Reduce Emotional Stress By Seeing Life Through A Different Perspective

Reducing emotional stress by seeing life through a different perspective

If you want to reduce emotional stress, you need to start seeing life through a different perspective. Perfect happiness is an illusion.

You would think life is a piece of cake being a stay at home and work from home dad with a stay at home spouse. But I recently went through two weeks of intense lower back pain due to emotional stress.

The last time I went through this type of pain was during the dotcom collapse between 2000 – 2003 because I was constantly fearful of losing my job.

After reading Dr. Sarno's book, Healing Back Pain, I became back pain free for 14 years until recently. If you are suffering from chronic pain, you must read this book.

So what's the issue today? It's simply adapting to the loss of 100% freedom, being a new parent, receiving judgmental comments, getting bombarded with endless requests over e-mail, keeping up a regular posting schedule, and being the sole provider for my family.

Something had to give. And that something was my back. Chronic pain is the mind's way of distracting us from emotional stress.

My back pain is a reminder that health is more important than wealth. It doesn't matter how much money you have if you can't take care of your physical AND mental well-being. Do not be embarrassed to seek help, especially for mental health issues.

Now that I've recovered, I'd like to share some thoughts on reducing emotional stress in order to appreciate life more. Might as well turn a bad situation into something useful for those who currently suffer. 

Reduce Emotional Stress And Do What You Can

I've always believed that so long as you do your best, nothing else matters. The worst is being gifted at something and not taking full advantage.

Can you imagine being a talented singer and never bothering to audition for your high school musical? Can you imagine being 6′ 10″, but never practicing any sports? Or how about if you are a brilliant academic who decided to skip university despite getting a full ride in order to go vagabonding for years? We need champions by our side to guide us in the right direction.

Because I'm neither physically nor mentally above average, I took it upon myself as a teenager to try my best at every opportunity I was given. It was important to maximize my potential because my potential was never that great.

To not take full advantage of my opportunity would be an insult to those who didn't have the same luck. It was hard witnessing so much poverty growing up in emerging markets. So I toiled and toiled until I finally decided after a couple decades I no longer felt guilty anymore. The growth stage of my life was over. It was time to focus on taking care of my family and volunteering some time to help others who could use some help.

But if I was truly content, why would I experience chronic back pain again? I got angry at myself for not being more thankful.

Then I met someone who helped put things in perspective.

The Gift Of Seeing Clearly

Roughly 15% of the world's population, or 1.2 billion people have a disability. Disabilities range from seeing, hearing, movement, learning, neurological and more. Don't assume that just because someone looks normal, they aren't dealing with some sort of impediment.

Sonya, one of the girls I met at a foster home had two visual impairments called ocular albinism and nystagmus. You can have one without the other, but often times they go together.

Ocular Albinism and Nystagmus

Ocular albinism is a genetic condition that reduces the pigmentation of the iris, which is the colored part of the eye, and the retina, which is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. Many folks with ocular albinism have difficulty seeing outside without sunglasses and transitioning from outside to inside.

Nystagmus is a condition in which the eyes move in an involuntary and repetitive way. Sometimes the movement is slow and horizontal. Other times the movement is fast twitched, vertical, and rotary.

There are supposedly 49 different subtypes of nystagmus with varying degrees of severity. These movements often result in reduced vision and depth perception. The condition tends to improve until about age 10, and stabilizes for the remainder of the person's life.

Legally Blind

Due to her visual issues, Sonya's best corrected visual acuity is 20/200, the cut off point for legal blindness. In other words, even with glasses or contacts, she can only see something clearly from 20 feet away that other people can see clearly from 200 feet away. Most people who are near-sighted or far-sighted are able to correct their vision to 20/20 with glasses, contacts, or laser surgery. Sonya cannot.

Sonya didn't say much to me about her family life or visual impairment at first, but she slowly opened up about how she was having a difficult time at school. She always had to sit in the front of the class, and even then, it was often hard to see what the teacher had written on the white board. But she said she always did her best to keep up.

Despite her family situation and her visual impairment, Sonya showed me a great attitude that made me proud. Although she said she had her fair share of bullies, she also told me wisely how she wasn't bothered because she knew the bullies were going through their own difficulties. The sister of one of the bullies died in an accident a year ago. Another bully's father was sent to prison. The kids in school found out and made fun of the bully as a result.

Making The Most With What You Have

Sonya also mentioned how she's become an expert listener as her hearing makes up for her vision loss. “Sam, I'm like Daredevil in the comics!”

Sonya displayed the one trait I long to instill in my son: empathy / compassion. Empathy comes from understanding about other people's situations before making any judgement. Empathy allows people to listen and connect without making any judgement at all. Even if spite is hurled their way, the compassionate person is able to forgive and show kindness.

