There is a well-known motivational speaking myth that the Chinese character for stress or crisis involves the words ‘danger’ and ‘opportunity.’ When I first heard this I thought, “Deep. The Chinese keep getting it right.” Danger and opportunity to symbolize stress is THE perfect combination. Go ahead. Think about it. In times of stress, our mind and body make the many metabolic adjustments in order to prepare us for danger. For example, see yourself having an upcoming meeting with your boss that you have no clue what it’s about. Your body and mind scream, “Danger, Danger!” Then your mind may wander to thoughts of it being a promotion, or a pat-on-the-back for that moment when you provided the customer with warm service or closed that sale. These positive thoughts settle you down a bit and everything is fine again. Thirty seconds later you get spun back into a place of worry. Then, you get whipped back to the encouraging side like the Round-up ride at your local carnival that says, “Maybe it’s a promotion.” What I’m saying is this is an example of a stressful situation in which you experience danger and seek opportunity.
When you find yourself in a stressful circumstance, there tends to be an instinctual method of the mind to sort for something positive that may come from the experience (in this example, the meeting). This is true for many things. I cannot count how many times a person in crisis has said something along the lines of, “There has to be something good in this.” Shoot, I tell myself that most of the time. It’s normal. The point is that we have a natural propensity to find opportunity in danger. There they are! The two magic words- opportunity and danger. Call in caller and you’ll win tickets for the NSync Reunion Tour. Not really, because this is not a radio show, it’s a blog…and NSync is no longer a thing.
If you’re anything like me, you love myths like this because there is an ancient wisdom that communicates to us an empowering idea that through danger we find opportunity. Many business people say that you have to take risks in order to get to bigger and better results/ventures. On the other hand, if you’re anything like me, you want to verify the information. On my way home from work one evening, I decided to pick up an order of BBQ boneless spare ribs at the local Chinese food restaurant. They knew me at the place and we always had friendly conversation. I asked the young man of about 19 who worked the counter and the owners about the Chinese word and character for stress. Does it mean/symbolize danger and opportunity? They looked at me as if I walked into their restaurant and ordered a Chicago-style hotdog. The young man puzzled, in his Chinese-accented English replied, “Uh, it is the same. Stress. We say, ‘I am stressed.’” His parents came over and they conversed in Chinese nodded and smiled at me a few times, and he translated the discourse. Concisely, he shared that the word was stress and stress alone; it was not a combination of danger and opportunity. They drew the character for me on the back of my receipt, which I promptly lost. When I found out the character did not mean opportunity and danger, it was kind of a letdown. Through this illuminating lesson I was reminded that symbols, words, aphorisms, and the like are abstract. They do not give us meaning, we give them theirs.
Try This: The next time you are in a stressful situation, explore the danger, and explore the opportunity. Then ask yourself, “Would I rather be in a state of fear or in a state of contentment?” Answer honestly, then let go.
P.S. WHO KNEW?!