As most of you who read my blog know, I read a lot… an average of 100 or more business books a year and a good number of books on other topics as well. I also read fast, I can typically get through a 250 page book in just a few hours. So it is significant when I get to a 157-page book that takes me literally weeks to get through because there’s so much great information. This is how it has been reading “The Stoic Art of Living,” an absolutely amazing book written my very good friend and philosopher, Tom Morris. As an example, it took me a good 10 days just to get past the first paragraph because it stopped me in my tracks and made me think and rethink what he was saying. Let me quote the specific lines that captured me:
“If you live long enough and pay attention to what you see, you may come to understand one of the deepest truths about life: Inner resilience is the secret to outer results in this world. Challenging times demand inner strength and a spirit that will not be defeated. And, as a philosopher, I’ve come to understand that nearly all the times we live in are in some sense challenging.
When things are really bad, it’s hard to keep your faith. When things are very good, it’s tough to keep your head. In tragedy, it’s difficult to be hopeful. In triumph, it’s hard to be humble. In either case, maintaining a proper perspective on life is the challenge. And in those occasionally long stretches of time when things seem to be not either great or terrible, it’s often tough to remember and prepare for the amazing extremes that life can hold.”
Perspective…gaining and applying perspective in life is so very crucial.
Let me give you an example: On August 24th, 1992, I lived in Miami when hurricane Andrew came through. My house was down on Biscayne Bay just a few hundred feet from the water’s edge. The storm surge from the hurricane filled my home with more than 11 feet of water and destroyed everything I owned. I lost all my photographs, paintings, wine collection, boat, furniture, TV, stereo – the only thing I escaped with was a bag of clothes and cooler with some food and water. For 13 weeks I lived out of my truck and in an abandoned apartment sleeping on a mattress on the floor surrounded by broken glass, fiberglass and dead cockroaches. And it is one of the greatest things that has ever happen to me…because now I know… it is all just STUFF.
When you wake up one morning and everything you own is gone, and you have no way to get it back right away, you have to learn a new perspective about “stuff.” Now don’t get me wrong, I love nice things, I enjoy beautiful paintings and family photos, and I surely love good wine…but if I found out today that my house burned to the ground, as long as my wife and my dog were fine, it’s no big deal at all – it’s just stuff. So although hurricane Andrew was traumatic, challenging and very, very difficult, it was also an incredible lesson in perspective that has literally changed that way I look at my life.
Which brings me to one last, but extremely important point: you are the one that creates your own perspective. You create the lens through which you see the entire world and all the things that happen to you. You can choose a perspective of happiness, joy, adventure, excitement and love…or you can choose a perspective of pain, misery, unfairness, and pessimism.
Just remember this: the choice is always yours and yours alone!