The other trait Sonya possesses that I hope all of us embrace is an indomitable spirt. No matter what our challenges, we will find a way to overcome. Whether it's trying to reach financial independence early or getting through middle school without too many emotional scars, an indomitable spirit is important. “What I see is all I know. I'll be fine,” she said when she sensed my worry.

Snapping Out Of A Funk

Sonya reminded me that I took my situation for granted. Feeling stressed about losing temporary freedom was silly because I had freedom to give up. What about all those who are still stuck in the salt mines, unable to ever get out? Feeling the pressure of having to constantly write on Financial Samurai is self-induced pressure that's unnecessary. Taking a week off won't change a thing.

Sonya also reminded me that no matter what challenges my son faces, he has two loving parents who will give all their time to help him lead a normal and happy life. She told me that all she's ever wanted was for her parents to stop fighting so they could go to the park like her friend's families. As a foster kid mentor, I hope to help fill some of that gap.

We will all go through emotional stress. We all want to reduce emotional stress. Some of you will burn out and decide to quit your job, quit your marriage, or go down some deep dark path. I encourage you to take a good amount of time feeling angry and sorry for yourself. Afterward, get up and see life through the perspective of others.

Changes Are On The Way

I hope all Financial Samurai readers can embrace empathy in your day to day lives. The next time someone doesn't look you in the eye when speaking, don't get annoyed. Maybe it's because they literally can't due to their nystagmus. The next time someone seems cold, don't feel insulted. It may be because they have Aspergers, which sometimes makes socializing a little more difficult.

In addition to being mindful about different perspectives, I plan to reduce stress further by deleting spiteful comments, aggressively filtering e-mails, and writing freely without concern. I will remind myself that doing something is better than doing nothing at all. Further, I’ll be setting up schedule That commits me to only working and checking my messages during these times.

I leave you with an inspiring TED talk by Caroline Casey who might just very well be the adult version of Sonya. You'll enjoy the clip because it talks about everything we talk about here: belief, self-esteem, courage, finding a purpose, and helping others. Try not to take what you have for granted.

Please enjoy and share your thoughts about how you reduce emotional stress in your life. What are some of the walls you've faced and successfully climbed over? Who have you met that changed your perspective?

Cash Management Is Stress Management

Don't Forget To Look Up Sometimes

Improve Productivity An Extra Seven Hours A Week

Related: The Source Of All Stress Is Giving A Giant Crap About Everything

About The Author

60 thoughts on “Reduce Emotional Stress By Seeing Life Through A Different Perspective”

  1. Best way to reduce stress is remove toxic people from one’s life including narcissists and addicts. Even if they’re immediate family. Life is way too short for that bs. So – be way quicker to judge that sort of thing and move on because they drown people around them in order to keep themselves afloat. Now that I’m over 50 and lost important people from my life, I’ve got clarity. Time is precious and it’s not going to be consumed by vampires.


    Thank you for the post. MRS also has back pain due to emotional stress. Used to be finance, now is family.
    I guess even retired folks are not immune to the everyday struggles of life.
    I also find holding a 9-5 job is easier than raising child. However, raising a child is much more rewarding than working at a dead end job.

  3. Thank you for this meaningful and real post about the Samurai’s the truest wealth and freedom: the indomitable spirit on the path of the heart. This is under-valued, under-estimated, and socially marginalized in those with disabilities and/or PTSD (from many things – quite a large segment of the population actually).

    Indeed, there are huge spiritual teachers found in unlikely places – and the real meaning of wealth (at whatever status any of us may be at) comes into play when we selflessly serve the greater society in some way. Whether it’s a weekly gig at a homeless shelter’s kitchen, or mentoring/coaching programs for at-risk children & adults, or a hundred other possible things including the gift of this here post you did – we are always in relationship with the greater society as we navigate family life and financial & emotional freedom.

    As long as you keep your self-compassion and compassion generating, you and your partner will find your way through the incredibly intense years of very early childhood – due in part to finding or strengthening your own “village” of a sort. Parenting in the nuclear family – and in a society where many professional people relocate every few years and few folks live on the same block with their trusted friends or fam – is a whole other planet than what we’re “wired” for on an ancient mammalian nervous system level.

    Healthy intergenerational community life and extended family is increasingly rare for many in high tech industrial culture. We’re far from the co-parenting and egalitarian ways of aboriginal gatherer-hunter cultures which comprised 90% of human history (according to the meta-analysis of anthropological studies done by Elizabeth Pennisi in the journal Science, 2014). We’re not really neurologically at our best in extended isolation or primary care with our wailing hungry babies, pre-verbal shrieking toddlers (teething phases go on for years!) – and stewarding a child’s all-level development to the operational stage of around age 5 and the age of reason around 7 is a s/hero’s journey. We need the village fabric of elder role models, shared meals, stories/mentoring, and co-op childcare – and/or plenty of good brain nutrition (essential fatty acids, plenty of good fats, moderate balanced protein and low on the processed carbs – which can sometimes get sidelined when one is trying to ensure provision on all levels for the new child/baby Samurai!).

