How I Learned To Stop Caring About Stuff I Can’t Control
Fear had turned into lividness. The cold sweat replaced by boiling hot anger.
It was 4:20 am. I was staying at a cheap run down motel at what the cops had told me was a bad part of town in Oxnard. My neighbor one door down was a prostitute and for the fourth time that night, several men have been pounding at my door and windows.
I had called the police 3 times; each time they came, the men would disappear for a while and then come back. I would learn later that morning that those men had been robbing anyone that opened the door. I literally had all my most important and expensive possessions with me.
Less than a week ago, I had packed all my stuff into a car and left my folks house in Silicon Valley to search for better opportunities and living conditions down in Southern California.
It was one of the lowest times of my life. My start up had failed to get off the ground. Past trauma which I had been suppressing had finally caught up to me. Insecurities I had been rationalizing myself out of finally came out to play. I was stricken with panic attacks and mood disorders that required medication. I felt more lonely and isolated than I had ever been in my life.
Yet I had hope. I have been trained by some of the best mentors in the world on business, self-improvement, and martial arts. I was determined to “make the climb without the rope” -without riding off my folks in any way.
The last thing I could afford driving down to Orange County with all my stuff in my car was a car accident. I did just that by smashing my Camry into a white Prius on the CA-101 South near Oxnard.
Auspiciously, the crash did not trigger a panic attack at all. Instead, I had felt a sense of euphoria upon impact. A cathartic release. A gratefulness to be alive. A sense of realization that it could have been far, far worse.
Suddenly, all the problems I had in my life did not feel all that bad. I handled the aftermath with a sense of calm-focus that I had not felt in months. Did I finally find inner peace? If so, then everything I had gone through was worth it.
Not so fast. Car was in the shop in the middle of nowhere. Over half of my savings that I have been putting aside from Birthdays and investment earnings since I was 7 years old wiped out. Night 2 of living in that shoddy motel, the two robbers banging on my door were the straw that broke the camel’s back.
The negative self-talk came roaring back. Tears rolled down my face.
“This is where you are in life kid. What did I do to deserve this? This isn’t fair.”
“Why wasn’t I good enough? I let everyone down. Stop it!”
“What if I did this better? What I did that better? Stop!”
“It’s over. This is how your story ends kid.”
The medication kept the panic attacks at bay but the self-loathing could not be stopped. Finally, at the peak of my self-pity, a white-hot rage erupted from my chest.
“Fudge* this. Is this a fudging* joke? I don’t fudging* deserve this. Do you have any idea who the fudge* is behind that door you fudging* sons of brownies*?”
What happened next culminated to an emotional clusterfuck of me brainstorming sentimental goodbye texts, staring into the abyss as I felt the captivating pull of a glorious last stand in battle, and experiencing the very human impulse to live and to prosper another day.
In that moment of chaos, I searched for any of piece of wisdom that could bring light to the situation. One floated to the forefront of my mind. It was the voice of my Muay-Thai Coach, the legendary Jivoni Jordan who trained former Strikeforce champion and UFC fighter Cung Le.
“A champion does not concern himself with what his opponent [intends] to do. He concerns himself with what he intends to do and what he intends to do in response to what his opponent does.”
I could not grasp that concept as his student. How do I do respond effectively if I am not concerned about what my opponent does?
As a result, my defense was a paper tiger –technically sound in drilling but easily blown apart in live situations even by less skilled opponents. I was reacting to the offense rather than dictating my own designs and as a result, I was always one step behind my opponent’s offense.
In a sport of where a single second determined knockouts, I gave up multiple seconds of reaction time to overthinking. I was one of the most athletic and conditioned members of that team, yet my body responded so sluggishly to oncoming barrages simply due to having the wrong mindset.
Lying in bed in the motel room, under sheets that I believe were unwashed, I finally understood it. Just let go. Let go of what you can’t control. Focus on what you want, what you are willing to do, and adapt to what is given to you.
So at 4:40 am. I decided that I wanted to get some rest. I decided if they broke down my window, I would calmly climb out of bed and unleash 10 years of wrestling, Brazilian Jiujitsu, and kickboxing upon them. Either that or I will adapt to the appropriate circumstances with a level head.
That is what I planned to do. The rest, I leave up to fate. Including what happens to me. I will focus instead on what I intend to do.