Extracting Assets from Liabilities

Here’s an excerpt from Jason Miller’s Magick Monday Newsletter.

I have been desperate. I have been poor. I have been jobless. I have been down far enough and for long enough that I could not see a way out. I would vacillate wildly between blaming myself for everything and shifting blame to everyone else.

What made a difference is realizing that blame doesn’t really matter. Responsibility does. Blame is who broke shit. Responsibility is about who is gonna fix it. I don’t believe anyone can realistically claim responsibility for everything, but most of us can claim more than we do. So I did. I decided I was going to take on as much responsibility for my fate as I could while simultaneously letting myself off the hook for any blame.

It feels great to make a decision like that. Empowering and exciting and motivating. You know that feeling.

Unfortunately feelings like that quickly dissipate when you actually sit down to take stock of what you can use to get yourself ahead. Where do you find assets, when all you see are liabilities?

The answer I have found is to examine the liabilities themselves.

When my father lost his job when I was 9, it opened the door to my best memories of him because of the time spent that he had never been able to spend before.

When I was 12 we moved to NJ and things did not go well in my new school. I was hospitalized 6 times from beatings. The principal was removed after my nose was broken and he admitted that he “watched the fight until I saw blood”. But I learned how to take a punch, and I learned how to fight both fairly and sometimes dirty.

When I lost my job at the internet start-up and could not find another decent job. I took a shitty brainless dead-end job that left me with enough mental energy to start taking my writing seriously.

When I had newborn twins, followed one month later by my wife getting cancer, I HAD to get a serious second job…which meant either giving up magic finally, or making my efforts actually pay the bills.

When I got fired from my last dead end job, which happens when you spend 80% of your time secretly building your own company rather than the job you are being paid for…. I had the time and the “gun to the head” motivation to scale up.

The question that I tell people to ask themselves is what asset does this liability produce? Does it give you time? Tools? Motivation? Community? Even just resilience? Is there ANY asset you can find in this disaster.

This is NOT about bullshitting yourself. It’s NOT about every cloud having a silver lining. Its not something GOOD that comes from something bad. Its just something you can USE. Loss often yields more time or more freedom. Disease and decline sometimes yields radical re-evaluation and restructuring.  Failed business teaches lessons about the next business or even that you don’t want to be in business.

And you know what? There won’t always be an asset in every liability. I have never not found one, but I haven’t been through everything you have, so if you tell me there isn’t one then I believe you. For instance at this moment there are hours long lines at food banks because so many people have food insecurity in the US that the banks are running low on supplies. I can’t find anything useful about being hungry other than building resilience and understanding of those in need. So this rule is not universal

What I can tell you though is that there have been times when I was so down that I refused to even look for an asset in my liability. Refused to entertain the possibility that there might be one. Often there was one, and learning to look for one turned my life around.

Just remember its not about blame you accept of reject, its about responsibility you hunt for.

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Frater Lux Ad Mundi

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