Competency

by Tom Swift

Instead of personalizing an event, (“this is my triumph, that was his blunder, or this is my bitter misfortune”) and drawing withering conclusions about yourself or human nature, watch for how you can put certain aspects of the event to good use. Is there some less-than-obvious benefit embedded in the event that a trained eye might discern? Pay attention: be a sleuth. Perhaps there is a lesson you can extract and apply to similar events in the future.

In all events, however seemingly dire, there is nothing to prevent us from searching for its hidden opportunity. It is a failure of the imagination not to do so. But to seek out the opportunity in situations requires a great deal of courage, for most people around you will persist in interpreting events in the grossest terms: success or failure, good or bad, right or wrong. These simplistic, polarized categories obscure more creative — and useful — interpretations of events that are far more advantageous and interesting!

-Epictetus, Manual for Living (1994, Sharon Lebell translation)