Today’s adage comes from the middle ages. That age produced Hobbes and his reflection on a person’s short, brutish life. Many believed those who laughed or sang or enjoyed living, would soon stand corrected. Such unhelpful attitudes persist today.
Even in our more enlightened age, we see such reversals of fortune. Business rise and fall. Personal reputations vanish with small indiscretions. With our ever-more connected world, the time for such corrections grows shorter.
With sorrow, we tend to look for culprits. Upon whom can we lay blame for our pain? This perpetuates the round trip from happiness to sadness.
We choose this cycle. As a result, we can choose to break this cycle, too. Many see the world as acting upon them. They ignore their own sense of agency to act upon the world.
If you saw Martin Scorcese’s film The Departed, you will recall this line:
I don’t want to be a product of my environment. I want my environment to be a product of me.
Frank Costello’s declaration shows us a path to stop the cycle in its tracks. Fortune impacts us only if we allow it. When we take responsibility for our choices, we put a stop to sorrow over bad outcomes. In feeling the pain of failure, we can find ways to fix what went wrong.
I learned this lesson over the span of several years. When I first started in my profession, most of my success was luck. I would start days with elation and end them with despair. I didn’t see how I could improve, because I did not see my own impact on the situation.
I had a very good teacher who helped me slow down and consider my role. When I saw my errors, I fixed them. When I took responsibility for my mistakes, I stopped making them. And now when I laugh before sunrise, I keep laughing all the way to bedtime.