The Only Way
My cell phone rang just after midnight. I didn’t answer. Then it rang again a minute later. I rolled over, grabbed the phone off the night stand, and squinted at the bright, glowing caller ID screen. “Claire,” it read. Claire is a close friend – a friend who tragically lost her husband to a car accident six months ago. And I figured since she rarely calls me in the middle of the night, it was probably important.
“Hey, Claire. Is everything okay?” I asked.
“No!” she declared as she burst into tears. “I need to talk… I need help…”
“I’m listening,” I reassured her. “What’s on your mind?”
“I lost my job this evening, and I’m tired, and I just don’t know anymore…”
“A job is just a job. They come and go. Remember, Angel lost her job last year and it was a blessing in disguise. She found something better.”
“I know, I know,” she sighed over her tears. “I just felt like the world was going to end after the accident… Ya know? And then my friends and family helped me get back on my feet…”
“And you’re still on your feet right now,” I added.
“Well, sometimes I feel like I am, and sometimes I feel like I’m barely maintaining my balance, and sometimes I feel like I’m falling again. And this series of feelings just keeps cycling over and over again in a loop – good days followed by bad days and vice versa. It’s just one long struggle. And I’m exhausted!”
“But you keep moving forward…”
“Actually,” she continued over more tears. “The only way I’ve found to keep myself moving forward from moment to moment through the hard times is by repeating a short saying my grandfather taught me when I was a kid. And I don’t know how or why it helps now, but it does.”
“What’s the saying?” I asked.
“Do your best with what’s in front of you and leave the rest to the powers above you,” she replied.
I smiled. Because I love pieces of inspirational prose that help people progress through even the hardest of times. And because it suddenly reminded me of a short story my grandfather told me when I was a kid – one that’s also applicable to Claire’s circumstance.
“Your grandfather was a wise man,” I said. “And it’s funny, because your grandfather’s saying reminds me of a short story my grandfather once told me. Would you like to hear it?”
“Yeah,” she replied.
My Grandfather’s Story
Once upon a time, in a small Indian village, the village fisherman accidentally dropped his favorite fishing pole into the river and was unable to retrieve it. When his neighbors caught word of his loss, they came over and said, “That’s just bad luck!” The fisherman replied, “Perhaps.”
The following day, the fisherman hiked a mile down the bank of the river to see if he could find his fishing pole. He came upon a small, calm alcove in the river bank that was loaded to the brim with salmon. He used a back-up fishing pole to catch nearly 100 salmon, loaded them into his wagon, and brought them back to the village to barter with other villagers. Everyone in the village was ecstatic to receive the fresh salmon. When his neighbors caught word of his success, they came over and said, “Wow! What great luck you have!” The fisherman replied, “Perhaps.”
Two days later, the fisherman began hiking back towards the alcove so he could catch more salmon. But a tenth of a mile into the hike, he tripped on a tree stump and severely sprained his ankle. He slowly and painfully hopped back to the village to nurse his health. When his neighbors caught word of his injury, they came over and said, “That’s just bad luck!” The fisherman replied, “Perhaps.”
Four days went by, and although the fisherman’s ankle was slowly healing, he could not yet walk, and the village was completely out of fish to eat. Three other villagers volunteered to go to the river to fish while the fisherman recovered. That evening, when the three men did not return, the village sent a search party out for them only to discover that the men had been attacked and killed by a pack of wolves. When the fisherman’s neighbors caught word of this, they came over and said, “You’re so lucky you weren’t out there fishing. What great luck you have!” The fisherman replied, “Perhaps.”
“A few days later… well, you can guess how the story continues,” I said.
The Moral of the Story
Claire chuckled and said, “Thank you.” Because the moral of the story was immediately clear to her. We just don’t know – we never do. Life is an unpredictable phenomenon. No matter how good or bad things seem right now, we can never be 100% certain what will happen next.
And this actually lifts a huge weight off of our shoulders. Because it means that regardless of what’s happening to us right now – good, bad or indifferent, it’s all just part of the phenomenon we call ‘life’ – which flows like the river in my grandfather’s story, unpredictably from one occurrence to the next. And the smartest choice we can make is to swim with the flow of the river.
