Sunday Thoughts (03/15/15) – Blessing or Curse

Listening to a podcast of Entrepreneur on Fire, an inventor shared her story where she went to a trade show that was totally the wrong venue for her product. Thinking she had wasted her precious few start up dollars, this woman left in tears.

But, as she was leaving, the woman bumped into a man who had reached the same conclusion. It turned out that this man not only introduced her to the promotional products industry, which turned to be the ideal market for her product, but would end up being her mentor.

This reminded me of a classic old Chinese fable of a farmer who found some wild horses one day.

“What good fortune!” his neighbors declared. To which the farmer’s only response was “Sometimes what seems like a blessing is a curse.”

The next day his son tried to help tame the horses but ended up falling off one and broke his leg.

“What bad luck!” the farmer’s wife lamented.

“Sometimes what seems like a curse is really a blessing” was the farmer’s only response.

Not long afterwards the kingdom went to war, and all able-bodied males were drafted. But because the son was injured he was passed over.

Too often we fall into the trap of reacting instead of responding. What’s the difference?

In reacting we merely do what it seems like we’re “supposed to do” or “the way it’s always been done.”

To respond is to consciously make a choice. And sometimes the hard choice is to endure when we’d rather avoid all this with any number of strategies – hiding in busyness, running away and seeking escape, or simply numbing ourselves with food or alchohol.

But here’s an interesting aspect of willpower. In this TED talk the speaker shares how  success and delayed gratification are really closely connected –

So often, the very thing that we see as obstacle to having what we want in a moment may in fact help us to succeed later on.

In The Obstacle is the Way the author shares story after story of how history’s greatest leaders have turned some of their biggest failures into success. Lincoln himself not only faced early challenges – losing his mother as a child, a wife as a young man, and numerous elections until finally winning key offices that led to the presidency.

Little did Lincoln know that life was preparing him for the ultimate test of his character – the Civil War itself. Had he backed down from earlier challenges or given up, Lincoln would not be the man that ultimately led this nation to victory and finally end slavery once and for all.

We Can't Connect the Dots Looking Forward – We Can Only Connect Them Looking Back – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires



  • WOW, great article and thank you for the kind mention…I am honored! LOVE the marshmallow experiment 🙂

    • admin

      Absolutely, John – keep up the great work! Your passion is inspiring. One man CAN make a difference!

  • Great post! Sometimes a curse is a blessing – at least it creates some optimistic light in every situation.
    Regarding the marshmallow experiment – if B happens after A doesn’t necessarily means that A causes B. They didn’t eat marshmallow, therefore they became successful in life ? Obviously having willpower and discipline can lead to amazing results but the main question ( or the more philosophical one is ) what leads to obtaining those qualities (assuming they are obtainable at all ).

    • admin

      Thanks, Lev – good points!

      Here’s some more food for thought..

      Just having the blessing mindset opens you up to possibilities we miss otherwise. (Please see today’s most which builds on this “blessing or curse” theme.)

      Also, there’s definitely no guarantees and no ‘fairness’ to success. For me the point was the importance of willpower being a clue as to what we can work on, if we want to succeed.

      As you point out, A doesn’t necessarily cause B – but sometimes it’s important to observe trends and pick our lessons. It’s the long view vs. the short.

      Our attention spans are shorter than ever. So, the “blessing and curse” of technology is that while we’re connected more than ever to other, knowledge, etc. – maybe we’re also shortening our willpower and ability to have the patience that comes with the long view ..something that our ancestors had no choice but to develop!