Why is this happening?

Famed Navy SEAL and leadership expert Jocko Willink has the habit of replying to colleagues or friends that approach him with major issues by saying: “Good!  A chance to grow.”

The following question is probably equal parts difficult, necessary, and profound: What if we could face adversity and ask ‘why is this happening for me’ rather than ‘why is this happening to me?’


Consider the difference between losing a friend to a drunk driving accident and losing a friend to cancer.  Same outcome, yet we somehow feel less devastated when we can direct our anger towards something (drunk drivers), versus towards a disease we don’t understand.

Though a powerful anti-depressant, anger is a short-term and unhealthy alternative to working through suffering.

It’s possible to overcome and even be motivated by adversity.  The choice is to process grief by accepting what “is”, or to carry blame, animosity, and the repetitive story of what “should be”, and why you deserve to stay angry.


Leverage means investing in activities that provide a disproportionate return.  Get your short list right, and free up mental capacity to focus on what matters.  A few examples for me are:
– Sleep
– Reinforcing discipline (in multiple areas)
– Exercise
– Human connection
– Meditation
– Not watching the news
– Not stressing over what others say or think of me


The things we protect

We guard our money, property and identities from people who might steal, exploit, or take advantage of us.  But we commonly allow others to seize our truly non-renewable resources:  time and attention.  (And time has little value without attention.)

Guard your valuables. And include attention as among the most precious.

Cause for compassion

Everyone endures some measure of suffering. Past or present, chronic or acute.   Perhaps you believe your suffering is more justified than others’, or that you could manage their challenges better than they do.  But you don’t know what it’s like to be anyone else.  


Knowing this is cause for compassion: remind yourself often that everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about.  Their battles are very real to them.


The importance of systems

An organization I won’t name has an effective marketing system that gets me in the door.  Once I’m in though, there is no record of the appointment I made (I bring the email confirmation they sent me), and there’s total confusion when I arrive.  Great system for bringing me in – failed system when I show up.

This reminds me of the importance of systems themselves. This applies to how we manage our calendars or finances, to our individual daily habits (having a consistent place for car keys…planning tomorrow’s schedule today…)

You either deliberately create systems that serve you, or ignore them altogether and hope things work out.

Just a few things I learned from my dad

 – “Don’t confuse motion with action”– Don’t tell me how hard you worked, tell me what you accomplished.
– “If you can’t explain it you don’t understand it” 
– “Think big picture” – Forget the exact answer.  Does it make sense that 20% of a number could be larger than the number itself?  Make sense of things at a high level before obsessing over the details.
“Know your inventory” – Do you know how much cash you have access to? What your living expenses are? How long you could go with no income? How much debt you have and how you’re trending and spending? What your best chance/customer/project is that could earn more money?  If you don’t know where you are now you can’t know what’s best to focus on next.