Running Towards vs Running Away
Author: Lynette Lim
Ask any veteran in the financial business why they like it and you will hear there’s always something new. Indeed, if there isn’t a new rule or regulation to adhere to or a technology disruption like cryptocurrency significance then world news like a deal between the U.S. and North Korean governments and who won the presidential election is affecting outcomes. News and capital markets are so intertwined that sometimes it’s hard to determine if the tail is wagging the dog and not the other way around. Does the news affect capital markets to fall or rise or do people make events happen to affect the capital markets?
Working in the industry for as long as I have feels like I’m a surfer riding the wave but also always waiting for the next big one to come. Will the next wave cause a new high or will I get swallowed? Perhaps it is precisely this unknown factor that excites people working in this industry. I think it is the same excitement that keeps traders trading.
However, this excitement of peaks and troughs can get tiresome after a while. After all, you cannot orchestrate market events to coincide with the time you are ready to face another challenge. So, the crucial question to ask ourselves is how do we deal with ongoing stress and adversity? How do we run this marathon called life without burning out? How do we develop that muscle “grit” that people talk about, so we are prepared for the challenges coming our way?
Being a collector of self-help books, (e.g. I have books on self-organization on top of my pile of mess on the desk), the current popular answer to manage stress is “mindfulness”, an add on concept to the ancient art of meditation. Interestingly, I have not come across any negative literature on meditation. Celebrities from Ellen to Oprah, and spiritual leaders like Chopra all expound on the benefits. Curiosity got the best of me after seeing how meditation had helped my husband and brother, so I tried an application called Muse that measured my brain waves to guide me. I felt a sense, however fleeting, of peace and a certain alertness; and if it works for Oprah, it should work for me. I only tried it for a couple of months, so I can’t tell you conclusively yet.
However, I the perpetual cynic can’t see how being quiet and sitting still for five minutes a day can help me for the rest of the 23 hours and 55 minutes. The philosophical contention I have about meditation when pushed to the extreme is that it seems an escapist attitude towards life. It is likened to a hermit who chooses to seclude themselves from the world. Duh. Remove the stresses in life, then you won’t have stress anymore. Does it mean that the longer I can sit still, the better I can cope with the rest of my life? What if I chose to sit still forever? Would I then be less stressed? It does not appear a realistic or practical way to live if one has commitments like kids and work.
Recently, I watched a rather horrifying but fascinating YouTube video about a stuntwoman showing how to survive when hit by a car. Here is the video.
The stuntwoman explained in the video on the solution to avoid being hurt by the car and her answer was very counterintuitive. She explains that in order to avoid getting hurt by the car, you have to jump towards the car in that split second and then roll away from the car. Once you’re aware that you are being hit by that car, you essentially have that split second of choice to make a decision, and the correct decision would be to move towards the car in order to be saved. It is counter intuitive because the natural inclination would be to try to run away from the car but doing so would inevitably cause the most damage.
While the horrifying scene of different people being hit by cars played in my mind, I had a Eureka moment and realize that this is precisely how we had to approach life’s adversities.
When something comes to us that is unexpected and unwanted we must run towards it and embrace it. That is the best way! The other approaches such as denying the problem exists only exacerbates the problem further and it will rear its ugly head more (Read my previous article about Herbie). If anything, running towards the adversity itself gives us the posture of a brave warrior that is ready for the attack; running away from the problem makes us in the posture of cowardice and fear.
There is a popular Chinese saying: yi du gong du and translated means “Using poison to deal with poison.” This often refers to Chinese medicine whereby often the cure to the sickness is the poison itself. Even in modern western medicine one way to treat allergies is to introduce allergen to the patient a little at a time and over time the person would be cured of that allergy. So, the solution once again is not avoidance or absence of the allergens, but the very presence of allergens as the cure.
I was recently reminded again of this quote that is often attributed by Stephen Covey who wrote the popular book “Highly Effective People”.
to Viktor E. Frankl.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom”. Viktor E. Frankl
Whether you are approached by a moving vehicle or an angry boss that is about to berate you; you still have that split second to choose your response. Do you run away or run towards? Are you a warrior or a prisoner? You get to choose so, choose wisely!
So remember the next time you are faced with a challenging situation like being hit by a car, jump and embrace it!
As always, I welcome feedback or thoughts of any sorts and want to hear how you deal with the stresses of your life.
Stay tuned for my new monthly podcast- Learning with Lim.