Saturday. 9th of November. 1.30pm.
I remember exactly because it was the opening weekend of the Macau Grand Prix 2013 and while I was arguing with my wife about where to go for lunch, Alex Yoong crashed his car right down our home. A beautiful Audi R8 just gone in seconds. And very loudly. We stared, like every year, and we took off.
We hop on my motorbike and start navigating between cars. Macau is a crazy place to do that because there’s like 50 cars per citizen here. My wife shouts me to be careful, again. “Hey, what about you go get your own license?” I’m thinking. But instead I give her my usual answer: double eye-rolling. And focus back on the road.
There’s something shiny and yellow on my right. Then it’s roaring within my helmet. What. The. Fuck.
It feels like an eternity before I realize the roaring is my helmet sliding on the ground. We’ve been hit. I can’t do anything. I always thought I could, you know, like in the movies. But I’m just a dead fish sliding on the dirty floor. I quickly try to locate my wife, I see her flying over the bike.
Shit. Big time.
No more sound, no more movement. I’m conscious. I rush over my wife, she’s ok, just some pain in her arm. She has blood on her coat though, but no wound. Oops, it appears that it’s coming from me. I’m bleeding from everywhere.
I sit down. The next thing in my head: “Alright, done. What’s the next step?”. I call an ambulance.
We’re in the E.R., waiting. There’s nothing to do. I’m relaxed. Things could be worse. Way worse. I lie down and breathe deeply. My wife spends her day on the phone and flooding social networks telling people how unlucky she is. She’s usually not like that, but I understand. The opening of her Art Center for kids happens the weekend after, it’s a big investment, she’s the only teacher, and now she has a broken wrist. Not the best time. All I find myself telling her is “Alright. Shit happens. We’ll find a way, don’t worry”. But she keeps flooding.
Fast forward a week, the opening happens. Even with such a short notice we found another teacher to take care of the classes.
But here is what happened during the week itself:
- Our 6 months old 27″ home iMac broke the day after the accident
- Our dehumidifier broke 2 days after
- Our dishwasher that was repaired 2 months before broke
- We got wrong projectors delivered to my wife’s company and the supplier refused to take them back
- A light bulb exploded into millions of pieces on top of our head at home (still trying to figure out this one)
- A piece of our own building (18 floors) fell 5 feet away from us in the street
In each case, I had the same reaction: “Alright, done. Now, what am I going to do about that?”. Sometimes there were things to do so I did them, sometimes there was nothing to do so I just moved on. But my wife reacted differently. She kept harping on how all these shits were happening to us. She told me: “these times, really, very black” which sounds kinda weird, but it’s a literal translation from Chinese. Because yes, she’s Chinese, and Chinese have a way to see things where Westerners don’t. Soon enough, there were stories about ghost and karma, and whatever.
But again, she’s usually not like this. She’s a very easy going girl, and I’ve never seen her worry except when a dog is staring at her. But still, here it was. At the end of the week, she was really down.
And I wasn’t.
But don’t get me wrong here, I’m not bragging or anything. The thing is, had this happened 2 years ago I would be down too. And way below her… (haha, get it?)
CONTROL, OR NOT CONTROL… THAT’S NOT EVEN A QUESTION
For the past years I’ve been literally eating books for dinner. 97.66% are about self-help or psychology. As I keep reading, something funny happened. I’ve discovered that whatever specific subject I’m reading, there’s always a series of mindsets that keeps coming back. What I mean is when I read specifically about happiness, or vulnerability, or self-esteem, I’ll always hear about consciousness, or self-acceptance, or honesty, or assertiveness, or action…
One of these mindset is self-responsibility, and I found it to be a very important one.
But at the beginning I just didn’t understand it. These smart authors kept telling that I had to be responsible for my life, but what does that really mean? Does it mean that if my cat gets hit by a car and dies, then it’s my fault? How the hell is that going to help me? As I’ve found out, I was young and naive. But I’m 32 now.
The real idea behind responsibility is that, as an adult, you are the only one responsible for your own life, and for what you make out of it. Nobody else on this planet is deliberately here to fulfill your needs. They can, but they don’t have to. If you want something you have to ask, you have to make it known, or you have to go get it yourself. If you feel that your life is shit, YOU are responsible for making it better, not the Universe.
When you act like a wimpy kid blaming others or external circumstances for your suffering, you are not taking responsibility for your life. And by “you” I mean “I”. And also you.
It’s a simple concept, but a very powerful one. But as good as a concept sounds, I found it much harder to make it real, or feel real. I’ve read about it a lot, it affected me positively a lot, but it’s like I kept forgetting. My experience also told me that it is much easier to make a habit out of an action than out of an idea.
And so…….(drum rolls)…….. this is where the title of this article will (hopefully) make sense to you.
Everything that happens in life can de divided into 2 categories: the things you can control, and the things you cannot control. And the best way I’ve found to translate the self-responsibility mindset into action is to only focus on what you can control. What you cannot control, by definition, is none of your responsibility and therefore you shouldn’t have to worry about it. At all. Shit happens, that’s life, you just have to deal with it (dealing with it being the part where you focus on what you can control).
So in my case we got hit, yes. Was it scary? Yes. Do we have to dwell on how the guy is an asshole? No. What can we do about it? Contact the police, the insurances, going to the hospital. The suppliers are assholes? Yes. Do we have to dwell on that? No (but we can absolutely let them know how much of a dickhead they are, which we did). What can we do about it? Buy adaptors. The bulb explodes on top of us, we clean. Part of the building falls down, we report.
Focusing on what we can control results in making decisions, and taking action based on these decisions. And as we know, acting on something translates in positive emotions. On the other hand, focusing on what we cannot control brings a wide range of negative emotions that goes from frustration, resentfulness and anger to powerlessness, hopelessness and depression. And also all the ones in between.
MAKE THE SHIFT
All you need is a bit of awareness. When something happens, instead of asking yourself why it did happen to you, ask yourself what you are going to do about it. This will shift your focus from the uncontrollable to the controllable, and your mind will start looking for an answer that is actionable. As Tony Robbins says, ask yourself better questions and you’ll have a better answers.
Just try it and see.
And once it’ll become a second nature to you, you will realize two things. First, that you’ve been saving a huge amount of time and energy by not trying to control the uncontrollable. And second, that you can invest that time and energy in yourself and build a better version of yourself, a version that can accept what cannot be controlled and act on what is controllable.
Because at the end, that’s the best way to navigate through life.
Shit happens. To everyone. What will make a huge difference is what you decide to focus on.
Now the ball is in your court.