    Grateful for your transparency and example in this essay and your recording. LOVE your revised rules for commenters, healthy boundaries rock. Here’s to universal parenthood… ourselves, our children, and the world’s children.

  4. Thanks for sharing Sam! I didn’t know that back pain can be caused by emotional stress. Stress can cause a lot of negative health issues so it’s best to work to reduce it as soon as possible. You were the inspiration for my blog and many others. Keep up the good work.

  5. Great post Sam. Thanks for sharing. I’ve been an email subscriber and regular reader for a while. Don’t let the haters get to you. You’re doing great, and your little one is just going to get more and more fun.

    I know you’re thinking about a Hawaii move at some point. Do you think getting out of SF will ease your worries? Be it to Hawaii or somewhere else less stressful? Maybe you’re getting close to that.

    Keep on doin what you’re doin. I’ve gotten good info and perspectives from your blog.

    1. Thanks Wade.

      Moving out of SF is something I’ve been strongly considering for three years now. I noticed that every time I go back to Honolulu, I feel even less stress and more joy in day to day life. It is so peaceful and lovely there. I’m just trying to think of when is the right time now that I have a baby. I’m thinking before 5 years old, kindergarten for sure, but maybe as early as 2-3 for pre-school!

      I moved away from the more populous north/east side of SF and felt more at ease out on the west side. There’s parking everywhere, not a lot of people here, and there’s the ocean. But I’m still stuck in the same circle of go-getters that I want to escape. That said, this network will help my son as well.

      We’re going to attempt a 1-2 month Honolulu stay within the next 6-12 months for sure!



  6. Sam,

    So inspirational! I really look up to how you live life. You know that money is important but even more is health and giving back to others. This is inspirational. I hope that when I become FI I can focus on doing good for others as well.

  7. an anonymous individual

    Sam you write for all of us on a topic that we all excel at – even the poor in America is well above the median of global wealth. Do you ever consider writing for yourself on topics of importance to you? Call it stealth health if you will.

    This is a muse I wrote for myself after reading book called emergence:
    The framework of perspective has room to change. Rather than another human individual imagine the life of a small insect – incapable of complex thought, only able to communicate the most basic of messages, and living in a world of titans constantly attempting to destroy your existence. Yet you survive with order somehow and build beautiful complex structures that are great magnitudes the size of yourself. Not to mention you in fact thrive with your basic nature and dominate most nearly the entire world’s landmass.

    Is the insect that is shooed away, stomped on, and poisoned not a marvel? Perspective is not complexity but rather noticing the value in simplicity.

  8. Reverse the Crush

    I love the message in this post, Sam! I wish more people were able to see individuals through a different perspective. You just never know what someone may be dealing with. Also, some very interesting points you made about back pain. Particularly this line: “Chronic pain is the mind’s way of distracting us from emotional stress.” – Not that I experience chronic back pain, but when I reflect back on incidences where I experienced back pain, there was definitely an underlying emotional/stressful situation happening.

    In regards to your questions, my own experiences changed my perspective. Going through a tough relationship situation and experiencing mental health issues caused me to view others situations with more empathy. My experience slowed life down and made me aware of the cause and effect of things. We’re all dealing with something and everyone handles their challenges differently.

    I generally handle my emotional stress in a similar manner as I try to stay mindful. I make sure I’m aware of what causes the stress and make time to focus on the things that are important to me. I think it’s therapeutic to write thoughts out like you did in this blog post. It helps to organize and take control of your thoughts. Thanks for sharing the positive vibes!

  9. Enjoy what you’ve worked so hard to attain, Sam. I came to this conclusion about a year ago. I told my wife, unless we’re interested in buying a small island or the biggest house on the best beach in Hawaii (25M-50M), we’ve made enough money to relax a bit (2M-5M). I still easily work 40 hours a week, but it feels a bit lazy sometimes after hustling for 25+ years.

  10. As for deleting mean comments on blogs, I always say that if you wouldn’t want people like that in your living room, why allow them on your blog. There’s a big difference between constructive conversation and being plain nasty.

  11. Thanks for the article. One thing that I really enjoyed about reading your blog, was that not only you are rational and comprehensive in your deliberations of financial decisions, you have a fair number of posts written on relationships and non-financial life decisions. I actually have your ‘Relationships’ labelled posts bookmarked, and currently I am at page 4.

