Alan Watts uses a great parable to illustrate this.

There once was a farmer whose horse ran away.

Upon hearing the bad news, his neighbors came by to commiserate in his misfortune. "We're so sorry to hear your horse ran away. How unfortunate!"

"Maybe," the farmer replied.

The following day, the horse returns, bringing with it seven wild horses. Everyone came by, "How lucky are you? You now have eight horses!"

"Maybe," the farmer replied.

The next day, the farmer's son, attempting to train the wild horses, is flung to the ground, breaking his leg. "What terrible luck! That's too bad!" the neighbors said.

"Maybe," the farmer replied.

The very next day recruiters from the army come to recruit young men to fight in a recent outbreak of war. Upon seeing his broken leg, the army rejects the farmer's son. "Isn't that great!" all the neighbors rejoiced.

"Maybe," the farmer replied.

How to find freedom

Learning to live so that nothing is experienced as either an advantage or a disadvantage can be a source of enormous empowerment and liberation.

Instead of letting my desires and expectations weigh on me, I'm learning to institute systems that give rise to outcomes.

These are practices I'm seeking to continuously cultivate despite randomness.

Perseverance. Purpose. Positivity. Practice. Patience.


Not giving up.


Having a growth mindset.

These increase the odds of something good arising.


Having a purpose makes hard work worth doing.

It makes life worth living.

It makes bad luck worth enduring.

It forces us to think long term.

Why are you doing what you're doing?


There was an interesting study I read once that showed how positive individuals are more likely to find a parking spot than pessimistic people. Just the belief that one will find a spot increases the odds of finding it.

I don't think this means we should naively believe things will work out—certainly hard and smart work is necessary—but simply believing that things can work out, increases the odds that they will. It also increases the odds of recognizing opportunities when they arise, just like your next parking spot.


Practice develops skill.

Skill increases good outcomes.

Practice develops an increase in good outcomes.


"Desire is a contract to be miserable until we get what we want." — Naval

Not that we shouldn't desire things, but we should be realistic about our expectations. I think often we torment ourselves that we don't have the success or esteem that we want. We put so much expectation on ourselves. It all actually weighs us down.

We don't have what we want exactly because we want it. If we knew how to get it, we wouldn't want it. It's a vicious cycle we easily get stuck in. It causes our own misery.

Often times too, it causes us to not appropriately evaluate our situation. It blinds us. We think we deserve something or are capable, but maybe we're not. Maybe we're missing the greater picture. Maybe our focus is preventing us from realizing how we can best utilize ourselves.

Instead, we should focus on the moment and let time take its course. Stay conscious of what's available to us and take advantage of the opportunities to learn and grow from where we're at. To continuously improve. Letting life take its course. Being patient enough to continuously do and be our best. Then, we will get not what we seek, but what we deserve.

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Published about 2 years ago