David Heinemeier Hansson

January 4, 2022

It could be worse

I grew up with persistent reminders of how any bad thing that happened could easily have been worse. Oh, you scraped your knee? It could be worse, you could have broken your leg! Oh, you broke your leg? It could be worse, you could have cracked your skull! Oh, you cracked your skull? It could be worse, you could have died!

It wasn't just about physical setbacks either, but the social and mental ones too. Things inside of my control, things outside of my control. The way to make those setbacks and the inevitable suffering in life bearable was to constantly remind yourself that... it could be worse!

Any student of Stoicism will recognize this pattern of mental fortification. It's closely related to negative visualization, just with a different timing. The underlying premise is the essence of Stoicism: We suffer more in our mind than in reality. And the ultimate resilience to face the struggles of living lies in controlling our reactions to the things that happen. Our reactions are not given. They can be changed.

I wish there was more of that today. More "it could be worse". Less "this is the worst thing ever".