1 min read

The Art of Choosing Your Battles

The Art of Choosing Your Battles
Photo by Boston Public Library / Unsplash

Thomas Jefferson, at 68, scribbled down some life advice for his 12-year-old granddaughter, Cornelia, chiseling out his "Canons of Conduct"—a dozen rules to chew on. Did old Tommy live up to these lofty ideals? Hell no. The guy was elbow-deep in debt, swollen with pride, and let's not gloss over the whole owning people business, blatantly ignoring his own advice to "never trouble another with what you can do yourself." But, hypocrisy aside, his rules smack of simplicity and hard-to-swallow truths, except for one that's a bit more cryptic, a cheeky nod to the Stoic heavyweight, Epictetus.

Epictetus throws us this gem: life's curveballs have two handles—one you can grip to hoist the thing and one that'll just slip through your fingers. Your brother screws you over? Don't latch onto the screw-up handle; that's a dead-end grip. Grab the "he's still my brother" handle instead, and you've got something you can work with. It's about flipping the script on adversity, seeing the thrill in the challenge rather than the dread.

Jefferson was onto something with this rule. It's all about the angle you take. Up close, life's a chaos mosaic; step back, and you might spot the bigger picture. Faced with the absurdity of existence, you can either throw up your hands and ask, "Why me?" or you can stare down the same freakish odds and say, "Yeah, why not me? What makes me so lucky to tackle this beast?"

So, here's the kicker, in true Jefferson meets Epictetus fashion: when life decides to throw a curveball your way, which handle are you going to grab?

Are you going to let the obstacle bulldoze over you, or are you going to wrestle it into an opportunity?