December 1, 2022

Sitting in the middle of the river, shaking your fists at the heaven


Some people don’t want to solve the problem, they just want to be angry about it.

Rather than focusing on solutions, they devote their energies to blame, outrage, injustice and fairness. Complaining about why this problem is complete bullshit and shouldn’t even be happening to them.

Now, the upside to this response is, it’s cathartic. Draining all that bad blood out of your system feels like progress.

What’s more, it’s inviting. When you’re angry about a problem, the people who love you most will be quick to join you in your pain. They will happily stand next to you and shake their fists at the skies too.

What’s not to like?

But the downside to this response is, you’re letting ego run the show. Raging against problems instead of solving them is about being right, being mad and being special. And as gratifying as that feels in the moment, there are virtually no long term positive outcomes.

I’m reminded of the eminent karate mantra, be like water.

Bruce Lee coined this term in his martial arts philosophy, teaching his students to preserve themselves by following the natural bends of thing. He said not to assert yourself against nature, not to be in frontal opposition to any problems, but control it by swinging with it.

The common illustration for this mantra is envisioning a boulder that falls into a stream. When the water encounters the bolder, it doesn’t stop flowing and become angry about the barrier. There’s no diatribe about how this shouldn’t be happening. And it doesn’t invite all its water friends to join the pity party and rail against the stupid fucking rock for messing up its plans.

It simply flows effortlessly around the obstacle and continues moving.

That’s how we should be solving our problems. We can be mad or sad about the new situation, but rather than following those feelings down into a pit of despair, we should use them to fuel our efforts forward.

Look, if there’s an obstacle blocking the way, of course that sucks and shouldn’t happen to you and is totally unfair. Feel those feelings.

But focus your energies on flowing around the boulder and moving downstream. Otherwise you’re going to end up sitting in the middle of the river, shaking your fists at the heaven, letting your ego run the show.

Find another path.

What if you flowed effortlessly around the obstacle and continued moving?