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Can Good Come From Bad & Can Bad Come From Good? 10 Lessons From The Man Who Lost His Horse

The Taoist Farmer, The Farmer and his Horse, The Father, His Son and the Horse, The Old Man Loses a Horse, The Chinese Farmer parable, Zen parable, Every cloud has a silver lining, It’s a blessing in disguise

In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to like to reveal 10 lessons from the parable of the man who lost his horse as it sets out to answer the question: can good come from bad & can bad come from good?

Can Good Come From Bad & Can Bad Come From Good? 10 Lessons From The Man Who Lost His Horse

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Now, let’s talk about the 10 lessons from the parable of the man who lost his horse as it sets out to answer the question: can good come from bad & can bad come from good?

Good and bad things happen in life. We celebrate the good and mourn the bad. But sometimes the very things that were bad turn into something good, and sometimes good things turn bad soon after.

In Shakespeare’s tragedy, Hamlet tells Rosenkranz:
“…, for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

Is that really true for you and for your life?

One of the most famous parables from the ancient Chinese text of scholarly debates Huainanzi from the 2nd century B.C. is “The old man lost his horse (but it all turned out for the best)”, also known as The Taoist Farmer, The Farmer and his Horse, The Father, His Son and the Horse, The Old Man Loses a Horse, The Chinese Farmer parable.

The old man lost his horse (but it all turned out for the best)

Good luck and bad luck create each other, and it is difficult to foresee their change.

A righteous man lived near the border.
For no reason, his horse ran off into barbarian territory.
Everyone [people] felt sorry for him.
[But] His father spoke [to him]:
“Who knows if that won’t bring you good luck?”

Several months later his horse came back with a group of [good, noble] barbarian horses.
Everyone [people] congratulated him.
[But] His father spoke [to him]:
“Who knows if that won’t bring you bad luck?”

A rich house has good horses and the son mounted with joy/loved riding.
He fell and broke his leg.
Everyone [people] felt sorry for him.
[But] His father spoke [to him]:
“Who knows if that won’t bring you good luck?”

One year later the barbarians invaded across the border.
Adult men strung up their bows and went into battle.
Nine out of ten border residents were killed, except for the son because of his broken leg.
Father and son were protected/both survived.

Hence: Bad luck brings good luck and good luck brings bad luck.
This happens without end, and nobody can estimate it.

Translation by Claude Larre et al. Les grands traités du Huainan zi, 1993, p. 208–209.

The 10 lessons from the parable of the man who lost his horse

1. Remain Curious

Before you attribute meaning to an event, approach it and life’s uncertainties with curiosity and a positive attitude. What can you learn from this event?

2. Be Open

Avoid giving final meaning, and instead remain open to the possibility that this event might be the opposite of what you thought. In the parable, the father would remind his son that what he thinks is bad right now, might turn out to be good later.

3. Beware Of Judging The Event

When you judge the event as good or bad, you shut down your mind to any other possibilities. Judging it as bad can move you to give up or take the wrong action.

4. Focus On Controlling Only The Things You Can

Throughout the story, each occurrence is an example of things that were outside of the control of the man  – the horse fleeing, his injuries, the barbarians invading the border, etc. Therefore, focus only on the things which you can control. Trying to control things you cannot causes frustration and anxiety.

5. Don’t Ignore Will Power

It is easy to misinterpret this story into thinking that you are a victim of your fate. You still have will power, and you still have the ability to create and shape your life. How did the man (the son) in the story get his first horse, how did they become rich? He must have set goals and taken some action.

“You never know what will be the consequence of the misfortune, or you never know what will be the consequences of good fortune.”
– Alan Watts

https://youtu.be/FSw9tLo0Fgk

6. Direct Your Energy Carefully; Don’t Waste It

The constant reminder by father to son to question the judgment he places on each event, is also a reminder to beware where you place your energy. What would the benefit be if the son each time made a judgment and then wasted energy in anger, frustration, bitterness, resentment, hopelessness or anxiety?

7. Beware Of Extremes

Unknowingly, we look for good when bad happens or attach the wrong meaning.

For example, “Every cloud has a silver lining…It’s a blessing in disguise…everything happens for a reason.” These phrases are not designed to teach that good can become bad or bad can become good but rather that there is always something inherently good in even in bad events. And that is not always true. See number 10 below.

8. Question The Stories You Tell Yourself

What is the story you create for yourself? Perhaps you say, ‘Bad things always happen to me’, or ‘I have no control, and I am a victim of circumstance.’ The story you tell yourself determines your mindset – your emotions, your actions and thus, your next results – the ones within your control!

9. Your Story Does Not End With This Single Event

Do you think in terms of ‘all-or-nothing’? Do you catastrophize? In other words, do you think ‘This one bad thing has happened and therefore my entire life is over’?

10. This Isn’t A Perfect Story – Bad Things Do Happen

The loss of a loved one is bad – even if it ended their suffering. A child being sexually abused is bad; a child suffering and dying from terminal cancer is bad; genocide is bad. Distinguish between the life events that are truly bad and cause suffering; and beware of making yourself suffer over things that don’t warrant suffering. Celebrate the good things and remain open to whatever else comes your way.

If you need help to resolve pain from  relationships, an ex or trauma, do as others have done and resolve it rapidly and build new healthy relationships by using my SRTT process  – and without reliving the pain or being triggered: book a one-on-one session with me.

You can add to the conversation below.

I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”

Patrick Wanis Ph.D. Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist

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