Just Get ‘Zen’ Already

Some sounds of Hanoi (my latest ‘home’) to listen to while reading.

When I was in Thailand I was down to living on less than $1 per day as I waited for my location independent business to pick up. (Read about that experience)

When I crossed the border into Laos, the Thai government took literally ALL of my money because I overstayed my visa. (I had about $30 left thanks to my nearly 1 month overstay.)

On my first night in Hanoi I spent 5 minutes freaking out that I lost my passport, only to remember that I had left it with the receptionist downstairs.

Life’s little vicissitudes keep slapping me in the face. Every time they do I break into a cold sweat, feel a pang of what my psychiatrist would call ‘stress’, and begin the habitual process of ‘worst case scenario’ thinking.

This response is automatic. BUT isn’t it about time I got ‘Zen’ and dropped it entirely?

For one, it’s killing me. We all know that feeling stress literally shortens your life.

On another note, it’s totally unnecessary. The stress doesn’t help me at all and I’ve never actually been in a situation where I was in danger. Even when I had to live on $1 per day, I just had to deal with it and eat my (yes, nutrient deficient) clean, filling, and pleasant tasting white noodles for 4 days.

So, I’ve gone through some problems of a certain ‘middle’ level of importance. Why do similar problems of the same size keep stressing me out?

Why can’t I just get ‘Zen’ already?


I have a theory.

Just like learning any skill, such as riding a bike or driving a car or juggling, dealing with ‘stressful’ situations can only be learned through deliberate focus and many repetitions.

If you want to juggle 3 balls, you need to attempt the feat 50 times to get marginally good at it, and then another 500 times to master it.

If you want to quickly be able to get ‘Zen’ when stressful situations arise you need to go through a LOT of stressful situations while actively trying to remain calm and relaxed.

War-hardened soldiers and ‘economic crisis’ entrepreneurs don’t seem phased by anything because they’ve taken so many emotional punches they’re immune.

If you avoid stress, therefore, you’ll never learn to deal with stressful situations! They’ll always freak you out, and things that won’t bother a soldier who’s had bullets over his head will send you into cardiac arrest.

You may be able to avoid stress by sitting on a mountaintop or meditating daily. (No stressors involved) but I’m not sure which approach is feasible for most people or most useful for those in a world where stressors are inevitable.

I feel like this latter approach of avoiding all stressors may fall apart as soon as you actually try to do something like start a company or fight in a war.

Only by dealing with stress can you learn to deal with stress.

What do you think?