Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.

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I have bad news, she said quietly, like a circus tamer gingerly approaching a rabid, caged lion. I waited. I’ve done the figures over twice now and keeping getting the same answer… you’re going to owe a lot for taxes this year. A lot? I asked. Like $17,000 a lot, she sheepishly replied.


What would your reaction be to that news, ten days prior to the filing date?


The first Stoic of recorded history, Zeno of Citium (331 – 261 BC) was the son of a merchant whose primary trade was purple dye. Zeno’s father would bring him along on voyages of enterprise aboard his merchant ship and provide him with books on philosophy to grow his mind and pass the time as they traveled over the water. One particularly rough crossing, the ship was overturned and destroyed and Zeno found himself brought ashore in Athens, Greece.


Athens was the setting of many of the (then-modern) philosophical texts Zeno has been reading all those years aboard his father’s ship and so he decided to explore the city while he awaited new passage home. Zeno stumbled into a bookstore (a man after my own heart!) and asked the clerk there where he might find the great philosophers like Socrates, whom he had been reading so much about. The clerk looked up and happened to notice a well-known Athenian philosopher, called Crates the Cynic, walking past and told Zeno to, “follow yonder man.”


He did and in short order became a devout mentee of Crates, thus founding Cynism as a formalized philosophy. When he reflected on his life, many years later, Zeno is credited as having said:


“I made a prosperous voyage when I suffered shipwreck.”


The tax bill I was looking at could have been a shipwreck. Or it could have indicated the jumping off point for a prosperous voyage.


My mindset even a year ago would’ve been to react to this news in tears or rage. How could that be possible? Damn, IRS taking so much of our hard earned money? What was wrong with my accountant, she had to be making a mistake?! Where will the money come from? Poor me! This always happen to me. I’m always struggling!


Yet, now, I simply laughed.


I’m sure there’s a mistake somewhere — we’ll find it.


“Constraints are blessings in disguise.” – Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson, co-authors of Rework


I wasn’t upset. We went line by line through the return and two wonderful things struck me during the course of that conversation with my wonderful CPA.


First, I wasn’t upset about the news. The mere fact that I had made enough money in my business last year to actually owe $17,000 in taxes was actually a welcome surprise! Years before I would’ve been lucky to even make $17,000 at all! Now I owed that in taxes? Surely I’d had a great 2015, as I’d already supposed. Second, by having a mindful, calm and even humorous reaction to the news, we were easily able to find the mistake. An Excel spreadsheet I had sent an under-study at her CPA office with all my 2015 business expenses had been misplaced The amount owed was drastically reduced with the business expenses entered into my return and so the psychological trauma and story telling was not only avoided, it never happened.


How did I get to this place where I could take the news so calmly?


Mindfulness training.


I have been a diligent student of spirit and mind over the last three years. My goal? Inner peace. Tranquility. Do I live that every day? Of course not! Some days I’d be hard pressed to tell you I’ve made any progress over the last years of dutiful, daily training. Yet, this event made me realize something. I have grown! That tranquility has taken root and mind, while still a moving motion-filled place, is not the torrid, raging waters it once was and my work is actually paying off. I feel calmer. More blessed. I’m able to see more and more that every experience is a blessing and an opportunity.


I’ll repeat that because it’s the key to life, to inner peace and the purpose to this story for you.


Every experience is a blessing and opportunity.


Diogenes of Sinope, another well-known Stoic commented on this perspective saying, “Such is the madness of men. That they choose to be miserable when they have it in their power to be content.”


A $17,000 tax bill could be a calamity, or a blessing. You could have perhaps have only dreamed of a time years ago where your business would’ve made that much, yet here you could stand with a bill that reflects just how wonderful and abundant your year really was for you.


You get to choose to see what exists. You get to choose to see the lesson and the blessing. It’s also your choice not to see it if you don’t want to.


“Change the way you look at things, and the things you look at change.” – Dr. Wayne Dyer


My intention for you to have the vision and open your eyes today to see all the ways in which you, and each of us, is so incredibly blessed in this moment.