I broke my favorite pair of headphones today. RIP. But I am a better person because of it. Let me explain.
At some point during a fierce wrestling match with a tangled ball of cords, the right earbud separated from the wire-source that gave it life. As I stood motionless in the middle of a congested sidewalk, I reflected back on the moments leading up to this disaster. Emotion quickly led me to conclude that these headphones suck. Cheap, worthless, good riddance. But these headphones were neither cheap nor worthless. They were expensive, top of the line headphones and I broke them. Why? Because I was in a rush and lost composure. I reacted too quickly in an unstable state, and worsened an easily fixable problem. I had to walk to class angry in silence.
This happens all the time in our lives. We forfeit control of our ability to reason because our minds are running on high on emotion. We make rash decisions in split seconds that result in long-term consequences. The ability to recognize these situations and appropriately deal with them in a rational manner is much easier said than done. I know. I just ripped my headphones to shreds.
I can buy new headphones, sure. But can Joseph Robert Patterson bring Adrian Peterson’s son back to life? Clearly these are two extremes, but both situations could have been avoided. Two distinct memories gained meaning for me today that I think everyone will benefit from.
My fifth grade teacher, Ms. Menya, used to unravel any tangle and untie any shoeless knot she faced. I would pull and dig and pull some more without any luck. She would laugh and wait for me to admit defeat before she relieved me and undid it in minutes. Every time she would tell me I was forcing it. I needed to find the source of the tangle and work backwards. I didn’t like her much so I never took her advice to heart.
My father is a weapon in all sense of the word. Double black belt in Judo. When I was younger I used to surprise attack him on the couch during the commercials. I’d throw my best 1-2 combos at him and he would effortlessly brush them off with a quick swoop. I would get pissed and throw more and more and he would continuously guide my strikes away from his body. He always told me the key to winning any fight is to maintain composure. Let the emotional fighter waste his energy throwing aimless punches and wait for your time to strike.
Both of these memories use real world examples to show how forcing a situation is counterproductive. Emotions, time constraints, whatever the case may be, cause us to act before we think. Its easier to yank on a wire and hope it magically unravels than to spend a minute finding the source and working through the tangle. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve ripped a shirt because I didn’t want to search for scissors to cut the tag off .
While these are simple examples with minor consequences, the concept is universal. It can apply to relationships, social anxieties, and beyond. The death of Adrian Peterson’s son really got me thinking about how your entire life can change because of a bad decision made in a split second. I’m sure the guy was strunjamin on something, which drastically complicates things, but there is no re-do button for him. We shouldn’t dismiss this tragedy as a freak accident because the truth is, we are all one bad decision away from disaster.
Keep Calm and Don’t Force It.