I simply offer it as a suggestion for those who might find some of the tools described useful for dealing with the stuff going on in the world right now. It is one approach to handling the current COVID-19 situation and any other difficulties life might throw at us.
If we are going to survive the current crisis, grow as both people and professionals, and have the emotional capacity to deal with life’s blows, we need to be more antifragile! But maybe antifragile is a word you have never heard of before. So what does it mean to be antifragile?
Nassim Nicholas Taleb wrote a book called Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder in 2012. In his introduction to the book he introduces the concept of antifragility in this way:
"Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors and love adventure, risk, and uncertainty. Yet, in spite of the ubiquity of the phenomenon, there is no word for the exact opposite of fragile. Let us call it antifragile. Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better".
This article is going to explore some concepts from that book, plus some ideas from Greek philosophy, and explain why adopting this attitude will help DJs not just survive but thrive in today's world.
1. The Dichotomy of Control
The beginning of the ancient Greek book known as The Enchiridion of Epictetus, states:
"Some things are in your control, and other things are not."
What IS within our control?
Think about it for a moment, what is within your control, and what is not?
Epictetus and others would say the only thing within your control is you living with virtue, and controlling your thoughts and your behaviours. That's the only thing in your control, and it should be your only focus. Everything else is what he would call inconsequential. So some things are in your control. And some things (most things, actually) are not. Virtue, thoughts and behaviours in your control, everything else out of your control. The results of the behaviours you choose: out of your control; the relationships you have in your life: ultimately, out of your control, other than how you choose to show up and think about those relationships.
We need to get really good at discerning: is this within my control or not? And that may not be as straightforward as it first appears. An example is that you may think because something happened in your life, that you necessarily feel a certain way. No! That thing happened, you then CHOSE to think about it a certain way. Therefore, you FELT a certain way!
I believe that one of the best books written in the 20th century was Man's Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl. In that book he said:
"Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
That quote is one of the most powerful things you will ever hear/read in your entire life! Re-read it again a few times until the meaning of it completely sinks in and it could change your entire life. It could change all your relationships, both business and personal. It could change your stress levels and how you react to things. I am not exaggerating when I say that by having a true understanding of that quote it could increase your levels of happiness in life!
You need to excel at choosing the most empowered response to every situation and practice this all the time. When something happens to you, recognise what is within your control and what is outside of it and then choose the response that will best serve you. Doing this will help you to feel grounded, energised, tranquil and calmly confident.
So that's the number one rule. Some things are within our control. Most things are not. Focus on what's within your control, which is the best possible, most virtuous, excellent response to any situation? Let everything else be indifferent to you. Easier said than done!
Are you familiar with The Serenity Prayer?
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”.
2. The reserve clause, Deo volente
Deo volente is a Latin phrase which means ‘the reserve clause’. This is an important concept which builds from step one and recognises that things won’t always go the way we hope. The way to maintain equanimity and tranquillity is, anytime you do something, be energised, be engaged in life, have targets and goals, but always qualify what you're going to do with a sense of “God willing.” Or, if you prefer: "If fate will have it."
Always do your best and try your hardest, but accept that the outcome is not ultimately within your control. Fate must deem that this act will be accomplished or it won't be. When you have that level of reserve clause accounted for in anything you do, you gain a level of calmness and confidence, because you aren't overly attached to the outcome.
Early Christian scholars and theologians would sign off their letters ‘Deo volente’, in this spirit, saying "God willing". In Islam they say "InshAllah" and there are phrases meaning exactly the same thing in many languages and cultures around the world.
If you want absolute certainty in your life, be prepared for absolute terror. Because if you need everything to be perfectly certain, you are in for trouble, you're going to be terrified, because nothing is ever absolutely certain.
3. Thy Will Be Done
So, before you do something, you need to have a reserve clause: ‘Deo volente’ or ‘God Willing’. You must accept that even if you give it your best shot, things may not go your way. Then after the thing has happened you either got what you wanted or you didn't. This is when you combine the reserve clause with ‘the art of acquiescence’. You combine ‘God willing’ with ‘thy will be done’. Before, you realise that it may not go your way, and then afterwards, you accept what has happened.
The art of acquiescence is all about acceptance, about loving what is, ‘Amor Fati’, loving your fate. Whatever it is, you don't just accept it, you love it. Anytime you find yourself overly attached to any outcome or resisting what is; try to adopt the mantra: ‘thy will be done’. "It's not up to me, there's something bigger than me at work here: thy will be done". You combine Deo volente, God willing, and thy will be done and you're bulletproof!
The alternative approach to God willing and thy will be done is God dammit. That's you arguing with reality! And it's never a good idea to argue with God, or the universe, or reality, whatever you want to call it. Byron Katie, author of Loving What Is, a book which is basically a modern application of these ancient philosophical truths, says that:
"You will lose when you argue with reality, when you argue with God or the universe, but only every single time. Whatever is, is. You can do nothing to change that."
