The Power of Perspective

One of the central tenants of stoicism is that we can’t choose what happens to us, but we can choose how we react.

Jon Morrow was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) as an infant. His mother was warned that he might not make it past the age of two because his body wouldn’t be capable of fighting off infection. She told the doctor that he wouldn’t die because he wouldn’t have to fight, she’d do the fighting for him. He’s currently in his 40s, wheelchair bound, but one of the oldest living individuals with his condition.

Despite the extreme adversity that SMA brings to his physical condition, he’s managed to become a world renowned writer, blogger, consultant, and entrepreneur.

Perhaps the only person more impressive than Jon himself, as you may have already noted, is his mother. I should probably be saving this for Mother’s Day, but this was too good to sit on. He told James Altucher this story (my transcript):

It was when I got into kindergarten, another kid called me disabled, and I said, “what does that mean?” and he started laughing. The kindergarten teacher came in and said, “you don’t know what that means?” and I said “no,” and she said, “well, I think you need to ask your mother.” So I went through the entire day, the first day of kindergarten, just being baffled and confused about what this whole disability thing was.

And I went out and I asked my mother “what does it mean?” She thought about it for a minute and she said, “it means you can’t do something as well as someone else can.” I said, “other kids can walk around and I can’t do that as well.” She said, “that’s right.” She said, “but it also goes the other way. You’re really smart, you can do things with your brain that other people can’t do too.” And she said, “everyone in the world can’t do something as well as someone else, so everyone in a sense is disabled.”

Like the stoics teach, the real power is in perspective, and perspective is always a choice.