    After last week, I learnt a number of things from our first encounter, which definitely was not how I hoped our first encounter would be. I felt a great deal of guilt trip over the whole duration even though I tried to shake away the feeling. The important life lesson I learnt was to refrain from judging people, even if that felt like the easiest thing to do. Everyone has his or her own struggle, including myself. We all had to put on our strongest faces for the people that we love, but sometimes a little empathy was the only thing we need to not fall into the deep pit of emotional stress and suffering. There are many inspirational souls in the world who managed to live better than normal people despite their disabilities.

    Here’s a rock climber with one arm, who climbs better than many people I know from my climbing gym. The best thing is in all his climbing videos, he did not seem to feel or notice that he would be defined as ‘disabled’ in normal people’s terms.

    I hope that your back pain would go away after you take some rest, and get some help. A little help goes a long way.

  12. Becoming a parent is a major life change. It’s not easy transitioning from having complete control of your time to being essentially on call 24/7 for a small helpless mammal. I have two kids who are now school age. Even though they don’t need me as much anymore, there are different issues at this stage.. like homework and ipad addiction.
    Sorry about your back. I’ve had a few nagging health issues myself and it doesn’t take more than a bad cold to make you realize health is the most important thing. If you’re not fully yourself, you can’t do anything right.
    I really enjoy your blog. You’ve put out a lot of great info and helped a lot of people. I don’t know how you keep up your punishing pace. Best, M.D.

    1. Even a slight cold and it is harder to work and enjoy. Maybe that is why we get colds — to make us grateful. Sometimes I think slight illness happens to help us slow down and reflect. Also, be grateful for colds and flus because they build up the immune system. After a hysterectomy, I realized that my monthly period gave me a chance to rest at bit for a least a few hours or a month, whereas after, I went full blast all the time.

      1. Oh man, I love that “maybe that is why we get colds – to make us grateful.”

        My wife has a cold now, and I’m just hoping she gets better and my little one doesn’t get sick either.

  13. Hopefully the back gets better soon Sam!!

    What helps me reduce stress when I feel that I get overwhelmed with work and family life, I clear my head by reflecting thats going on and slow things down a bit mentally. This helps sorts out the craziness that’s going on in my life and prioritize what I really need to do one at a time instead of doing 5 things at once.

  14. Hi Sam,

    I just want to let you know your definitely not alone when it comes to stressing about your kids future. I remember arguing with my kids kindergarten teacher about how the curriculum wasn’t challenging enough. Can you imagine what was going through that teachers head while I”m explaining how special my kid is? It makes me cringe today.

    The thing is my concerns were very real for me at the time, just as yours are for you. I want the best for my kid, same as you. As she got older I realized most of the stuff I stressed about have had very little impact on her life. They were my worries, not hers, and it was me who needed to change, not her or anyone else.

    The point I”m trying to make is that although your kid related stresses are VERY real right now, looking back you will find many of them are trivial at best. Enjoy that little monster as much as you can right now. Pretty soon they grow up to be big monsters and then they move away.

    Thanks, Bill

  15. Eduardo Santos


    Enjoy the rest, you’ve earned it. We have plenty of material to go back to and keep us busy until your next inspiration comes along and new post is uploaded.

    Doing something is definitely often better than doing nothing, but sometimes, doing less is better than doing more.

    Take care

  16. Daniel Friedman

    Amazing post Sam. This really hit home for me as I try to do what you had said Sonya does. That is “choosing your attitude”. That is the one and only thing you can control and by doing that, you allow yourself the flexibility to take a step back to view other perspectives. If you get angry and frustrated right away, your focus is on you and cannot think about others. If you stay clam and choose to not be stressed, then you can view other perspectives and see the whole situation.

    This is one of my favorite posts you have written. And, “Do You Want To Be Rich Or Do You Want To Be Free?”


  17. I’m a big believer in ALWAYS taking care of your health first. I’ve been dealing with some symptoms I’m trying to get to the bottom of and it’s scary. There is so much coalition between your emotional health and physical health. In fact they are one in the same. People need to think about that as much as running or weight lifting. I hope you feel better!

  18. Good post, and I’m glad you are feeling better. I always assumed “making more money” would resolve money worries. But I have found that it does not. One consistent help it has provided is paying to have others do things that I don’t enjoy doing – i.e. the yard, housecleaning.

  19. Dr Sarno’s book is legit. It saved me during a stressful period at work when my back and neck were killing me. After reading the book my pain disappeared completely in about 2 weeks. So glad to hear you’re feeling better now again too!

    Thanks for the heartfelt post and for raising awareness. I heard that TED talk on a podcast last year and was really touched by it.

  20. You’re doing awesome Sam! Keep the faith that everything is going to be just fine and enjoy each day as best you can.

    Great job raising awareness too on visual impairments and disabilities. Love the video.

