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This comprehensive article explains the story of the Chinese farmer and as many as 8 best lessons you can learn from the story to help you in life.

 

Importance of the Parable of the Chinese Farmer

When events happen in our lives, we often put a judgment on those instances.

We sometimes say that was a good thing or a bad thing.

Another way of describing what happens in our lives and the lives of others is by saying that was bad or good luck.


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Although these judgments are a part of our human nature to label things as good or bad that happens to us, we never know how they will turn out.

An expression that comes to mind is that there is always a silver lining in a storm cloud one just needs to look for it.

 

Personal Story

Most likely, we all have stories that we can tell that emphasize this reality in our lives.

Those events seemed, on the surface, to be bad when in fact they turned out to be something good.

For me, this occurred when I was supposed to take leave while in the Navy.

Someone who had seniority on me got their choice of dates and preferred to take it during the same time that I was requesting.

Subsequently, the individual went on leave and a few days later I received a call from the personnel department asking if I would take a 3-year tour of duty in Hawaii.

Of course, I jumped at the opportunity.

Come to find out that this opportunity would have been provided to the individual who went on leave but because he wasn’t available, they deferred the choice to me.

What seemed like a piece of bad luck turned out to be 3 years spent in paradise.

 

The Story of the Chinese Farmer 

This fable talks about a Chinese farmer who lost a horse.

Upon its running away the neighbors came, and all voiced their opinion and gave their perception that this was a bad piece of luck for the Chinese farmer.

The Chinese farmer simply replied “Maybe.”

The next day, the horse returned to the farmer, bringing with it seven wild horses.

Again, the neighbors congregated and said that this was great luck.

The Chinese farmer said, “Maybe.”

The next day his son was attempting to tame one of the wild horses and was thrown to the ground and broke his leg.

Again, the neighbors gathered around and said that that was too bad.

The farmer said, “Maybe.”

The following day military officers, looking to recruit young men to serve during wartime, came to the farmer’s home looking for able-bodied young men.

They rejected the son because he had a broken leg.

Again, all of the neighbors gathered around and said to the farmer that was good fortune to which the Chinese farmer replied, “Maybe.”

 

Cast of Characters in the Chinese Farmer Story

 

The Chinese Farmer

Not trying to read too much into the story, it would be safe to assume that the farmer is a man of simple means.

More than likely he is hard-working, and perhaps well-respected in the community.

This is due to the fact that when the seemingly bad things or good things happened in his life, his neighbors and friends gathered around to console him.

They cared about this man.

It would seem that the farmer can be a representation of the way that life should be.

Specifically, he worked hard to provide for his family, utilized his assets fully, and didn’t overthink things but still had a plan and a strong belief system.

 

The Chinese Farmer’s Friends

His friends could be truly defined as friends.

When seemingly good and bad things happened in the farmer’s life, they were there for their friend the Chinese farmer.

They didn’t try to tell him what to do but tried to encourage him during his time of apparent loss and congratulated him when it seemed good things happened.

His friends were well-intentioned.

The son represents family and was perhaps the only son in the household.

This is due to the fact that nothing is mentioned about any other young man from the household being drafted for the warfare.

 

The Chinese Farmer’s Son

The son evidently had his father’s work ethic which speaks to the influence of the farmer’s parental role in this young man’s life.

It could be argued that the son was brash and foolish by trying to tame the horse.

Or perhaps, he wanted to tame the horse to utilize the horsepower in farming the land.

Anyway, he ended up breaking his leg which possibly added further drain on the farmer’s ability to work the land.

 

8 Lessons From the Chinese Farmer Story

 

1. Gaining Through Losing

Important life-learning concepts and the reality is that generally, painful experiences or losses in one’s life prove to be a very useful learning opportunity.

The expression of “no pain no gain” could be a takeaway from the story of the Chinese farmer.

Specifically, if he had lost the one horse, he wouldn’t have gained another seven horses as a result of that horse running away.

Perhaps, then losses in our lives (personally, financially, etc.), should be viewed through the educational prism.

 

2. Having a Positive Attitude

For the Chinese farmer, the loss of the horse and a son to a broken leg could be a devastating set of circumstances in anybody’s life.

When these apparent negative things happen in our lives, it would be so easy to curl up into a ball and go on a self-pity party.

However, the takeaway from this story is that the farmer did not indulge himself in self-absorbed emotions.

Being the wise individual that he was, he maintained an attitude of not placing a judgment on the circumstances and staying positive.

Other Interesting Related Articles To Consider:

 

3. Not Making a Judgement

The obvious moral from the story of the Chinese farmer is that he did not make a judgment about the good or bad things that happened in his life.


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He understood that life is life and sometimes bad things happen to good people and sometimes good things happen to bad people.

Life is not capricious nor is it vengeful.

Life is life and provides a variety of circumstances to all people.

Life does not have it in for us. Life can be challenging but we grow through those challenges.

In other words, life happens to all of us.

It is best to roll with the punches and if knocked down simply answer the bell and get up.

