A farmer and his son lived on a farm in the countryside.
They owned a beautiful horse they cherished deeply. The farmer entered the horse into a village contest and won first prize along with some money.
When his neighbors gathered to congratulate him, they said enviously, “How lucky you are to have such a remarkable horse.”
To the neighbor’s puzzlement, the farmer responded, “Who knows what is good or bad.”
Not long after, some thieves heard about the prize-winning horse and stole it during the night.
The neighbors came by to express their sympathy for the farmers loss and again were confused by the farmers calm response—“Who knows what is good or bad.”
The next week the spirited horse escaped from the thieves and miraculously returned to the farm—with several other spectacular wild horses.
Again, the astounded neighbors commended the farmer on his incredible good fortune, but his reaction was unchanged—“Who knows what is good or bad.”
Not long after, the farmer’s son fell off one of the horses and broke his leg. Compassionate neighbors again expressed their heartfelt sorrow.
“Who knows what is good or bad,” repeated the farmer calmly.
A short time later, the King’s army passed through town requiring all young and able-bodied men to be drafted into the War, but the farmer’s son was passed over due to his badly broken leg.
By this time, the neighbors brought some food and simply came to enjoy a meal with the farmer and his son. They expressed neither joy nor concern for the farmers current circumstances because they knew how he would respond.
Turn information into action
I don’t know about you, but I have found this parable to be a vital reminder for my perfectionist brain.
I constantly judge situations or events to be better or worse than they really are. This leads to frustration, despair, or impatience—with people, circumstances, and myself.
There are certainly great tragedies in life—but the vast majority of the time, my internal reaction creates more distress than the situation itself.
I’ve come to the conclusion that life is usually too vast and mysterious for my limited brain to predict how things will turn out.
Things are usually neither as bad—or as good—as I believe them to be at the time.
Viewing things from this perspective helps me to generate less internal resistance, more acceptance, and more compassion—for people, circumstances, and myself.
This is an amazing skill to build in leading ourselves, our families, and our teams.
Our children need parents that don’t catastrophize, enable, or overprotect.
Our spouses need more grace and acceptance.
Our teams need less reactive—more stable and steady leadership.
But you must train your mind because this won’t come naturally. Your brain is a prediction machine that loves to speculate, judge, or predict.
Think of it like an emotional fitness routine.
Be creative. Where in your life do you have opportunities to practice this?
Let go of the need to plan and forecast everything.
Next time you notice your mind jumping to conclusions about whether something is great or terrible, pause and acknowledge what is now. Enjoy it or grieve it and move forward. Be present.
Life is constantly shifting and changing, and it can be very difficult to predict the longer-term ripple effects of any single event.
This is both good news and bad news.
Have a great weekend!
*If you have enjoyed Parker’s blog, check out The Next Peak Podcast that Parker co-hosts. We interview successful leaders and discuss research-based principles that help people win in the workplace without compromising the things that matter most—relationships, a life of purpose, and personal health.
Want more? Suggested Resources Below
- The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer
- The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
- Welcoming the Unwelcome by Pema Chodron