Good and Bad is Relative

4954049243_d5549d9f7cEvery problem or obstacle in our lives – however big or small, uncomfortable or otherwise – contains an equivalent or greater benefit or opportunity.

The moment something happens in our lives that we think of is ‘bad’, we tend to look upwards and curse. Whether we have suffered financial loss, experienced a business or career disappointment , been involved in an accident or even been diagnose with a serious health problem, the common response is ‘why me?’ What did I do to deserve this?’ However, what we don’t realise at the time, but often come to appreciate much later, is that it is precisely those setbacks and challenges, or more accurately , our response to them, that determines our future happiness and success.

How do you know whether any particular experience in your life is ‘good’ or ‘bad’? For some people, anything that brings (instant) pleasure is good and anything that causes (immediate) pain is bad. But what would we think of say, candy floss, which brings (instant) pleasure (to people who enjoy eating brightly coloured strands of sugar), but will also cause tooth decay and thereby bring pain? Or would the pain caused by a dentist drilling out decay in a tooth be considered ‘bad’ when ultimately the removal of the decay and the refilling of the tooth protects us from even greater pain in the future?

Other people think of something as ‘good’ if it propels us towards our hopes and desires, and conversely, they say that anything that moves us in the opposite direction, away from our hopes and dreams, is ‘bad’. But, when we look at people like Julio Iglesias we see that was perceived as bad because it put an end to his childhood aspirations of becoming a professional footballer, actually turned out to be very good because it enabled him to pursue a different and in many ways , bigger dream.

The three boys, all brothers, were pumped up with excitement and anticipation heading to the local cinema. it was a fresh Saturday morning in the suburbs of Manchester in 1950s’ Great Britain. The local cinema was full of children, some with their parents, watching the show. The three boys were not on their way to watch a film. It had all been arranged with the manager. They were going to entertain the audience during the intermission by miming to a record. They were going to be a fun novelty act. But on that morning, as the boys ran to the cinema, they met with a crisis; the record to which the boys were going to mime dropped out of its sleeve and smashed on the pavement.

Without a record to mime to  the boys could have been forgiven for giving up and going home. The cinema manager would have understood. But they chose a different option. As they continued on to the cinema, the brothers agreed between themselves that they would still perform, only this time they would sing for real. The eldest of the three, Barry, played the guitar and together with his two younger brothers, Maurice and Robin, the three boys sang live to the audience. That morning was the first time the boys had ever sung in public, and the audience loved them. They were an instant hit.

The crisis that had so nearly spoiled their day proved to be the catalyst that changed all three of the boys’ lives. It marked the beginning of one of the most successful male pop bands, song writers and recording artists, of all time. Those three boys were the brothers Gibb, better known as ‘The Bee Gees’.

It was many years later, as they walked along Keppel Road in Manchester while filming a documentary of their lives, that Robin stopped at the point where that record had dropped and shattered. Turning to the camera, he mused, ‘Had we not smashed the record that day, we wouldn’t have started singing together.’ That broken record, or more accurately, how they responded to it, launched careers that would span over five decades.

Recognising what are good or bad events in our lives is not as easy as we might think. Many people believe that, at the extremes, it is clear-cut. For example, most people would agree that hitting the jackpot and winning millions in the national lottery would be good, whereas ending up paralysed in freak diving accident or losing your legs in a plane crash should be bad. But how do we really know whether something  that happens to us is good or bad?

William ‘Bud’ Post won $16.2 million in the Pennsylvania lottery in 1988 and ended up penniless, living on social security. When interviewed, Post said, ‘ I wish it never happened”. Winning the lottery, as far as he was concerned, had been a ‘nightmare’.

Post’s nightmare started when a former girlfriend successfully sued him for a share of his winnings. Later, there were reports that his brother had been arrested for hiring a hit man to kill him, in the hope of inheriting a share of William’s winnings. Other siblings allegedly pestered him (although not with such grievous intent) until he agreed to invest in a car business and a restaurant in Sarasota, Florida. These two ventures only served to cause further strain on his relationships with his siblings and, of course, lost hime more of his money.

Not long afterwards, Post was sent to prison for firing a gun over the head of a debt collector, and within a year, he was not just penniless – he was $1 million in debt. Post admitted he was both careless and foolish in trying to please everyone in his family. Eventually he filed for bankruptcy. According to reports, he lives quietly on $450 a month and food stamps. ‘I’m tired, I’m over sixty-five years old, and I just had serious operation for a heart aneurysm. Lotteries don’t  mean [anything] to me,’ he says.

By Adam J. Jackson, The Flipside.

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