BuildingNarratives: Gratitude: An attitude to greatness

The book essentially helps one to build, cultivate and maintain a positive mindset especially when faced with adversity and carries three takeaway nuggets which are good food for the soul.

A Chinese legend is told of how, when Sai Weng lost one of his prized horses, his neighbour expressed sorrow for his loss.

In an unforeseen reaction, a seemingly unconcerned Weng responded “Who knows if it may be a good thing for me? Surprisingly, the long-lost horse returned home with another horse and when the neighbour congratulated him, he again responded “Who knows if it may be a bad thing for me? As it was to later turn out, a calamity struck when one of his sons broke his leg whilst riding the new horse.

This seemed like a great misfortune until the army arrived at the village to recruit all able-bodied men to fight in the war and because of the son’s injury, he wasn’t recruited which ultimately spared him from the high risk of death had he been conscripted into the army to go for what would have been a bloody war.

How many times have we blamed ourselves or worried about things which were beyond our control?

  • How many times have we worried or blamed ourselves/the universe about not getting that job or promotion we badly want?
  • How many times have we blamed ourselves/the universe or have we troubled ourselves because of that break-up or divorce?
  • How many times have we questioned God about having our car(s) written off in an accident instead of thanking him for preserving our lives and giving us another chance to live?

There is always a reason for everything that happens under the sun.

There are many times that we encounter adversity and ask God why certain terrible things, calamities or misfortunes keep happening to us without actually opening our eyes and embracing adversity and crisis with a great sense of gratitude.

Weng seemed to have adopted a mindset highly emphasized in Dale Carnegie's How to Stop Worrying and Start Living Book, which I intend to thoroughly draw a few insights from one of these coming days.

The book essentially helps one to build, cultivate and maintain a positive mindset especially when faced with adversity and carries three takeaway nuggets which are good food for the soul.

  • Make the best situation out of any situation.
  •  Accept the events that already happened and do not delve into them.
  • Accept the worst-case scenario in every situation even if it will not happen, accept it.

The Chinese folktale essentially teaches us that difficulties can be blessings in disguise and vice-versa.

I’m taken back to the 2019 Ethiopian plane crash which killed 149 people on board and spared a Zimbabwean woman working for the World Food Programme (WFP), and this Zimbabwean woman, for some other reasons had missed her flight. Chances are high that on missing the flight, she probably sunk into self-blame on why she had been late in the first place or tormented herself only to realize in a few hours that she had skipped death by a whisker.

Whenever we are struck by a crisis, we should adopt an “if not me then who gratitude attitude” instead of a why me blame attitude. Just like Sai Weng we should also go a step further and adopt a “Who knows” attitude which exhibits ingredients of gratitude in times of crisis.

It is in the midst of adversity and crises that opportunities are created. It is in the midst of uncertainty that our characters are tested and subsequently moulded. The key lesson from the Chinese folktale is that each day offers new opportunities, joys, struggles and sufferings. In everything we do, we should always bear in mind that throughout the good and bad, gratitude is a virtue and that cultivating a mindset of gratitude can be a good crucible for attaining greatness.

Who knows?

Kak Sri could have been correct in portraying gratitude as “an art of painting adversity into a picture” and the Chinese folktale and insights shared in this piece validates this observation.

  • Fungayi Antony Sox is a seasoned communications and publishing specialist who has advised and consulted for CEOs, executives, entrepreneurs, youth-focused start-ups, businesses, several institutions, and organisations. For feedback contact him on 0776 030 949, connect with him on LinkedIn on Fungayi Antony Sox, or write to him on [email protected].


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