This morning while eating breakfast and staring out my window, all I saw were clouds and light rain. I immediately felt my energy and excitement for my day ahead a little lower as a result.
Then I looked down at my plate and realized that all of the delicious fruit I was enjoying was made possible only because it had rained at some point, somewhere. Without the rain, my plate would be empty and I would be hungry.
To see, want or expect only what I desire is to collect one-sided coins. One-sided coins do not exist, which means that I am only fooling myself if I am searching for them.
Yesterday, a friend shared with me how her entire family was currently sick, as one of the kids brought home a cold from school. While it is unpleasant and unfortunate, it is also very pleasant and very fortunate to be able to send the kids to school to begin with. I am sure any parent of young children has learned to appreciate the two-sides of school over the past year and a half.
White does not exist without black.
Lightness does not exist without darkness.
Right does not exist without wrong.
Up does not exist without down.
Sound does not exist without silence.
Gain does not exist without loss.
Two sides, sometimes opposite, do not exist without one another. To be different yet dependent.
This understanding is one of the most central teachings to living. It is also the one I most often forget.
In business, I will make great hires and terrible hires. I will win some deals and lose other deals. I will launch products that are widely adopted and ones that are narrowly adopted.
In the early days of starting my business, without much experience and plenty of optimism, I found myself in a position, not once but twice, when I ran out of money and was unable to make payroll. At the time, it felt difficult, traumatic, challenging and scary. Looking back at it now, I am filled with gratitude for it as it taught me so much. My business is solid financially now, and has been for years, and can weather any storm. It is only because of the experience of one side that I have been able to build the conviction and confidence to be on the other side.
In my twenties, I would drink alcohol socially. In my twenties, I was also quite social. As a result, during my twenties, I found myself drinking alcohol, mostly in moderation, on a highly frequent basis. So frequent that into my late twenties, my body began to develop an allergic reaction of sorts to alcohol. Instant headaches and stomach aches appeared just as frequently as drinking did. One morning I woke up and decided that my body and I were done feeling this way. I chose to live sober, forever, and have appreciated the decision ever since.
To live sober in a modern world, with a globetrotting lifestyle, growing business in the advertising technology industry and active social life requires a level of conviction and confidence that has come effortlessly to me for years now. I have to believe it is only because I have experienced one side that I can live so comfortably on the other side.
When I forget that everything in my life, and in my world, has two sides, I become driven by fear. Fear of being with the less desirable and less wanted side.
The cost of forgetting that the other side exists is that I try to optimize for only one side. I am trying to collect one-sided coins that do not exist.
When an undesirable or unwanted event happens in my life, or in my world, I try to remember that this is just the other side. The other side exists, it is okay and even expected.
When I am feeling overly concerned, extra anxious or very worried, I try to ask myself, ‘wait, am I only looking at one side?’.
To understand that a coin has two sides creates a tolerance in me for the other side.
To understand that a coin’s two sides will be different, yet that they are dependent on each other to exist, creates a tolerance in me for the other side being different.
Tolerance for the other side, which is different from the desirable side, cultivates the skill of acceptance, for which I cannot expect to live in peace without.