The Way You See the Problem is the Problem

I like fun stories! This is a fun story from the book, Zen and the Art of Happiness. Chris Prentiss is making a point about “As you believe, so it is for you.”


Acting on the basis of what you believe is what brings about the conditions of your life and the degrees of happiness you have experienced. In the breakthrough 2004 film What the Bleep Do We Know!?, physicist and author Fred Alan Wolf, Ph.D. observes: “There is no ‘Out There’ out there, independent of what goes on in our minds.”

Take the story of Max. Max owned a thriving sandwich shop. There were always people waiting in line to eat at his little shop. He gave away free pickles, free potato chips, sometimes a free soft drink, and his sandwiches were famous for being overstuffed.

One day his son, who lived in a distant city, came to visit. They had a good visit but as the son was leaving, he told his father, “Since I have been here, I’ve been observing how you run the sandwich shop, and I have to tell you for your own good that you’re making a big mistake giving away all those extras. The country’s economy is in bad shape. People are out of work, and they have less money to spend. If you don’t cut back on the free items and on your portion sizes, you’ll be in a bad way before long too.” His father was amazed, thanked his son, and told him he would consider his advice.

After his son left, Max followed his son’s advice. He stopped giving away free items and he cut back on the generous portions of food in his sandwiches. Before long, after many of his disappointed customers had stopped coming, he wrote his son: “You were right! The country’s economy is in bad shape, and I’m experiencing the results of it right here in my sandwich shop!”

The poor economy that the man’s son saw all around him was real. Despite the poor economy, though, the father had been running a successful sandwich shop. He didn’t realize that times were hard, that many people were out of work, and that money was scarce. He was treating everyone with great generosity and he was reaping the rewards that such actions always bring: a positive, generous outpouring of good things. But after his son told him about the “bad shape” the country was in, he began to act as if it were so, bringing about the only possible result—a negative, fearful, ungenerous experience that he believed was “out there.” Was it “out there”?

The answers are never “out there.” All the answers are “in there,” inside you, waiting to be discovered.

I have seen several similar scenarios in my life; the story rings true for me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s