By Gary Z McGee
“Straight roads do not make skillful drivers.” ~Paulo Coelho
Tragedy can strike when you least expect it. Things can fall apart without warning. The road of life is more like a rollercoaster ride than a straight trajectory. Tragedy will pass, but so will victory. So it’s best to be prepared for the worst.
Becoming a master of disaster is a combination of preparing for the worst and making the best of it. A master doesn’t balk, a master doesn’t whine, and because he/she knows life will come at them fast and hard, a master never gets too comfortable. Smooth sailing does not make skillful sailors.
Get your comfort where you can find it, but you shouldn’t let that comfort hold you back. So in order to be prepared for the worst and make the best of it, you’ll have to suffer outside your comfort zone a little. Maybe even a lot. Oh well. Comfortable beds do not make fierce warriors.
Let go of your expectations:
“Let go of certainty. The opposite isn’t uncertainty. It’s openness, curiosity and a willingness to embrace paradox, rather than choose up sides.” ~Tony Schwartz
Murder your expectations. Kill the ideal. Hang a noose around the neck of your Ideology. Become the outlier. Become present with that innate, drunken smile within. That place of inner-Zen, where your heart leaps over itself like a little red trickster god despite the worst the universe can dish out.
Most of us are culturally conditioned to have unreasonable expectations. We’re indoctrinated into believing the world works a certain way. Some of us mature enough to rise above this indoctrination. Most of us do not. For those of us who do our rising is also a falling—a fall from grace, a fall from innocence, a fall from faith. This fall hurts existentially. Our heart breaks. Our soul aches. Our ego is humbled. This creates a deep sadness.
True awareness, true wholeness, true mastery, comes from feeling past your comfort, past your worldview, and past your expectations and getting into the nitty gritty. It’s digging deep. It’s churning-up roots. It’s shaking down the shadow. It’s going all in. It’s discovering what lies beneath the cultural conditioning that’s been laid over you like a security blanket.
When you let go of expectation, you allow yourself to finally be shaken by the naked unforgiving truth of reality. The cold and hard truth of “you don’t know.” The pulsing blister of “you are going to die!” A fine reminder that it’s time to begin living on purpose with purpose.
Expectation, more than anything else, prevents mastery. Shatter it. Break it across the world.
Let disaster become your teacher, not your master:
“Everything that happens to you is your teacher. The secret is to learn to sit at the feet of your own life and be taught by it.” ~Polly B. Berends
Darkness can be a candle in certain light. It can give you courage in the face of comfort. It can give you fierceness in the face of listlessness. It can give you strength in the face of weakness.
What hurts you can sharpen you if you let it. Just as pressure forges coal into diamonds, it can forge pain into providence. Just as “the rub” polishes grit into pearls, it can polish wounds into wisdom. But you must show up. Let the lesson in. You must be present to the sharpening, the pressure, and “the rub” lest you remain a victim of pain.
When you’re a victim of pain then pain remains your master. When you’re a student of pain then you become pain’s master. This applies to all mishaps, setbacks, and tragedies in life. Let it all become your teacher, so that you can become the master.
Be curious and grateful:
“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.” ~Dorothy Parker
When disaster lays you low, unearth the mystery from the misery. Become curious with your lot. Some disasters are so traumatic that a major part of you dies. Show up to the grave. Give thanks to your suffering for only killing the weakest part of you.
On a long enough timeline, it was inevitable that you would have to shed some skin. Disaster can be seen as a gift when you look at it as a means to an end. That end being the shedding of your thin-skinned self and the introduction of your thick-skinned self. The only way fragility can become antifragility is through hardship.
Unearthing the mystery from the misery is being present and curious with your hardship. It’s not only finding pleasure in pain, but also the pleasurable experience of transforming pain into strength. It’s plucking the elusive Phoenix Egg from a sea of ashes. It’s pulling your rebirth out of your death.
“The secret of reaping the greatest fruitfulness and the greatest enjoyment from life is to live dangerously.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
So, you’ve suffered. You’ve gone through the trials and errors of living a life to the nth degree. You’ve been dragged kicking and screaming through tragedy and disaster. You’ve clawed your way out of the abyss. What’s next?
On to the next abyss. On to the next adventure. On to the next challenge. There’s always another setback to transform into a steppingstone. There’s always another wound to transform into wisdom. There’s always another fragility begging to be honed and sharpened into antifragility. There are caves filled with coal ready to be pressurized into diamonds. There are oceans of grit out there ready to be polished into pearls.
But nothing happens if you just sit there crying over all the suffering you’ve already been through. Self-pity is poison for a master. The only cure for it is a new challenge. Sure, things might not go well. Sure, it will probably hurt like hell… again. But it beats the alternative. It beats reveling in your misery. As Jack London said, “I would rather be ashes than dust.”
So, rise up. Become a master of disaster. Flip the script on your suffering by honoring it as a whetstone. It doesn’t sharpen metal; it sharpens mettle.
About the Author:
Gary Z McGee, a former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of Birthday Suit of God and The Looking Glass Man. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide-awake view of the modern world.
This article (How to Become a Master of Disaster) was originally created and published by Self-inflicted Philosophy and is printed here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Gary Z McGee and self-inflictedphilosophy.com. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this statement of copyright.