“So, we aren’t closing on the building?”

To which he responded, “There were loans that closed earlier in the morning but the check hadn’t cleared yet when they made the announcement…even those deals aren’t closing. No, we aren’t closing.”


It was July 2007 and the first wave of bank closures just came crashing down with the bank I was supposed to receive financing for buying a historic, boarded up, mixed-use building to convert into my office and house, being one of the first to go.


And with that short conversation with my mortgage broker (remember those?), began what I didn’t realize was going to be a 21 bank, 3 month odyssey filled with twists, turns, a pre-engagement-engagement, living with tenants (who belonged on Jerry Springer) I had already leased my house to for 4 months, a full-blown panic attack, and ultimately the front edge of the Great Recession.


It would be really easy to look back and say, “oh man…two weeks earlier and it wouldn’t have been an issue”, and there were A LOT of times when my mind hosted that pity party, but ultimately who knows how things would have turned out if it had gone as originally planned. 


Who knows if I would have gotten upside down in a way that I couldn’t have dug myself out of.

Who knows if the adversity during that time period battle-tested me enough to take on the wars I ended up facing later in my journey that I wouldn’t have been able to take on otherwise.


Who knows if that would have completely changed the trajectory of my business from what it has become today.


Who knows if I hadn’t been required to get my then-girlfriend to co-sign (much to her mother’s chagrin) on the loan and have our relationship ever forged by the seemingly endless assault of setbacks and challenges, that she would become my now-wife and mother of two kids.


Reflecting up on this reminds me a lot of this ancient Chinese parable:


An elderly Chinese farmer and his son had a single horse. They used the horse to do everything on the farm; it was essential for the farmer to earn his livelihood and feed his family.


One morning, the horse broke the fence and ran away into the woods. When the neighbors found out the farmer’s only horse had run away, they came and said – “Your only horse has run away just before the planting season. How will you till the land? How will you sow the seeds? This is unfortunate. This is bad luck.”


The farmer replied, “Good luck, bad luck. Who knows?”


A few days later the farmer’s horse returned from the woods along with two other wild horses. When the neighbors found out the news, they said,  ”Now you have three horses! You can till the land much faster with three horses. Maybe you can buy more land and sow more crop and make more money. Or you can sell the other two horses. Either way, you will be a rich man! This is good luck! “


The farmer replied, “Good luck, bad luck. Who knows?”


Next morning, the farmer’s son started training the wild horses so that they would help farm the land. While attempting to mount one of the wild horses, he fell down and broke his leg. Just before the sowing season, the son would not be able to help the farmer with his broken leg. The neighbors came once again and commented, ”This is really unfortunate. This is bad luck.“


The farmer repeated, “Good luck, bad luck. Who knows?”


A few days later, the king’s men started to visit each village in the kingdom. A war had started between their kingdom and a neighboring enemy state. The king’s men were enlisting the eldest son from each family to join the army so that they could defeat the enemy state. When they came to the farmer’s house they saw the son with the broken leg. He would not be of much use in the army and hence they didn’t take him. He was the only eldest son in the entire village who was not forcibly taken by the king’s men to fight the war. The neighbors, some of them with teary eyes, came once again to the farmer and commented – “Your son breaking his leg was really fortunate. He is the only one who was not taken. What a stroke of good luck.“


The farmer calmly replied – “Good luck, bad luck. Who knows?”


I have heard several different versions of this parable, several different times, but it never ceases to stop me in my tracks, making me reflect on my journey, and apply it over and over to different scenarios at different times.


I am not a rose-tinted optimist that believes “everything happens for a reason” type of person, instead I firmly believe “everything happens for a reason if you give it one”. I believe my mindset is a conscious choice of whether or not I’m going to wallow in despair and cry “why me?” or lower my shoulder into the headwinds and cry out “why not me?” 


What can I take away from this? 

How could this give me the opportunity to rebuild my life the way I want to? 

How can I make sure to, as Winston Churchill said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.”


Only you and only I can make that choice for ourselves. No outside circumstances, nobody else…only the person staring back at you in the mirror.


What scar tissue from a battle earlier in life is carrying negative energy that’s holding you back?

What unfortunate situation is bombarding you right now that could benefit from a reframing of perspective?


Good Luck…Bad Luck…Who Knows?


Who knows? You know. That’s who. Choose to find the lesson. Choose to become stronger. Choose to be the hero, not the victim, of your story.

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