Which means, quite simply, not panicking in the face of unforeseen misfortunes or losing our poise in limelight of our triumphs, but instead “doing our best with what’s in front of us and leaving the rest to the powers above us.”
Photo by: A. Andres
Armen Shirvanian says
I like this message and related story. It helps to understand that these ups and downs are not worth worrying or getting anxious over. When I think of the message behind this, it is a helpful one. Not knowing what is going to happen is somewhat unnerving.
That guy in the story that is a fisherman reminds me of many successful folks I see today. They say “perhaps” when people label them as lucky, and then focus on the next thing to do, which gets them labeled as lucky again by some. There is value to learn from there.
This “flow like water” mindset is something I am getting better at as I focus on it.
Thanks for this material.
David Turnbull says
This is similar to what the book Zen & The Art of Happiness covers. The main principle covered in that book is that everything that happens is the best possible thing that could’ve happened. ‘Tis a calming way to approach day to day life.
Wilma Ham says
Yes ““doing our best with what’s in front of us and leaving the rest to the powers above us.”
And then we start to worry about what our best is and if we are not careful on and on we go.
Doing the best what is in front of us, is very powerful though and all we can do.
Power of now, live in teh present moment, your grandfather’s message shows up in many guises and that is good. One way or another we will hear it that way.
Nice message. It reminds that we need to keep going forward no matter how hopeless the future looks like.
Faith in God is about believing that everything will work out for our good; even the bad things that happen to us. It will all make sense one day
Thanks for sharing the story Marc. Sometimes, when bad things happen, we tend to depress ourselves more than its worth. Well, it’s not worth it to begin with. Because of the ups and down in life, we just have to accept things as it is.
Tristan Lee says
Good lesson on life how is a random phenomenon and we never know what’s going to happen to us.
Some forces are out of our control, and the best thing we can do is do the best with what’s in front of us – the things we “can” control.
I enjoyed this story and I liked how the old man shrugged when people said, “You are lucky or you aren’t lucky.”
But I wondered… did the guy ever get his fishing rod back? 🙂
Ahad Bokhari says
Good post here, and you know you are totally right. In my opinion if we could control everything then life wouldn’t be as much fun – it would take the charm away instantly.
Point is not to stress over stuff thats not in our control, its a brain drain and leads towards negativity. I live in a country where we see uncertainty everyday, and i have taught my mind to overcome thoughts that will have negative impacts on my outlook!
Glad that you took time to encourage your friend, hope she feels better. Btw I tweet quite a bit of info from your blog, it really gets alot of attention..Look forward to curating more of your great content..
Diggy - Upgradereality says
I love these kind of inspirational stories that contain an awesome truth. Life is about living, and rarely goes according to plan. I still think everyone should have a plan, but everyone should be flexible to adapt to constantly changing circumstances and be willing to accept change.
Have a great day!
We love the added input, everyone. 😉
Thanks so much!
Thanks — I needed that reminder today 🙂
Avil Beckford says
Thank you so much! I was deeply touched by this story and just what I needed today. It’s a great story and a lesson to always try to keep things, both negative and positive, into perspective.
O my snaps!
I just found this website shortly after finding MMT. It’s amazing! Me and my friends live to be random, spur of the moment, constant jokes and non stop gags. I really like this because it gives me a sense of meaning, and something serious to incorporate in my group of friends’ conversation.
I love this site, and I’m so happy to be here.
Stephen - Rat Race Trap says
Hi Marc. I loved this. Your story reminded me of a similar story about a farmer and his horses. We never really know what is going to happen next so we can’t really judge a situation as “bad” without that foreknowledge. Things just are what they are, neither good or bad. It’s up to us to get the best out of them.
As with many people, I’m also a victim of my mind. I have labeled everything according to good and bad without even seeing the folly of my acts. In effect, I was led to confusion, and I seek answers.
With a realization that I had suddenly stumbled upon, I become aware that I was the one who allowed misery in my life, instead of doing my best at every situation, I look someone to blame. Eventually, I evolved.
