delightful.
Till then, cheers good people to a week and lifetime characterised by deep reflection.