  21. Hey Sam I have never known you to pull any punches on your blog. Have you actually been holding back? I’m excited to see what is to come if you have been.

    I hope the back pain improves. Never dealt with it myself but I have heard multiple people speak very highly of Stuart McGill. He has tons of free content online. I believe he says if you don’t go for a walk everyday you deserve back pain.

    I find mindfulness meditation and keeping a journal to be complete game changers for improving my outlook and reducing stress.

  22. Adam and Jane

    Sam, Totally agree with you that one must have empathy and to understand other’s POV.

    Life always throws a curve ball so stuff always happens. You need to minimize your stress whenever possible.

    All the money in the world is useless without health.

    I agree with RB40. You have the means to hire a nanny and a person to help with your house work to give your family a break. You and your wife are very fortunate to be able to have a child and for you both to raise him. Since both of my parents had to work, I was raised by my great grand mother for many years.

    Instead of posting 2-3 times a week, consider posting once a week or twice a month so you can have more family time.

    I know that your site provides a healthy income but you can always consider selling it if it is causing you too much stress. Then invest the money in true passive income.

    Life is too short to deal with haters and negative people. I like that you just delete their posts. Consider hiring someone to go thru your email or just delete everything!

    Just pace yourself and don’t worry so much.


    1. We’re taking the first step by hiring a cleaner once a week. Whoo hoo! Maybe the whole bus baby proof the house as well and pick up loose coins and other dangerous things are little one mighty.

  23. Hi, Sam: Thanks for sharing your experience. Dr. Sarnos book also fixed my back pain, well, not immediately, but over the years I’ve came to agree with him that back pain is really your body (gut feeling) telling you something was wrong, and as soon as you acknowledge that fact, even before you fix the actual root cause, the pain would go away.

    1. BTW, what really fixed my back pain was not my financial independence, but my emotional independence (a.k.a. fuck you altitude). To be more specific, I’ve had the fuck you money for a while ($8M net worth as of 2017), but until recently I still acted like the corporate slave that I had always been the last 20 years: being nice to everyone, helping everyone including assholes or idiot bosses who stabbed me in the back/front, etc.. Then finally it dawned on me: why the fuck should I care about these corporate slaves, I don’t even need this paycheck like they do!

      Now I only socialize w/ young graduate who are non-political and have new and interesting things to share, and stopped talking to the corporate slaves who endlessly gossip, back-stab, concerns about mortgages rate or promotions. I also started calling BS if you dare to mention that in my face at team meetings, and stopped going to BS meetings altogether. I don’t even look at them when passing them in the hallways!

      As soon as I changed my altitude, my back pain goes away! What’s the worst thing that can happen to me? Fire me? Now it’s been a year and I’m totally free of any back pain. As for the corporate slaves? They still haven’t improved one bit, but my back pain is gone and I don’t give a fuck about them anyway :)

  24. Hey Sam,

    Great post. The picture you used for it is actually a sculpture that I frequently walked by during my time in Dallas. The one thing I wanted to touch on is health. Health is by far the most important thing in life. I use this to my advantage a lot in the world of coding. People who don’t exercise, have terrible posture, and don’t eat healthy never seem to out work me who prioritizes all those things. Actually I found the healthier you are the more successful you will be in anything. So while that person is working 14 hour days compared to your 10-12, the quality and the tenacity won’t be present with their work and ethic! Make sure you prioritize your health more and everything else will fall into place.

    Btw, you got an SSL cert! Awesome! Expect a lot more comments from me in the future! :)


  25. FS, keeping good thoughts for you. We have talked about Dr. John Sarno before, how Howard Stern dedicated his NYT bestseller ‘Private Parts’ to him, and I recently learned that Dr. Sarno’s writings and teachings have been a great help to Scott Adams.

    So, you have all the stress-issues covered. Just taking a chance and throwing this out to you…

    The source may be your service motion. To play at your level (5.0, very rare), you have to play and practice a lot. Combine this with the time you spend coaching, and your trunk is getting a lot of stress from your fully-extended wrist/elbow/shoulder/neck/waist. This occurred to me when I saw one of your photos. If this makes sense to you, you know what to do. Either way, feel better!

    1. You make a good point. The lower back started hurting after playing tennis. The thing is, my lower back and body generally aches for a day after a match, but in a good way. But sometimes, the body can get overly extended, and then it will hurt in a bad way for 1 or 2 days after, and then heal. This time, it did not, and the aches turned into pains for 2-2.5 weeks.

      Dr. Sarno mentioned to continue doing all exercise as normal and bring the worries and anxieties to the front of your mind. So that is what I’ve done.

      But I will do more to pace myself. I used to always have one rest day before playing (play 3X a week). I might just take longer in between or do a day where I’m just hitting ground strokes and not serves. It should help!

