The Serenity Of Having No Control

In Personal Growth
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I’m taking a flight today.

The first flights that I took in life, between 2003-08ish, I would leave the baggage claim tickets on my bags long after the trips. I was so proud of the fact that I had gotten to travel and see places that many people would never get to see.

I don’t do that anymore. The act of taking flights is meditative for me now.

I like to read on planes. But I can’t read during takeoff or landing. I get motion sickness and a dizzying headache. So I’ll listen to music or a podcast in those moments, and meditate.

I meditate on the fact, the relative truth, that I cannot do anything to control what happens with this plane between now (taking off) and then (landing).

This realization provides me a sense of serenity, because I surrender control. As opposed to when I’m home, where I might feel like I could be doing something, on a flight there are much fewer options.

No control — or, rather no perception of control.

I took a Lyft to the airport this morning. The driver was driving kind of fast, slightly faster than I was comfortable with. I looked over his shoulder from the backseat to the odometer of his Honda Pilot — he wasn’t going any faster than I drive myself, actually, on the same roads. It just feels a lot different as a passenger.

As the Lyft driver sped around a curve, I reminded myself of my soon-coming airplane meditation. And I reminded myself of another truth.

Control I had over that Lyft ride: 0%

Control I have over a car that I’m driving: 1%

All those other cars on the road, we can’t control them; we don’t even know what’s going on with them.

Who’s drunk?

Who’s high?

Who’s texting?

Who’s drowsy?

Who’s not going to signal a lane change?

Who’s angry at his wife?

Who just got fired from her job?

Whose dog just died?

Could And Should: Your Worst Enemies

If you’re anything like me, one of your biggest sources of anxiety is the THOUGHT you could or should be doing things that, for whatever reason, you’re not doing them.

I feel a certain amount of anxiety about the fact that I consciously chose to not pack workout clothes for this trip, and thus won’t be exercising for the next two days. I could be more disciplined about my fitness.

Nearly every entrepreneur and athlete I talk to feels they should and could be doing more productive work, earning more money. I don’t discourage ambition and goals. But we all need an “enough” level.

Not enough in that we stop working or striving, but enough in that we can sleep well at night without the gnawing anxiety of feeling we’re not good enough.

What’s your enough?

Surrendering (Our Perception Of) Control

99% of life — your life — is out of your control. And not just when you’re riding in a Lyft.

You can’t control those drivers on the road, whether you’re a fellow driver, passenger or pedestrian. And neither can your spouse, your kids, or your parents.

You don’t know if the pilot got the required amount of rest the last few days before this flight.

You probably don’t know how to land a plane if the flight crew needed you to help out in an emergency.

You don’t read the code inspection paperwork of the buildings you walk into; the roof might collapse on you before you finish reading this.

Who touched the food you’re eating today? Where were their hands before they prepared your lunch?

Do you think every cook and chef washes their hands before returning to work?

Who’s planning a terrorist attack in the very public place that you’re planning to be at this afternoon?

Who’s having a bad day and is gonna start some shit with anyone who crosses their path just because they don’t want to be alone in their misery?

If any of the above gives you pause or makes you anxious, you’re not bad nor wrong. You’re human.

Logically, you understand that you control none of this, and my list is small compared to the totality of what you don’t control.

Stop thinking you can control things, because 99% of the time, you can’t control anything.

Embrace Uncertainty

There are no Whole Foods stores close to hotel I’m staying at for the next two days. I have no plans on how or what I’ll be eating.

But I’m sure I will not starve to death.

My parents are going to visit me in Miami this year, but they haven’t yet given me dates so I can’t plan their stay, look for flights, clear my schedule.

But I am pretty sure everything it’ll work out.

We spend too much of our days thinking we have control, or beating ourselves up about not having as much control as we think we should have.

This is why some people beat themselves up for their whole lives over coulds and shoulds — it’s a battle they can’t win! They know this — they’re addicted to the self-abuse though. This is a topic for a different post.

The fact is, we’ll never have that much control, no matter how smart/prepared/rich/clairvoyant we grow to become.


My flight hasn’t yet taken off as I’m finishing this post. The flight attendant complimented my bright red Hyperdunk sneakers. I’ll have to put my phone down in a moment when we hit the runway to keep my brain from scrambling with dizziness.

When that happens, I take deep belly breaths and listen to music, knowing that my future is not in my hands.

Here’s hoping I make it to write another article.


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