Gratitude: Good news, bad news – who knows
After nearly two years of coping with the isolation required by a worldwide pandemic, we are finally able to spend time with people again. Most of us are truly grateful for much of what we took for granted just a few short years ago. The opportunity to enjoy time with friends and family, travel and host and attend events and parties is once again a part of our lives. At the University, it is so rewarding to get to know my students again outside of a computer screen and to have guests back on campus.
In early 2020 when the world went into isolation and quarantine, we all experienced collective panic and fear every time we turned on the news or talked (from at least 6 feet or via zoom) to our neighbors and friends. As I look back on this time, I am very grateful for the first responders who braved the world at a time when many of us were able to stay safe at home and work. I am also grateful for the time not spent in commuting to work or attending meetings and events. Because of the time that became available, I was also able to write my new book, See, Do, Repeat: The Practice of Entrepreneurship. I could never have imagined that when the pandemic cancelled much of our plans and life as we knew it, I would have been able to realize a dream that had been formulating for some time, but that I had not been able to pursue due to the busyness of life and other commitments.
This year, I have been blessed once again, with the opportunity to publish not only my first popular press book, but a second one. Last month, at the annual Global Conference of the Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization, I launched a companion book, Exploring the Practice of Entrepreneurship. This guidebook provides in-depth exercises and activities to help anyone who wants to find and act on more opportunities, build their confidence, and move beyond failure.
My first book is dedicated to my mother. After years of studying entrepreneurship including the skills and abilities that lead to success in entrepreneurship, I found that the lessons I learned through my research, were the same ones she taught me from birth. Being curious and interested in the world, being willing to take a risk and try something, even when I wasn’t sure of an outcome, and to keep going even when I failed and made mistakes: this was how she lived her life and how she encouraged me to live mine.
My mother also believed deeply in the power of gratitude. This was another important rule for life that I learned from her. There is plenty of research to support the value of being grateful. Gratitude has been shown to increase levels of well-being, lead to greater contentment and satisfaction in life, and improve health and relationships.
In the US, we are approaching the Thanksgiving holiday – a time to reflect and give thanks. This is a bittersweet time for me. My mother enjoyed this holiday more than any other. She loved having the family together since she believed so strongly in the power of gratitude, this was an essential holiday for her. But it was also on Thanksgiving Day, three years ago, that she passed away. She was so excited to have her family coming together one more time, but a few days before Thanksgiving, she fell, broke her hip, and was in extreme pain. The doctors recommended surgery even though we all knew it was risky. As I talked with her and held her hand on her way to the operating room, she looked me in the eyes, and said, “Rebecca, no tears. Whatever happens, I have been blessed and am so grateful for you and our family and I have had a wonderful life.” She lived through the night and into the next day but was never able to communicate again with me. Shortly after my brother arrived, we had the opportunity to spend a few hours with her on that one last Thanksgiving. I will be forever grateful for the many Thanksgivings we had together. And I will always remember that her last words were filled with gratitude, love, and appreciation.
Even though my mother passed, she is still with me every day as I remember the lessons and stories that she gave me. It has been cathartic to share them in my books and my blog. Today, I want to pass along one more. It is an old Chinese fable that she shared with me as a reminder to trust in the beauty of life and the power of acceptance and gratitude. The last few years have been challenging for us all. There has been a tremendous loss for so many, but there also continues to be joy and hope. I hope you find some peace in this story and that you, too, can find much to be grateful for in your life, even when it seems that life isn’t going the way you want or expected.
Good News, Bad News, Who Knows?
There was once an old Chinese farmer who had a horse to plough his fields. One morning he woke up to discover the horse had run away during the night. Seeing this, his neighbor said, “That’s terrible. What are you going to do now?” The farmer, who was a wise man, replied, “Good news, bad news, who can say?”
A couple of days later, the horse returned, accompanied by another horse. This time, the neighbor said, “What great good fortune!” The farmer’s response was the same: “Good news, bad news, who knows?”
The farmer gave the second horse to his son but soon afterwards, the horse threw him, and he broke his leg. Seeing this, the neighbor said to the farmer: “So sorry for the bad news about your son. Who’s going to help you on the farm now?” To which the farmer answered, “Good news, bad news, who can say?”
A week later, war broke out in the province. All the able-bodied young men were drafted to fight. Being injured, the farmer’s son was spared. The neighbor said, “What a relief that your son doesn’t have to go to war.” Good news, bad news, who knows?” replied the farmer.