Niklaus Gerber

September 20, 2022

Put the fire with the rest of the fire. Choose your battles wisely, acknowledge when you know things are broken, but you decide not to fix them.

2020 was a particular year for all of us. Like many other humans, I had to juggle my family, homeschooling, work, being a good boss and having enough time for self-care. Stoicism is a philosophy designed to make us more resilient, happier, virtuous and wiser–and as a result, better people, better parents and better professionals.

Stoicism frames that you can control only two things: your thoughts and actions. Life is complex, messy and complicated. But if we can learn to separate what we can control - our thoughts and actions - from all else beyond our control, we can find a surer footing to greet the world and experience our concept of happiness. 

COVID was a considerable challenge for me as a boss. I couldn't have wished for a better team. With all our challenges, we stuck together, and they held their heads high and tried to see the positive. Nevertheless, so many things were fundamentally broken in our work context—small things, big things, many things, too many things that I could tackle. Many of these were also out of my control. So what served me well was to reframe how I approach the problems.

I am not sure if you are aware of the IT Crowd sketch, an English comedy show where there is a fire in the office. If not, I recommend you watch it.

Some things need fixing. The questions you should ask yourself are:

  • Do I have to fix it?
  • Is it something I can fix?
  • If I put in some effort and collaborate, could it be improved?
  • Do I want to put that effort in to fix it?

If you answer two or more of these questions with no, I suggest acknowledging that you know something needs fixing but that you decide not to. Then you can put it with the rest of the fire.

It probably won't stop burning, but you know where the fire is, and you can revisit that issue. In the meantime, you will have room and headspace again for other fires where you might have more impact. 

Choose your battles wisely, and acknowledge when you know things are broken but decide not to fix them. You will be amazed at how it will shift your perception and reduce negativity. 

About Niklaus Gerber

My thoughts on leadership, life, productivity, design, and innovation.