Expect the Unexpected

“Fortune falls heavily on those for whom she’s unexpected. The one always on the lookout easily endures.”


In explaining the quote from today’s page in The Daily Stoic, author Ryan Holiday uses a couple of examples — of a Zen master and his broken cup, and Epictetus and his stolen lamp — to illustrate how we can avoid being devastated when misfortune comes calling. Specifically, we don’t have to be absolutely crushed when bad luck occurs to us, if we’re expecting it.

Unexpected events happen to all of us. Sometimes it’s bad news, and there’s nothing we can do about it. While it’s true that misfortune proves us to ourselves, it doesn’t make it any easier to stomach, or to accept.

What does make bad luck easier to accept is being prepared for it. If we can anticipate certain hardships coming our way eventually, then we can prepare for the worst when times are good. Expect the unexpected, as the old saying goes.

Of course, we don’t want to worry ourselves silly about things that may never come to pass. A certain amount of balance is necessary to keep our peace of mind. But if we can steel ourselves psychologically for unpleasant events that are likely to occur at some future point (such as a grandparent’s passing), then we won’t be caught off guard by it.

Then the misfortune will not “fall heavily” as Seneca says, and we’ll “easily endure” even the worst of it.

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