Monday, November 18, 2013

The relative size of your problems

"To be successful in life is to continuously be defeated by bigger and bigger things".

I was just showering when I suddenly remembered that phrase I've read it from somewhere. I tried googling it but couldn't find anything remotely close to it. Doesn't matter. I think this phrase ties in with two blog posts that I've written many years ago here and here, about growing bigger than your problems so that the problems that you had seems like flies buzzing around you instead of dragons - a mere annoyance rather than a fiery death-threatening problem.

In other words, the bigger your problem is and the smaller your annoyance, it means that you've grown bigger and correspondingly, your problem smaller. Congrats! Challenges that seem like mountains years ago are now dwarfed by your growing size. But there's a Chinese saying that goes like this: There's always a taller mountain. So to be successful, you have to grow bigger, again! That's why if we're continuously defeated by bigger and bigger things, it's a sure sign that we've outgrown ourselves. On the flip side, if you find that the problems that are causing you severe stress seems to be getting smaller in nature, I think you're getting smaller in size. That's the road to a lifetime of misery and depression.

So how do we grow bigger than our problems?

1. Always push your limits. If you don't test your limits, you can never push beyond your comfort zone. In investing, there's always Buffett fans saying that we should not invest beyond our circle of competence. But have you asked how you even get that circle of competence in the first place? You certainly don't get born with one.

2. Don't be afraid to try new experiences. Black swans work both ways. You want low probability events with huge consequences to act in your favour. The best way to do this is to expose yourself to things that you're too afraid to try.

3. Be comfortable with failure. If I'm an employer, I'll look for someone with track records of failing and picking himself up again. Then I'll know for sure that the person had gone through the trials of fire and survived. If you're looking for someone with the best track record, you never know if he can handle failure and how he'll respond to it. Better look for a proven survivor than a unproven one.


Patrick T. said...

I also think it is important to not take ownership of other people's problems.

It is fine to listen to advice and experience of others but to assume that their problem will become yours is limiting and depressing.

People might end up developing a situation that produced that problem in the first place.

la papillion said...

Hi patty,

Very true. I think many times, as we progress in life and in work, we start to take on shit from other people. If we can deflect some of this, our lives will have less problems.

Some foes are just not yours to fight; just dodge and run ;)

Singapore Man of Leisure said...

Teflon and Viagra ;)

Clinton is the best!

Nothing sticks on him; and he is able to rise up to every challenges!

What a man!

la papillion said...


Your comments needs a lot of cultural context to know what it means LOL! Only you can pull such a stunt off haha