Remember the number one rule: can you control it? Some things are in your control. Some things are not, you cannot control the past. You can't control the current reality. You can control whether you virtuously respond to it via your thoughts and behaviours and can influence the next moment of reality, but you can't change what is, therefore, the wise human being accepts it. And the really energised wise human being loves it.
4. Win or Learn
When tackling situations we should either win or learn. After you've done something, ask yourself: "What did I do well?" Just showing up is cause for celebration. But the second, and more important, question to ask yourself is: "What did I learn?" Third, ask yourself: "What am I going to do to get better? These three questions are the key to self-improvement.
Take a moment to think about when was the last time you did something that didn't go as you'd hoped? Apply those three questions to that situation. Come up with a few things you did well. Then think of some things you learnt from it and, finally, consider what can you implement to have a different result the next time you're in a situation like that?
5. Glitches and OMMS
In his book, Meditations, Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius says:
"When force of circumstance upsets your equanimity, lose no time in recovering your self-control, and do not remain out of tune longer than you can help. Habitual recurrence to the harmony will increase your mastery of it."
He is effectively saying: if something happens that knocks you off balance (mentally) see how fast you can get back to having a balanced mind. And, if you practice this, you'll find it EASIER to get back on balance.
By practising this moment to moment, it is embodying and operationalising rule number one. Is this thing within my control? Nope, nothing I can do about it. Let me get back to balance as fast as I can.
Now let’s add to this the idea of ‘Glitches’. In life we will always have glitches, unexpected things that interrupt our status quo. The wise person firstly knows glitches happen. They don't need absolute perfection, because that's absolute terror. They know glitches are going to occur. And their key thing, their main creative act, is to see how quickly they can recover. You drop down, get back right up again. Glitch - recovery, glitch - recovery. And that's what God, or the universe or whatever you want to call it, wants from us: to quickly recover our balance.
Have you ever done obstacle course racing? Such as ‘Tough Mudder’ or ‘Spartan Race’? When you do such races, it is best to adopt the mentality of becoming immune to obstacles. Mantras can be a great way to train our minds and ‘Obstacles Make Me Stronger’ (OMMS) is a wonderful mantra that we can use to create a very tranquil space. Both our bodies and our minds will adapt when we give them pressure, when we give them stress, we become stronger.
Think about this: the wind fuels a fire and extinguishes a candle. Obstacles are the same way. A fragile person is defeated by an obstacle. An antifragile person consumes obstacles, just as fire consumes; they not only overcome them but they use them to grow. If we are antifragile, we want obstacles. We even look for them, because we know they can help us to improve.
Think back to the biggest challenges you've faced in your life... Getting sacked from a job, the death of a loved one, divorce, etc. In many cases it will be a situation that forced you to make a change to your life and that may well have proved to be a positive thing. For some people that is the only way they ever change their life, because they're terrified of change and would therefore never choose it for themselves. But it is change that makes us grow, and many of the times you grew most are likely to have come after what seemed like an awful moment in your life.
For some people reading this, this pandemic situation will lead to major positive changes in their life and in five years’ time they will be in a much better place than they were before this outbreak... while others will be in a much worse place. You have far more control over whether you're the former or the latter than you may think.
If you think there's nothing you can do and life is unfair... then you're right. That is what you will keep receiving from life and you'll continue being a victim and blaming everyone else and the world for your troubles and slagging off people like me for telling you the truth. If, on the other hand, you realise that life isn't just what happens to you, that you have an element of control, you can go about putting foundations in place to give you a much stronger chance of coming out of this in a good place.
Do you go through life being a victim and blaming others for when life doesn’t go perfectly? Many people are up in arms at the moment about how we’ve been forgotten and been treated by the government and been told to retrain. Putting aside the fact that their policy on what businesses may and may not operate is about as logical as the arguments used by flat earthers, bawling about it is unlikely to change things positively. On the flip side, it is likely to increase your stress levels, which is one of the worst moves anyone can make at the moment because that further weakens your autoimmune system which is the last thing you want to do when there is a contagious virus going around that loves picking on people with compromised immune systems!
Maybe a better approach would be to apply for whatever jobs are going – after-all, some income coming in is better than zero income coming in! I know many DJs who have taken on all sorts of work they would never have normally considered; from delivering groceries to cleaning jobs. Then, at the same time, take one of the free/subsidised courses available to us from local colleges and gain a new qualification. Just taking on board some regular studying is likely to stimulate you cognitively, which helps your autoimmune system rather than weakening it.
Something to remember about the "you need to retrain" statement: this virus is not going to be around forever. The media may portray things that way, but they love to wallow in misery. That is what sells their crappy papers and gets them more clicks and thus more eyes on their advertisers’ ads! Do what is necessary to get through this temporary situation until it eventually dies down, which it will. Who knows when that will be, but this virus won't last forever. The gigs will come back and the restrictions will be completely removed eventually. So why not be ready for when it does with a new skill or qualification… you could even learn some new marketing skills along the way, meaning you’ll be in a stronger position by the end of this.
6. Challenge versus threat
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The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 105, Pages 60-66.