How to face any situation

Coming back across the bay from San Francisco this afternoon, I was surprised to discover that the front wheel of my bicycle had been stolen. After casing everyone and every corner I could see, I gave up ever seeing it again. Being the Bay Area, I walked a few hundred yards down to the bike shop and asked how much a new wheel would be ($130). This would of course be the bike shop that conveniently offers a free bike valet. The very same valet that I passed this morning, running late and heading straight for the bike racks.

I love my home town, but it is an urban city which is both convenient and unpredictable. Things get lost, parking tickets accrue, and unlocked quick-release tires get stolen.  I was angry and incredulous for a few moments, but then I shook my head and cursed having to pay the stupid tax. Whether you are in Port-au-Prince, Shanghai, or Oakland, more important than what happens to you, is how you deal with it. Here is my easy five-step process;

  1. Relax
  2. Assess the situation
  3. Come up with options
  4. Learn the lesson
  5. Move on

Many life lessons are in that infuriating category of ‘something preventable‘ where the only one you can really blame is yourself. I once left a brand new Hong Kong tailored suit on a Shinkansen between Tokyo and Kyoto, and a favorite Panama hat on a bench in a hotel in Shanghai. I dived into a shallow pool in Costa Rica which led to eight stitches in my forehead, and I slid down a waterfall in Fiji and nearly drowned. Even the emotional pain of finding that the exact same leather handbag you purchased at the shop next door in the Djemaa el Fna of Marrakech is now half the price in the shop you’re in can generally be avoided by simply paying attention.

However, when we inevitably lose a gamble by taking something for granted, it’s important to realize that both the cause and the incident are in the past and to focus on the present and future. The first point can’t be stressed enough – calming down, not getting upset, and letting it roll off of you is the key to the success of the other four points. When you’re calm, you can assess the situation clearly and from different angles. Once you understand the problem, then you have enough information to determine priority, impact, and possible solutions. Step 4 is tricky. Everything is a lesson, and failures are more important than successes, since they are what force us to learn how to do better next time. Sometimes the lesson isn’t obvious, and often it can be hard to acknowledge, but it is also where we grow in experience and confidence. Finally, one moves on, either to solve the problem or deem it unimportant and let it go.

Today’s lesson taught me to lock my front wheel in a crowded urban subway station.  It also served as an important reminder as my wife and I begin to plan our four month sojourn through Southeast Asia and Morocco, that we will likely encounter worse surprises, and always at inconvenient times. Learn what you can beforehand, pay attention, and calmly solve problems that arise. Those thirteen words will get you thru a lot.

Posted by | Comments (3)  | June 10, 2010
Category: Lifestyle Design, Vagabonding Advice

3 Responses to “How to face any situation”

  1. Rebecca Says:

    Many people have experienced trying situations in life because life seems to give you some lessons once in awhile. Your tips are very helpful. Getting upset will make matters worse. Suck it up and deal with it as best as you can. You can always look at the bright side of situations. For example, at least someone stole your front tire without pulling a gun or knife on you. Hey, it could happen. Remember, life will go on and you’ll survive.

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