You Control Your Response

Do you see Mud or Stars?

Perspective is up to you



In 1968 A young self admittedly ‘mediocre’ student at Central Washington State College with an obviously better attitude to partying fell afoul of the local legal system. The local judge ordered him to spend weekends in jail—punishment for underage drinking. Each weekend he reported to the local jail to serve his punishment. One night in the cell he hoisted himself up to look out the barred glass. His more experienced cellmate asked him what the evening view was like. “What do you see, Jimmy?” The youth scanned the views of freedom outside. “A muddy parking lot” he replied. The older inmate laid back against the wall “From down here, I see stars in the night sky,” he said. “It’s your choice. You can look at stars or mud.”

“Humans see what they want to see.” ― Rick Riordan, The Lightning Thief

It’s All in the Mind

Life will throw events at us, sometimes self-inflicted and sometimes randomly not of our own doing. There’s always two ways to look at every dire circumstance – even from behind the bars of a cell, look at the mud or look at the stars. Often, we need someone to remind us too.

“Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears.” ― Marcus Aurelius

An NFL linebacker once strolled into my office on a Monday morning. He looked downcast and somewhat distraught. I stopped what I was doing and asked him what was concerning him. “I missed a bad tackle yesterday Ferg. The first touchdown was my mistake. I went to cover and shouldn’t have”. I leaned back on my chair and smiled. This was one of our best players and actually had an outstanding game by anyone’s measure but he was so hung up on the one single mistake he made. “Are you looking at a birthday cake?” I said. He looked at me with a confused look. “What do you mean”. I said “I think you might be too hard on yourself. You had a great all round game and made one mistake. All you can think of is the one mistake – which you can learn from. It’s like you have just been handed this fabulous cake for your birthday surrounded by family and loved ones and the only thing you see is a fire from candles.” He thought for a moment and then laughed. “Yeh, that’s actually a great way to describe it”. Sometimes we only see mistakes completely out of context. A few months later the same guy called me to tell me he’d used the same ‘Birthday Cake” metaphor with the new quarterback who was also beating himself up.

“When you Change the Way you Look at Things, the Things You Look at Change”-Wayne Dyer

Incidentally, you probably heard of that once wayward student ‘Jimmy’, but know of him better today as retired General Jim Mattis, legendary US Corp Marine General and former Secretary of Defense. From that experience Jim Mattis “learned that no matter what happened, I wasn’t a victim; I made my own choices how to respond. You don’t always control your circumstances, but you can always control your response.” *
– Mattis, Jim. Call Sign Chaos. Random House Publishing Group.