This is a nice piece you have written. Thank you for sharing it. 🙂
This reminds me of the philosophy of acceptance from recovery circles, such as AA. Acceptance is the key to joy. And part of acceptance is doing our best, and leaving the rest to our Creator.
This was a great post with such a powerful message. As cliche as it may sound, we really do need to understand that everything happens for a reason. If we can convince ourselves of this truism, it is much easier to get through those challenging times because we can rely on the fact that there is always a good reason for everything that we experience. It really is about having this confidence and being able to use it as needed to improve the direction of our thoughts. Once we can honestly do this, we are better able to manage through anything we are confronted with. Thanks for sharing the great story.
John Bardos - JetSetCitizen says
I think we always try to think “Why me?” There is no good or bad, it just is what it is.
Just think of all the slight anomalies that could have happened to stop human life on planet earth. Humans are just a tiny speck in an infinite universe.
Mark Foo | 77SuccessTraits.com says
Beautiful story, Marc. This is the kind of inspirational story I love to read. It’s really uplifting. And I’m glad to learn that Angel has found something better after losing her job. Congrats! (Though it may have come a bit late)
What a beautiful post. I love so many of the posts I have read on this site. Such a feel good kind of place. Life is such a gift and although it’s not always roses and butterflies, the tough times do help us to be grateful for the good times!!
Bob Bessette says
Just recently I joined a group and have been able to listen to at least two stories of people who have lost their loved ones unexpectedly and have been able to find peace in their losses and move on. I had a similar circumstance with an older brother a number of years ago.
It is important that we make peace with a situation like that and move on in our lives. In fact, the two people I am referring to have been able to use their tragic losses as inspiration for their lives. As far as my situation is concerned, I always feel that my brother is watching over me and with me in my life just as he would be if he were still here.
Thanks for the great story and inspiration.
mark in VH says
You’re doing a beautiful service by sharing your optimism and words of hope & encouragement with others… As you probably already know, service is a recognized path to real happiness. Even the Buddha taught that. Many thanks.
Really… heart touching story
Amit Sodha says
I was having a very similar conversation with someone I was on a date with yesterday. She was concerened about that fact that she was upset and depressed a lot of the time and I said to her that she didn’t realise how much of a gift she had. The bad times represent the antithesis of how good things can be.
I whole heartedly agree that there deeper truths behind all events and our perception of them have a big part to play.
this was excellent reading! exactly what i needed to lift my spirits.. do you have any similar stories?
i love this.
everything that happens to us is the best possible thing that could happen!
Jonathan Manor says
This was an incredible read. What’s even more incredible is that I just broke up with my girlfriend a few minutes ago and this is the first thing I see on the internet.
I was originally reading a post on viperchill and he linked over to you. You were the first person in a list of bloggers he was naming off in a sentence.
This really helped. I’ll definitely be here to stay.
Jonathan Manor says
Ernest Hemingway wrote a book like your story. The story was about a fisherman (i know small world) who catches the biggest fish that anyone has ever seen. But then sharks come and eat it and all is left is the bones. Everyone sees the fish, but it’s not a big deal because there’s no meat. The fisherman then goes back to the sea to fish again.
That’s pretty much the story. I might’ve ruined it for you.
A big thanks for this site 🙂
there is a movie about this tale! it was amazing to watch..;and so true!! everything depends on the way u look at it! the best is to look with an open view to life and all it’s things happening*
good luck to u all!
Wow! I really love this one!
It’s true that Life is full of uncertainties…
So whatever comes in our way,
whatever happens, good or bad,
we should realize that it’s part of life and
We should thank God ‘coz
one thing is for sure, “We learn and become a better person”!
I think this is the best post I have read on this website. I’ve been having crazy luck lately, and the bad times keep getting me down.
Your grandfather’s story is simply inspiring and has completely changed my perspective. Life seems more fun now (not that I hated it or anything, I was just focused on the negative aspects) and I feel reassured that everything WILL work out as it always has done in the past! I am going to start just enjoying my life and not worrying obsessively about the future; basically, living in the moment, which I feel I hardly do.
I guess… after all this rambling… thank you.