Letters to my unborn child: The panic hole is a bad bet, here's what you should do instead

Hi, I’m Brian and I’m a writing series called 9 months: Letters to my unborn child. It’s a non-linear journey of my observations of life distilled into what I believe are enduring lessons. The plan is to collect these letters, publish them into a book and one day give a copy to him or her.


Dear kid,

I came across some words that I enjoyed very much. These have been translated into English for which I am thankful because I don’t know a lick of Classical Chinese:

Stop trying to control.
Let go of fixed plans and concepts,
and the world will govern itself.

Reading this text, I am reminded of my younger days when your Grandpa used to take me to the YMCA in Lakewood, Ca. I had plenty of memories — both curious and valuable — at this place.

I’ll never forget the Men’s locker room due to immaturity — this challenge hasn’t worn off as a 32 year old either. I’m working on it.

The sauna is still a mystery to me because of the thick steam that blinded me when I entered but I eventually realized that was also the point of the sauna. It was a place where grown men could retreat when world began to be too much — an economical form of escapism.

I got into a fist-fight with a kid after he threw the ball at the back of my head playing one-on-one in the basketball gym. The fight ended with lackluster and both of us slowly untangled from the ground when we decided we were too fatigued to keep going. We went to Wienerschnitzel afterward and shared some chili-cheese fries.

I’m not a fan of the dual awareness camp of thought, but I suppose what follows are the “good” memories.

Grandpa rebounding my shots and helping me develop my jumper.

The ice cold lemon-lime Gatorade that sometimes would pour into my throat like a slushy.

Watching your uncle Alfie bench press an enormous 225 pounds made me want to be a strong man when I got to the age when lifting weight was allowed.

However, one of the most substantive experiences at the YMCA was learning how to swim. Your grandpa taught me how to do this the old fashioned way. He got me in the water, showed me a few things for reasons of survival, and then he let me figure it out.

At first, I was scared of the deep end. I imagined sharks would appear from the bottom and gobble me up. For a while, I stayed in the shallow end where it was safe. This got boring and the only way to revive the interest was to see what the deep end was like.

No matter how many people demonstrated equanimity in the deep end, I couldn’t help but splash around in a goofy panic in order to save my own life when I entered the part of the pool what was labeled greater than six feet deep. It was unnecessarily exhausting. Grandpa would be at a distance to let me fail at this but close enough to keep an eye on his boy.

Then one day after the usual panic and ensuing tiredness, I let myself just float in the deep end. I stopped trying. I stopped panicking. I stopped exhausting myself.

When I freed myself from the idea that being in the deep end didn’t require a crippling nervousness and drug-like energy to stay afloat, was I able to manage myself in the waters that scared me so much.

I’m learning this is a challenge for all human beings: Effectively dealing with the “deep ends” of life.

When we come up against a decision, task, or project that feels impossible our first reaction is to enter the panic hole.

The panic hole is an illusion of control. It requires all of you but gives nothing in return besides an urge to curl up in the fetal position. I’ve only spent about 13 minutes on Wall St., which means I’m not a guru when it comes to investing, but I can assure you the panic hole is a bad bet.

Lao-Tzu penned his thoughts thousands of years ago, but they are relevant today and offer a simple antidote to the panic hole:

Stop trying to control.
Let go of fixed plans and concepts,
and the world will govern itself.

Practicing these words alone in your day to day life will give you a suppleness and adaptability that money cannot buy. In other words, this virtue — flexible endurance — is priceless.

Love you,

from Poppa.

P.S. I’m happy to report that there are no sharks in the deep ends of swimming pools. But, you’ll probably have to learn this by experience rather than me preaching it to you.

 


 

Hi, I’m Brian.

I wrote Upgrade Everything originally as a guide for myself. Once I discovered how well it worked, I figured it would help my fellow creatives too. My aim for this course is to simply help you do better work faster.

 

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