  26. Our first 2 years with our daughter were really rough, and in fact were a big reason why we decided to stop at one child. It really does change your life, both in good ways and bad ways (which most people won’t acknowledge). She’s now 8 years old and a perfect fit for our family of three. Having kids definitely restricts one’s freedom, for us, one child was the right compromise and balance. Freedom can also sometimes have a negative correlation with ambition. The more ambitious you are, the more you take on, and the less freedom you end up with. Up to a point that’s ok, especially if you’re trying to achieve financial independence, but eventually you have to restrict that ambition to give freedom priority. Keeping things in perspective like you’ve pointed out in the article has always helped me push through tough times.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience. And I’m glad things are better now at 8! Everybody needs to be aware of their own strengths and weaknesses, and do what’s best for them. Nobody else can tell you what to do because nobody else is in your shoes and knows your private life.

      You are right about ambitious people trying to do TOO MUCH. I’ve tried to do too much, and I need to let go more. Getting things done is like an addiction. Hard to quit. But trying to do too much can be debilitating and create all sorts of anger, anxiety, and resentment.

      I’m always impressed whenever I go on Twitter during conventional work hours and see how many people jibber jabber and do nothing all day. I want to let go and be like those people, who don’t have a care in the world…. and also get paid :)

      I cannot forget the purpose of having a lifestyle business.

  27. Sorry to hear about your back pain! I can definitely see how stress can cause physical issues like that. I’m also sorry that people are judgmental about your posts. I have never understood why people feel the need to be mean and judgmental, especially when you are sharing your knowledge FOR FREE! I have a long way to go, but I can honestly say that I am much more financially savvy than I was a year ago because I found your blog. Thanks for all of the great blog posts!

  28. I hope your back feels better. Sometimes when I have back pain, I’ll do crunches while putting a 10 or 15-pound plate on my stomach; for me, it helps a lot.

    I’d also add to just not take life too seriously. If something bad happens, quickly try and forget about it, but at the same time learn from it. And if something good happens, MILK it and find out the root cause so you can do everything you can to make it happen again and again and again. :-)

  29. Phil @ Brave New Blockchain

    So glad to hear about your back pain. Dr. Sarno’s the man, even if some of his stuff sounds a little ridiculous.

    At some point, when there are thousands and thousands of people who have cured their lower back pain just from reading a book, other doctors (and sufferers of chronic pain) need to open their eyes. The most common argument I hear against him is this: “Most people suffer from an acute injury that heals on its own within two or three weeks, so they read Sarno’s work and they think they’re healed, when really the injury healed over time.”

    What a crock of bull. You don’t think people can recognize the difference between acute and chronic pain? You think people go out shopping for books every time they tweak their back? It’s ridiculous.

    The Cartesian pain model is so outdated it hurts. The amount of people with slipped disks and ZERO PAIN should be proof that slipped disks are a normal part of aging, not the cause of the pain (unless, of course, there’s significant nerve impingement). Doctors are more eager to cut people open and throw some titanium in their spine than recommend that their patients read Dr. Sarno’s work, and that’s a shame.

    Another good one to check out, if you want something more active and less mental, Foundation Training.

  30. Damn Millennial

    Health is so much more important then wealth. It is crazy when something even small happens you notice that you were taking certain parts of life for granted.

    I try to stay mindful that so many people struggle with health related issues both physical and mental. I always try to be respectful and think that the person is struggling with something in life today rather then get angry if someone is in a bad mood.

    Great post, do you hold back when writing now (your comment on writing freely in the future)?

  31. Every thing we feel in life is seen through the lens of recent experience. As such if things have been great for you recently a minor inconvenience may feel like climbing Mount Everest. You hit the nail on the head though, if you step outside
    Your world you really see other people’s problems. Comparitively I’ve found my day to day issues rarely stack up.

  32. A big thing for me has been to try to understand where people are coming from. That happened from an old boss – a horrible micro-manager. At first it really pissed me off, and it pissed off everyone else who worked for or with him. He’d micromanage every tiny detail.

    But then I started to think about WHY he needed to micromanage and I came up with an interesting hypothesis that changed how I worked with him.

    – He was a remote worker and was newer to the organization, so he wanted to be in the details to learn.
    – This was a brand new role for him. He was used to being in the nitty-gritty details and felt comfortable there.
    – He was used to working with a non-self-sufficient team and didn’t know how to interact with intelligent, adept people.
    – He was getting a lot of pressure from his boss to have the team deliver more even though he wasn’t up to speed yet.
    – He poorly articulated his reasoning for making decisions because while the ideas were so ingrained in his brain, they were new to everyone else.

    Ultimately these realizations led to me starting to more proactively involve him in conversations and try to drive at the “why” of the things he wanted us to do.

