Quit Putting Square Pegs in Round Holes

by Alexander Heyne · 0 comments

Brutes find out where their talents lie;
A bear will not attempt to fly,
A foundered horse will oft debate
Before he tries a five barred gate.
A dog by instinct turns aside
Who sees the ditch too deep and wide,
But man we find the only creature
Who, led by folly, combats nature;

-Jonathan Swift

For those of you prone to frustration, anger, and general anxiety, let me teach you something a friend once taught me.

One day I was at JFK airport and saw a husband and wife checking into a flight that was going cross country. The baggage weight regulations had recently changed and they were being charged for a bag that was ten pounds overweight.

The wife was getting pissed off, arguing, complaining, pulling out her hair, and giving the clerk a general hard time.

“Why did you guys change regulations??”

“Why is it so expensive to pay for the bag?!”

“Since when did this start???”

She was starting to embarrass her husband who had a sagely calm.

Eventually, the (exceedingly) calm clerk took his verbal abuse and checked the people in, waiting until they had entered the airport to complain to his friend.

Fight fire with… ignorance?

How many times have you seen someone complain or stress about something they couldn’t change?

Getting pissed off about traffic? Well, unless you and Jesus are tight and can arrange something, I suggest you quit wasting your energy.

Angry about the hot weather?  Either consult a shaman and do a rain dance, or realize it’s out of your control.

Still venting about the guy who spilled coffee on you earlier? Get a time machine, or accept it.

This is so ridiculously simple that I almost feel dumb for having to share it.

But this is so insanely common!  We complain for complaining’s sake.. and we don’t realize it until someone points it out.  Hopefully this is as much a wake up call for you as it was for me.

Examples are fun

Somewhere around 2009 I went on a trip to meditate in the Sahara desert on the border of Niger + Algeria.  I was traveling with some nomads called the Tuareg, and I was supposed to be in a remote oasis town called Tamanrasset by a certain time.

Turns out, during my flight from New York to Geneva, they lost my bags.  Note: I was only going to be there for one night until I left for the remote desert for 3 weeks.  There would be no contact and definitely no way to get my bags.

I spoke to the woman at the counter, and she promised that my bags would be in by the morning.

They never came.

Long story short, I spent a couple weeks in the desert with one pair of shoes, boxers, no toilet paper and no tooth brush.

The trip was great.  In fact, it was much less to worry about.  However, when I went back to Geneva to finally claim my bags a few weeks later, there was a couple sitting next to me in the airport talking to another person at the counter asking where their bags were.

They were wearing winter clothing but were complaining because if they had to wait “all the way until the morning [ 12 hours ] ” there was a risk they’d get sick from not wearing extra clothing. On the trip to their hotel.

For a moment, I thought about telling them what I went through for the past 3 weeks, but instead decided to keep my mouth shut.  No one likes being told what to do. The truth hurts, and the more truthful you are with people the more they react defensively.

Fancy that, huh?

What if…

You may ask yourself: “Those examples are good and all, but what about more complicated situations?”

Things obviously get more complicated.  Arguments with inlaws, dealing with difficult or stubborn people, struggling when life doesn’t go your way or when people don’t act they way they “should” can be frustrating.

Try not to compare yourself to other circumstances, ask what if, or entertain other possibilities.

So what should I do?

Often times, the best, most efficient way to get through life is…..

Take a deep breath, swallow your pride, and just smile.


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