This Incredible Advice Will Apply In Any Situation

By: John Mashni
Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”

— Leo Tolstoy

There is one thing that holds most of us back in life.

This one thing, if not identified, can block our greatest successes and directly cause our greatest failures.

Most people never build up the courage to confront it. And others do not even know that it is halting their progress.

For many people, the great story of their lives is how they confronted it and conquered it.

Fortunately, there is a principle that you and I can follow to avoid its trappings.

One of the Most Powerful Principles Ever

“This, too, shall pass.”

There is a great story about a king who was searching for a principle or piece of advice that would apply in any situation. The king spoke with many wise individuals to find words that would both comfort him when he felt pain and sorrow and provide a grounding effect when he felt elation. The king looked for a phrase that would be true in all situations.

In the end, the only phrase that met the criteria was this:

This, too, shall pass.

I am not sure of the origin of this story, but I do think there is a profoundness to the simplicity of these words. When we suffer pain, it will pass. When we experience happiness or joy, it will pass.

But recently, I have discovered a phrase that I think is equally applicable across the full spectrum of emotions and circumstances.

I have been learning this principle over and over again for the past 25 years. And every time I re-learn it, I become grateful all over again. And if I just remembered it more often, I would have much less pain and other problems!

This single phrase contains one of the most powerful principles ever.

Sacrifice of the Hero

Art is a collaboration between God and the artist, and the less the artist does the better.”

— Andrè Gide

I have been noticing a trend in stories that I resonate with — both in stories that are true and in fictional stories.

At some point, the hero has to learn a lesson. The hero often has to make a sacrifice in order to overcome a great obstacle in his or her path.

The selflessness of heroes is admirable. That is what makes them heroes. Who would not want to support someone like that?

The heroes of our stories sacrifice something important because they understand the principle I am referring to. The sacrifice, however, is an effect — not the cause.

Get Out of the Box

“Very often a change of self is needed more than a change of scene.”
 — Arthur Christopher Benson

The Arbinger Institute has released a brilliant series of books that all elaborate on one concept: “being in the box”. Leadership and Self-Deception, its first book, is the book that I turn to any time I have a problem or issue in my life that I cannot solve.

Being in the box essentially means that you are viewing other people as objects in your life, and nothing else. You are focused on your own wants, needs, and desires — and no one else’s.

This state causes so many problems in our personal and professional lives. Relationships suffer. Friends disappear. It can be almost impossible to accomplish anything or be effective.

However, the only way to get “out” of the box is to stop looking at the people around us as objects that can help us achieve our desires or needs. We must start to view each person as someone just like us — someone with wants, needs, desires, and feelings. Once we view someone as having their own feelings, desires, problems, and pain — and not just objects to help us achieve our aims — we can move forward effectively.

The only way to get out of the box is to shift our focus from our needs to someone else’s.

I’m Too Selfish

Selfishness comes from poverty in the heart, from the belief that love is not abundant.”
 — Don Miguel Ruiz

I recall a conversation with an old acquaintance of mine, who is also very wealthy. This man had one child, and admirably told me congratulations after the birth of my third child.

But he made one comment to me that I will never forget.

He said, “I am just too selfish to have any more kids. One is enough.”

He made the comment quickly and the moment passed before I could ask him to elaborate. But I often reflect on what he said.

What does selfishness have to do with having more children?

Now that I have four children, I understand. You have to give so much in order to raise a family — and not just give, but sacrifice.

What would I say to my old friend if he asked me? I would tell him the incredible advice that I have been building towards in this article.

The Principle that Applies to Any Situation

“It is not about you.”

There are many ways to express this principle. The movie Doctor Strange, expresses it incredibly well.

At the end of the movie, the brilliant neurosurgeon Stephen Strange has learned many lessons from the character known as the Ancient One. But at the end of her life, the Ancient One has one final lesson.

The Ancient One: You have such a capacity for goodness. You’ve always excelled, but not because you crave success but because of your fear of failure.
Dr. Stephen Strange: It’s what made me a great doctor.
The Ancient One: It’s precisely what’s kept you from greatness. Arrogance and fear still keep you from learning the simplest and most significant lesson of all.
Dr. Stephen Strange: Which is?
The Ancient One: It’s not about you!

It is not about you.

Up until this conversation, Stephen had been learning from the Ancient One in order to serve his own purposes — to heal his shattered hands so he could resume his career as a neurosurgeon. But she told him that this desire to claim his old life was holding him back.

It is not about you.

His arrogance and fear came made him a good doctor. But this arrogance and fear prevented him from being great — because the arrogance and fear came from his focus on himself.

It is not about you.

After this conversation, Stephen has a choice — a choice that we all have. Will we use our gifts, education, and skills to make ourselves great? Or will we use them for something greater — in service to others?

It is not about you.

This is the advice that applies in any situation. This is the principle that allows us to conquer our greatest obstacle — ourselves.

Do Not Do This

“It is not about you.”

It isn’t. But do not misinterpret this to mean that you should never do anything for yourself.

  • You still need to take care of yourself.
  • You still need to eat, sleep, rest, and focus on your well-being.
  • You still need to think about yourself and what you want.
  • You still need to be you.

But do not do those things so that you never have a purpose outside of yourself.

Do not make everything about you.

Because it is not about you. There is something greater out there.

It Is Not About You

“Real living is living for others.”

— Bruce Lee

The phrase “it is not about you” can apply in any situation. When I am struggling internally, I whisper “it is not about me” to myself, and it has near universal application.

It can clarify our purpose:

  • Use it to recognize that you can do greater works than just building your own life. Your impact can be greater than yourself.

It can be a powerful filter:

  • Use it to focus on the people around us — spouses, children, friends, colleagues.
  • Helping others is a path to greatness — possibly the only path.

It can provide a powerful framework for our actions:

  • Stop asking for what everyone can do you for you. Start asking what you can do for the person right in front of you.
  • Stop thinking about how your actions affect your future. Start asking how your actions affect someone else’s future.

It can propel us to do what we must do:

  • If you are afraid of what people will think, then realize that it is not about you (and your fears). There is a greater purpose. Focus on who you are supposed to help.

It is not about you.

So what is “it” about anyway, if it is not about you (or me)?

  • It is about recognizing that we can often trip ourselves up.
  • Our own desires, goals, dreams, and pains can cause us to miss some of the most amazing things around us.
  • It is about realizing that our own ego can lead to fear, anger, or resentment.
  • It is about realizing that sometimes the greater mission must overcome how we feel in the moment.

Years ago I heard a pastor give a similar message when he said that leaders must learn to “die to self.” In essence, he was reminding people that:

It is not about you.

In any moment.

In any situation.

As a leader.

As a parent.

As a spouse.

As a boss.

As a manager.

As a student.

As an employee.

As an executive.

As a writer.

As an artist.

As a speaker.

As someone who cares.

As a mentor.

As you.

It is not about you.