Good or bad, it’s hard to say

There’s an old Chinese story about a farmer.

One night the farmer’s horse runs away. His neighbours sympathise with his bad luck.

The farmer says “Good or bad, it’s hard to say”

A few days later the horse returns with a herd of wild horses following it.

His neighbours comment on how lucky he is.

To which the farmer replies “Good or bad, it’s hard to say”

The farmer’s son chooses the best of the wild horses and begins to break it in. But he falls off the horse and breaks his leg.

The neighbours shake their head in sorrow at the bad news.

The farmer says “Good or bad, it’s hard to say”

The next day the army pass by. There is a war on and they are looking for recruits to fight. Seeing the farmers son has a broken leg, they realise he is no use to them and they ride off.

The neighbour’s comment at how fortunate that was.

The farmer says “Good or bad, it’s hard to say” 

The story was in one of Dave Trott’s books. Dave is an interesting marketing guy by the way.

It’s a funny little story but it makes a good point. Events are neither good nor bad they just are.

It’s our minds that put meaning to the events that happen to us. 

If you have a friend who is a farmer in Gore and their farm was flooded last week and it’s still underwater and their winter feed has been washed away and they literally face financial ruin.

I probably wouldn’t say to them “Good or bad, it’s hard to say”. But I’m sure there will be some good come of the destruction.

I’m of the view that lots of good things do come from bad events if you let them.

I was not very happy during my public financial ruin. But one and a half years later, I’m quite glad it happened. Lots of good things have occurred as a result.

One of the benefits is I now have the privilege of writing this column for Stuff. 

The same is true for Professor Dan Ariely. He was badly burnt when a military flare ignited in the truck he was travelling in.

During his long recovery period, he had to endure the painful process of having his bandages removed daily. Every bandage tore away the new skin and bled as it was removed. 

He noticed that the nurses who conducted this task had different techniques and bedside manner or did things in a different order. Strangely enough, the pain he felt was different with the different nurses.

The event was the same, ripping flesh and bleeding. But his mind felt less pain when certain nurses removed the bandages.

This led him to study psychology and we can all benefit from his lifetime of work understanding how the mind works. He’s a Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University and his book Predictably Irrational is fantastic.

He wouldn’t have pursued that career path if it were not for his accident. 

The All Blacks became a bit famous for choking in world cup finals. The All Blacks introduced a mental skills coach. The players were under considerable pressure to win and they were becoming rattled when referee decisions or play didn’t go their way. The result was rushed decisions, the players not thinking clearly or unable to adapt.

The All Blacks changed the way they viewed events in the game. It didn’t matter if a referee call was right or wrong, it simply was. The players could only control their reaction to the decision.

The All Blacks went onto getting a bit of a reputation of absorbing relentless attacks for 65 minutes and then winning in the latter stages of games. Although, I’m not sure what happened at the last world cup.

Maybe, after all, this simply means we should try and make the best of every situation.

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