    One example was he wanted us to use a third party to route data, while we could just use a direct API. He was adamant we use this third party, which none of us were familiar with. After asking him to explain the business reason for it since it’d be more effort and do the same thing, he explained that we needed to also send this data to other places and this third party service did that for us without any additional work. Since none of us knew what this third party was, or did, or that we needed to send data to someone else because of some other top-secret thing he had just talked about 2 minutes prior in a board meeting that nobody else had ever heard of, obviously we were questioning why he considered it the right move. But most folks just said no – I actually asked.

    When I actually took the time to ask him why he felt things like that were the right move, it helped me understand where he was coming from, and I think it showed him that I was competent enough to actually ask why instead of just do it, or just refuse.

    At the end of the day he laid me off and he’s still a micro-manager, and is super bossy. He absolutely hated working with me because he wants to run the show and I am not some mindless order-taker. I was great at that job and he didn’t like someone on his team being better at anything than he was. (IMO that’s not the sort of person who should be a manager of people, but that’s neither here nor there)

    So maybe that’s all for shit, I don’t know.

    All I know is it helped me learn how to work with someone who was extremely challenging to work with, and it made me feel better about how I interacted with him.

    Taking a step back to just try to understand why people do the things they do has helped me to calm down a lot and assess the entire situation. It’s not easy and I slip up on it, but every time I do, it helps.

  33. I loved this article! You have such a great heart Sam. You will make an amazing father- do not worry so much.

    After having a career in sales within the computer industry for years…I stayed home to raise my kids. Now- thankfully I have freedom as my kids are older…I decided to help kids with learning disabilities be “on a job”…it has been the most rewarding career I could pick! Be grateful for your healthy mind. Lots of brain issues I see in my students. You are right- health is more important than wealth.

      1. It’s a private school on the north shore of Chicago, all 130 of the kids PreK to HS have all different ranges of learning disabilities, ie: autism, bi-polar, fetal alcohol syndrome, etc. I teach the Seniors to be on a job so they can be work ready when they graduate. It’s very rewarding! Most schools have this role of a “job coach”. Keep up the great work Sam!!!!

  34. “Empathy comes from understanding about other people’s situations before making any judgement. Empathy allows people to listen and connect without making any judgement at all.”

    Well said, Sam. Indeed, I believe we’re all potentially guilty from time-to-time of making assumptions or judgements. We learned this the hard way and it didn’t have to be for us.

    A few years into our marriage, Mrs. BD found herself increasingly unhappy, unmotivated, and just overall feeling “blah” – mostly about work. I kind of ignored it for a while, but then came other things at home – not just work related. I couldn’t understand what / why it was going on and became frustrated that Mrs. couldn’t explain it (despite trying).

    It took too much time to put myself in her shoes, but we eventually sought out some help. Things have gotten much better over the last several years.

    As you mentioned, don’t be afraid to seek help.

    Thanks for sharing, Sam.

  35. Hi Sam – the first year with a new baby is no joke. My son is nearing his second birthday, and I would say that the first year was incredibly hard. It started to get a little easier around a year and 18 months was another big turning point. I can’t imagine the additional layer of difficulty that having to deal with a disability would add. Hang in there! I wish your family the best of health!

    1. Thank you! Good to know about the 18 month mark Getting easier. I have challenged myself to get through three month blocks at a time, just like I’ve challenged myself to go through several years at a time online. It helps to break things up.

      Enjoy your little one! I know I’m going to get angry looking back If I worried too much. So many mothers have told me this. There is no greater joy than seeing my son wake up and wiggle all about :)

  36. Sorry to hear about the back pain. I hope it improves soon. I had back pain when I was working full time, but I think it’s mainly due to sitting around all day. My back and shoulders are much better now that I’m retired and can move around more.
    Good luck getting destressed. Maybe you can hire someone to help with little things. A regular babysitter would help a lot. You can spend some time with your wife without having to worry about the baby.
    Best wishes

  37. Mr. Freaky Frugal

    Sam – Very inspiring and I’m sorry to hear about your back pain. I’ve had on-again-off-again back problems my whole life and stress definitely has an impact.

    “In addition to being mindful about different perspectives, I plan to reduce stress further by deleting spiteful comments, aggressively filtering e-mails, and writing freely without concern. I will remind myself that doing something is better than doing nothing at all.”

    This makes perfect sense and best of luck!

  38. In my experience, there are a few things that help me with emotional stress.

    1) Getting “out” to clear my head (a walk, yoga, prayer, etc)
    2) Exercise- I hold stress physically, so I find a run, bike ride or workout can effectively release some physical tension and turn my perspective around
    3) Help others or focus on others. When I focus on someone else (even if it is just sitting down to play with my son or making my husband lunch), it helps me to reset a bit.

