There are only two lessons in life, the small lesson, and the big lesson. Those two lead to the Great Truth, and a shift in how we view life.
Right now, I have much to be thankful for. I have an amazing, loving family, who care about me and drive me nuts. I have a fairly hassle-free job which supports us well. My health is good. And I have a couple of things I enjoy in my spare time, mainly writing this blog and my books, and reading other books and articles to help me do that.
Some of this is recent. I only got married and started my family about 6 years ago, and before that I was pretty lonely and miserable. Perhaps because I waited so long and so miserably for a family, I truly value it, and I work hard at it. Which is an important thing to note: the parts of my life I enjoy, I work at. And the parts of my life I work at, I enjoy – precisely because I work at them.
Nevertheless, I still struggle. If you’ve read the blog, you know that from time to time I whine about the fact that my writing is not reaching more people. I struggle with my work and my family as well. But here’s the thing that is interesting: unless we are struggling for the basics, health, food, clothing, and shelter, all of our struggles are the same.
Because after the essential, we are all struggling with ourselves. If we have the basics covered, our other struggles are not a struggle toward something that is good.
It’s a struggle against what isn’t good enough.
In essence, most of our struggles are a struggle for more. And while we struggle for more, we are failing to be grateful for what we already have, and to acknowledge that our lives are already good enough.
In my reading and thinking, I have come to realize that all of life can be summed in just two simple lessons: the small lesson, and the big lesson. And no matter the problem, the small lesson and the big lesson do not change.
The Small Lesson
The small lesson is always ‘Pay attention.’ Pay attention to what you are doing. Pay particular attention when something goes wrong, or almost goes wrong, and quickly change to make sure nothing bad happens.
Now that one is a huge bug-bear for much of humanity, simply because we are all immersed in a culture where it is considered weakness to admit we may be wrong. We are prohibited from discussing religion and politics. Why? Because we struggle to keep an open mind about such things. When it comes to religion and politics, we start with a conclusion, and insist that anything that disagrees with our conclusion – including facts in front of our own faces, including our own experiences – are automatically wrong. So we aren’t paying attention.
Even when the problem doesn’t involve religion or politics, we still resist learning, we resist admitting that we made a mistake. Which is a bit of a problem. We all say that we know we make mistakes, and we all say that we know that recognizing mistakes is absolutely essential to learning and improving. But we still resist.
Which, by the way, is also not paying attention. After we don’t pay attention to the current problem, then we don’t pay attention to how stubborn and illogical we are. And we don’t change.
So it isn’t easy for us to pay attention. But it is nevertheless critical.
The Big Lesson
The second lesson, the big lesson, is always ‘Don’t worry.’ If you pay attention, if you do your best, most problems work themselves out. We all know this, we have all seen in our lives, over and over, that we worried about nothing. But we still worry.
Recently I spoke with an old friend, one of those rare people who makes a good living doing something he cares about deeply, and which adds greatly to the local community. To start his latest initiative, he borrowed $1M.1)That’s a lot for an individual to borrow, but it’s about rock bottom for starting a store-front business. Consider that right now, the median home price in the US is just under a quarter of a million dollars. Then consider that a home is not built to withstand the sort of stress a commercial building must handle, and that residential property is much cheaper than commercial. Then consider the start-up funding for salaries, insurance, promotions, and all other costs. You start to see why entrepreneurship is so hard. He told me his wife was concerned about the size of the loan, and he had to keep telling her not to worry.
At which point I ribbed him and said, “Which means you are telling yourself not to worry.” He just nodded and laughed.
Anyway, that’s it. Those are the only two lessons in life: pay attention; don’t worry. Again, both are easier said – and understood – than done.
The Great Truth
But those two together, however, lead to the Great Truth: be grateful. Some might argue that this is another lesson, but it grows directly out of the other two. And actually, the second lesson can grow out of the first. When we are truly paying attention to what we are doing, then we cannot worry about what might happen, or what is happening somewhere else. And when we do those two, we become absorbed in what we are doing, and we become absorbed in our lives. And that means we are very grateful.
For instance, I mentioned that my family is amazing, and that they love me. But if you pay attention everyone is amazing, and so I find my family is amazing because I pay attention to them. So how much of the love they give me is precisely because I think they are amazing, and I pay attention to them?
Then, consider how much of enjoying them now, quiets my worries for their futures; I can’t focus on the future when I am focusing on now. Adding to that, giving them my full attention helps me to be a better father, which helps them to be more confident and to worry less as well. All of this makes it less likely they will have precisely the problems I worry about.
Paying attention means worrying less; paying attention and getting it right means having less to worry about.
Anyway, that’s all any of us need to know. Pay attention. Don’t worry. And be grateful; but if you do the first two properly, you will be grateful.
So if that’s all we need to know, how come no one ever taught us that growing up?
‘Dad & Son’ courtesy of Olichel via Pixabay.
Footnotes [ + ]
|1.||↑||That’s a lot for an individual to borrow, but it’s about rock bottom for starting a store-front business. Consider that right now, the median home price in the US is just under a quarter of a million dollars. Then consider that a home is not built to withstand the sort of stress a commercial building must handle, and that residential property is much cheaper than commercial. Then consider the start-up funding for salaries, insurance, promotions, and all other costs. You start to see why entrepreneurship is so hard.|