Sanjo Jendayi said, “Champions don’t give up; they get up.”

 

4. Being a Mentor 

Another takeaway from this story is the assumption that the neighbors who visited with the Chinese farmer were taken aback by his response.

Obviously, with their response to the farmer in each of these four situations, they had placed a judgment on the circumstance.

They deemed each event as being lucky or being a stroke of bad luck.

Consequently, with the Chinese farmer’s reaction of just simply saying “Maybe” to each of these incidences, he was becoming a mentor to each of those individuals.

His outlook on life and being non-committal as to judging these circumstances was an opportunity for them to learn as well given the outcome of what occurred when these events happened.

So, it can be with us.

It is important to note that people watch us and when things happen in our lives, we can demonstrate our attitude towards those events and become a mentor to those who are observing.

 

5, Being a Leader to Neighbors

In addition to being a mentor, it appears that in the midst of the instability of the events in all of these individuals’ lives, the Chinese farmer was a pillar of confidence and self-assuredness.

In other words, the Chinese farmer was a leader amongst those in his community.

In being a leader, he took on the role of being a person of strength and demonstrating uniqueness in his response.

A leader thinks and acts differently.

A leader is different.

 

 

6. Being a Role Model to Son

Above all, the Chinese farmer was taking his critical role of being a father to the level of being a quality role model.

If the story were true, one would have to assume that the son, growing up underneath the inspirational father/educator, was a constant learning experience.

Learning how to farm the land, being a hard worker, and providing for his family.

More importantly, demonstrating the strength of character and a solid belief system.

It is important, as parents, to realize that our children not only listen and respond to what we say but even more importantly they watch what we do.

It was once quoted as saying I’d rather see a sermon than hear a sermon.

This Chinese farmer/father was the ideal role model for his son and how to approach life and respond to the various circumstances that life brought.

 

7. Areas of Misfortune – Loss of Horse 

Also, important to note that the areas of “misfortune” were not just so what situations or take it or leave it scenarios.

The loss of a horse was part of the productivity of the Chinese farmer’s ability to work the farm.

Without the availability of the horse, the farming would suffer and consequently so would the farmer’s livelihood and additionally, his ability to provide for his family.

The other aspect of losing the horse is that the horse represented the farmers well.

The horse was not only a part of working the farm but was part of the farmer’s assets.

Consequently, losing something so valuable brought an added dimension to the story due to the loss or the hit taken on one’s financial condition.

Therefore, the added dimension of the significant loss of the horse needs to be part of the Chinese farmer’s story and how he handled such a significant loss in his life.

 

8. Area of Misfortune – Broken Leg 

In the same vein, the loss of his son through a broken leg added to the tragic devastation of losing his able-bodied son.

The workload of farming the farm now fell on the shoulders of the Chinese farmer alone.

This could have been viewed as another significant and devastating impact on the mental perspective of the farmer.

However, according to the story, the Chinese farmer did not allow himself to indulge in a “woe is me” attitude.

Also, the damage to the son’s leg represents things that happen to other members of our family.

So often, it is difficult to maintain a positive attitude especially when bad things happen to those whom we love and care for.

However, the story of the Chinese farmer does not reflect the farmer giving in to those feelings of the events of life always pushing against him.

 

Story of the Chinese Farmer FAQs

 

Who Wrote the Chinese Farmer?

The story of the Chinese farmer was written by a philosopher by the name of Alan Watts.

He often gave lectures at a variety of universities around the United States.

His narration of the story is set to animation at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OX0OARBqBp0.

 

What Is the Religion or Belief System That This Story Exemplifies?

The religion is Taoism.

This religion believes that the animal kingdom should live in balance with what is known as the Tao.

Taoists believe in the immortality of the soul and that upon death, the spirit of the individual joins the universe.

 

You Can Do It

The story of the Chinese farmer, whether true or not, is a powerful illustration of judging the events that occur in each of our lives.

On the surface, they may appear to be negative or positive.

However, in reality, it is the wise person who defers their judgment of these events and simply continues to take a wait-and-see attitude.

They do not give in or fall down on either judgment side of the events of life.

 

Conclusion

It has been aptly said that what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.

To maintain our mental health and to meet the challenges of life, it is best not to make judgments on events that are happening in our life.

Indeed, it would seem and our experience most likely bears this out that there is always a silver lining in everything that happens in life.

Often, success comes into our lives and often masquerades itself as a failure.


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Apart from being a seasoned Personal Finance expert who has written for top publications around the world, I bring significant personal financial experience. Long story short... through bad financial choices... I found myself $100,000 plus in debt. I was able to dissolve this indebtedness and regain financial solvency. This financial turn around was accomplished through reading, studying and implementing a financial plan. My financial plan included paying down my debt through budgeting, being cognizant of where my financial resources were being spent, changing my attitude about money and understanding the binding chains of the improper use of credit. Today, and for 10 years, I have been debt free and have invested wisely to enjoy my current retirement. This is allowing me to write to help others make, save and grow money wisely!