    Thank you for sharing today and for posting the TED talk.

  39. Great post Sam. After I go through stretches where everything seems to be sunny, something always goes south in either personal family, work or health area and presents a stressful challenge. A few things that help me are remembering a sermon a wonderful minister gave a couple a decades ago about life not being about reaching the summit but about being an endless walk up and down mountains and getting used to the fact it will never stay perfect and stressfree (those moments are fleeting but sure nice :) )

    the things I have done to help with stress are to think of 3 things I’m grateful for everyday right when I wake up and also as part of my daily meditation practise to practice loving kindness by wishing anyone that causes me pain or grief or stress only good fortune and happiness. It’s remarkable how being grateful for the little things in life and wishing even your “enemies” well not only purges much of your own selfish stress but also seems to make good things happen.

    I highly recommend Pema Chodron’s book The Places That Scare You: A Guide To Fearlessness (2001, Shambhala Publications, ISBN 978-1-57062-921-1)
    to help understand the power of the loving kindness practise.

    1. Thanks for sharing that sermon. To walk up and DOWN the mountain is a nice imagery. The act of living kindness is something I’ve learned a lot about growing up b/c its a part of Buddhism and what my mom tried to instill in me. I’m a fiery person when antagonized, who always fought back against bullies. So reminding about the importance of forgiveness and loving kindess is great.

  40. I can relate to a lot of what you mentioned in your post.

    – Feeling a loss of personal freedom due to kids is real! I recently wrote a post about housework and the division of labor in our family. With the encouragement from the reader, I had a talk with the hubby. Now he takes on more housework and gives me some “me time” on the weekends to hang out with friends.

    – I constantly think about whether I have explored and taken advantage of all the potential that I have. For some people, their talent is just right there for them and others to see. All they need to do is to take it to the next level. For me, I need to dig deep and try hard to see what it is that I have to develop.

    – I have IBS (stomach cramps) which also gets worse when I’m stressed out about something. It’s painful. But I have to remind myself to be appreciative of what I have is important. We can’t take anything in life for granted.

    – I trash all the hateful comments. My blog doesn’t have space for spiteful feedback. And I don’t have time for destructive behavior.

    Thanks for the honest post!

    1. Thanks for sharing your feedback. Have your husband read this post about The Mental Load many mothers face. This is a must read for all spouses.

      It helped me be more empathetic to my wife’s pressures as a mother and led me to do a lot more work. I’m now Head of cleaning the bottles, the kitchen, getting/preparing the food, and vacuuming. I’m also always there to assist with feeding, bath time, reading, and sleep time. It’s exhausting, but I’m so thankful.

      Then it’s off to write some posts.

      1. Ms. Frugal Asian Finance

        Thanks for the great advice, Sam! It’s awesome you are so hands-on with your kid. ^.^

  41. Hey Sam,

    Just wanted to let you know even if there are people writing discouraging or rude comments, we really enjoy reading and learning from your post.

    I’ve learned from my experience as a quarterback in my younger days, that people who never even played one down in their life are the quickest to critique someone who has played hundreds.

    In other words, they don’t have the real perspective of actually trying to find an open receiver as a bunch of defensive lineman are doing their best to put you into the ground before you do. They don’t know the feeling of how fast the football play is and how difficult it can be to find the receiver that’s open in the whole field as chaos sorrinds in the pocket. They have no idea of what it is like only the perception of the greatest to judge you off of. I mean even the worst QB in the NFL is in the top 32 of the whole world.

    I say this to relay that your blog is one of the ones I make sure to read because of the great content and info you present.

    Thanks for the great message and sharing the young ladies story. I write in my five minute journal I’m grateful for my senses and body because of just how lucky we are not to, sometimes taking it for granted. I always love hearing how people overcome and live happier than many people even with their disability. This stemmed for me from a young lady who was at the gym routinely I go to with only one leg. She biked, did squats, and rode the bike. I was truly inspired by her.

    Hope your back gets better and keep up the great work!

    SN – Another great person to listen to is Eric Thomas on YouTube. He has a lot of great motivational videos and an awesome story.

    1. Hi Chris! Thanks for sharing your football analogy. So true about even the worst NFL QB is in the top 32 in the world. Some of those sports critics, food critics, movie critics are just so comical, especially since most have never played professional sports, been a chef, or directed a movie.

      So for all those of you who consistently put yourself out there, but get criticized by those who have no experience, hang in there! If they were so good, they’d be doing it themselves.

  42. Awesome post Sam!!! Life is too short to make snap judgements about others when we don’t know what they are going through. I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve been fortunate enough to keep my mouth shut and later found out that certain things were out of the person’s control. Empathy is definitely something we all need a lot more in this day an age :)

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