Two Keys to Remaining Open to the Best and Worst of Life

Kyle Tymo
Kyle Tymo
Oct 11, 2019 · 7 min read

Given the complexity of life, it is often hard to know whether the things we crave will truly fulfill us, or will be the exact opposite of what we most needed. It is far too difficult to predict how certain circumstances will play out in the future, which makes it difficult to remain confident that certain pursuits are “perfect for us”, whereas others would prove to be awful. Sometimes, the most crushing blow can prove to be a life-saving boon. Life is impossible to predict and understand. A story that describes this well is that of the farmer…

(From https://sivers.org/horses)

A farmer had only one horse. One day, his horse ran away.

His neighbors said, “I’m so sorry. This is such bad news. You must be so upset.”

The man just said, “We’ll see.”

A few days later, his horse came back with twenty wild horses following. The man and his son corralled all twenty-one horses.

His neighbors said, “Congratulations! This is such good news. You must be so happy!”

The man just said, “We’ll see.”

One of the wild horses kicked the man’s only son, breaking both his legs.

His neighbors said, “I’m so sorry. This is such bad news. You must be so upset.”

The man just said, “We’ll see.”

The country went to war, and every able-bodied young man was drafted to fight. The war was terrible and killed every young man, but the farmer’s son was spared, since his broken legs prevented him from being drafted.

His neighbors said, “Congratulations! This is such good news. You must be so happy!”

The man just said, “We’ll see.”

The complexity of life is impossible to fully grasp. “Good” and “Bad” are concepts on the same spectrum, and sometimes the exact opposite of what we would anticipate.

Some individuals try to explain the randomness and complexity of life by assigning human-like qualities to the idea of life itself: “Life is a fickle one” , “Lady Luck came back to me once again” , “Life has a way of evening out the scores”. Rather than question the merits of doing so, let us agree that life often does not make any sense to us. Whether there truly is a plan, or it is unfathomably random, many of us can recall a moment where we were left wondering “why did this happen?”, utterly confused by the turn of events in our lives.

There are times when life will make no sense. Unexpected twists and turns in the journey ahead are guaranteed. The most adaptable of us will be those who are able to accept any unexpected occurrence in life, analyze the situation, adjust accordingly, and carry on without hesitation. Those who can envision a path forward for themselves while remaining open to unforeseen possibilities are those best equipped to embark on the winding path they will walk through life.

There are two ideas that put us in the best position to navigate our random, complex lives:

(1) Keeping our eyes open, and (2) Holding everything in our lives lightly.

Keeping Our Eyes Open

Keeping our eyes open involves looking forward. Even with our eyes wide open, we have a limited degree of vision. We have evolved to look intensely towards whatever is before us. Our peripheral vision is limited, and we cannot turn our heads like owls. Instead, we have evolved to scrutinize what lies directly ahead. Given that we walk in the direction of our vision, this keeps us moving forward.

Our vision is a powerful tool. Our eyes allow us to focus on what lies immediately before us, as well as look out into the future to see what lies on the horizon. Our eyes allow us to step forward into the world and navigate the obstacles that lie ahead.

Having also evolved as hunters, our eyes have become adept at focusing on the targets we pursue. With the capability of looking to both the near-term and the long-term, we can fixate on a goal and pursue it. With long-fielded vision, we can change course when necessary, taking winding roads and turning left and right, because we are able to remain locked on the target we select.

We are goal-oriented individuals who set targets and seek to achieve them. Blessed with capable eyesight, we can envision the path to achieving that which we seek, through even the harshest of terrain. Keeping our eyes open allows us to continually intake new information and navigate the circumstances that come up before us. We intake the information we need to make decisions, to pivot, and to continue moving towards our goal. Keeping our eyes open helps us remain focused on whatever target we acquire, helping us remain locked-in and mission-driven. We were designed to move forward.

Holding Everything Lightly

In complement to our eyes, we each have a set of hands. Having evolved to produce and use tools, our hands work in tandem with our eyes to create the realities we seek for ourselves. We can select various tools and labor towards building either what is necessary to achieve our target, or to build the target itself.

Yet given the complexity of life and how unforeseen obstacles arise, sometimes we must relinquish our grip on the tools we have in-hand, and open ourselves up to using other tools. We must hold everything in our life lightly.

Similarly to how everything looks like a nail for those wielding hammers, it may become necessary to change the tools we use. Life may even strip the tools from our hands, leaving us open-palmed and having to adjust how we construct our realities. While some tasks require us to hold the tools in our life with a vice-grip, refusing to let go at critical moments in the building process, there are other moments where holding on too tightly causes unnecessary suffering. Many occasions require us to relinquish the tools we hold in the moment and return to having empty, open palms. He who is empty-handed may look to be the most useless in the moment, but it is also he who is best suited to pick the right tool for the next task at hand.

And while our hands hold the tools we build with, our hands also hold our most treasured possessions, oftentimes the fruits of our labor. Our hands hold the food we eat and the hands of those we love. Particularly when holding the hands of those we love, we grow tempted to cling tightly with a vice-grip, refusing to release our grip irrespective of the circumstance. But as would be the case for two people walking in different directions, holding too tightly may cause unnecessary discomfort, and even pull one or both individuals entirely off-course.

By holding everything in our lives lightly, we remain capable of picking up the right tools needed to attain the targets our eyes fixate upon. We can reach out to hold the hands of those in our lives whom we love dearly. But we also remain humble, willing to accept that some tools fit certain jobs better than others, and that there will be moments where the best approach we can take is live life with open, unclenched palms. Lightly holding the things in our lives, from the tools, to the people, to the targets, ideas, and even our beliefs, allows the people in our lives to come and go as we need, and places us in the best position to respond to the next step in the journeys of our lives.

Moving Forward

Like the farmer who remains non-judgemental over the events unfolding in his life, we too must remain open to the idea that life plays itself out in mysterious ways, and that good vs bad is not always easy to discern.

The best way to achieve in life is to leverage our evolution to select targets, and pursue them relentlessly, using all of the tools in our toolkit.

The best way to remain open to life is to hold the tools, and the ideas, and the possessions, even the people in our lives, very lightly. This way, we remain open to life’s unpredictable nature and can allow our open hands to grasp whatever we need most in the present moment.

Keep your eyes open, and hold everything in your life lightly. As to what the next moment will bring? We’ll see.

Originally published at https://kyletymo.com on October 11, 2019.

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +569K people. Follow to join our community.

Kyle Tymo

Written by

Kyle Tymo

Life’s too damn short — enjoy the journey. I cover purpose, fulfilment, principles. I’ll write, you read (and if you write, I’ll read). Cheers. kyletymo.com

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +569K people. Follow to join our community.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade