A Life-Changing Lesson About Our Thoughts

June 3, 2024
Jess shares a personal story about how a negative experience with a wasp and a spider led to positive outcomes.
A Life-Changing Lesson About Our Thoughts
June 3, 2024
Jess shares a personal story about how a negative experience with a wasp and a spider led to positive outcomes.





In this episode of “Amplify with Jess Ekstrom,” Jess shares personal stories to illustrate how seemingly negative experiences can lead to positive outcomes, emphasizing that it’s often difficult to distinguish between good and bad luck. She concludes with the insight that the cost of bad experiences often buys valuable knowledge for the future.


Jess has a personal Aesop tale that shifted her views on positive and negative thoughts, luck, and she’s sharing the story today to explain how it transformed her Zen energy.

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Amplify with Jess is produced by Earfluence and brought to you by Mic Drop Workshop.


Welcome to “Amplify with Jess Ekstrom,” a show designed to help women get out of their head and into their zone of influence. Happy Monday, everyone! Here’s some food for thought to start your week.

Okay, so fun fact, or maybe not so fun fact, is that I am allergic to bees. The first time I got stung on my hand after like pounding some Oreos as a kid. My hand blew up like a balloon, and I got to ride in an ambulance for the very first time, which was so fun for me, not so fun for my mom. Needless to say, ever since then, I try to best respect bees from a distance. And the irony is we actually, our house is right across from this like man-made beehive colony, which was not on the Zillow listing when we bought it.

But my point is, a few years ago, I went to this silent meditation retreat, which I will talk about some other time on this podcast. But it was in the middle of North Carolina. And I had my own little like single-person tent that was on a platform in the woods. And the first day I was there, I was unloading my bag into the tent. And I saw this huge spider on the platform right outside my tent. And I’m surprised it didn’t like knock on my door asking to buy some Girl Scout cookies. That’s how close it was to my tent. And my first instinct was to grab my shoe and just smash this spider. But then I thought to myself, okay, Jess, you’re at a silent meditation retreat in the woods. Do you really want your first act to be killing a living creature? So I stopped and I let the spider stay and then just politely stepped to the side anytime I needed to get into my tent.

But over the span of the four days that I was there, I watched this spider build its web like little by little. It’s crazy the things that are entertaining to you when you can’t talk to anyone, and you can’t read anything, and there’s no technology. Watching a spider build its web was like just as entertaining as going to like Cirque du Soleil. But on the last morning I was there, I laid out my yoga mat on this like wooden platform that was right by my tent to stretch. And I’m not the kind of person who does this at home. I typically like will wake up, hit the coffee maker, and mad dash to get out the door. But again, silent meditation retreat. So I was forcing myself to like close the gap to touch my toes. And I heard this really loud buzzing in the distance and it sounded like an angry buzzing. Okay, I’m not really sure like the difference between like an angry and a neutral buzzing. So this is for dramatic effect. But I looked around to see where this buzzing was coming from. And I saw this like huge kind of hornet, bee, wasp, whatever you want to call it, just coming straight towards me. And as I was reaching for my shoe to somehow try to like protect myself with a sandal, the buzzing went from loud to this like scattered sporadic buzz. And when I looked up, I saw the wasp had gotten caught in the spider’s web about two feet from my face. What a great neighborly spider.

But the thing that I thought was the bad experience, having a spider outside of my tent, was ultimately the thing that brought me the good experience, which was saving me from an angry wasp, which reminds me of this Buddhist story about a Zen farmer. And again, you’re probably like, Jess, silent meditation, Buddhist story. This episode is, whew, but just run with me on this. And it shows that it’s impossible to know what is good and what is actually bad. So I’m just going to tell you this story because it literally changed my life.

So there was once this old Zen farmer, and every day the farmer used his horse to help work the fields and keep his farm healthy. But one day this horse ran away, and all the villagers came by and were like, oh my gosh, we’re so sorry to hear this. The horse ran away. This is such bad luck. But the farmer responded, bad luck, good luck, who knows? The villagers were really confused but decided to ignore him. A few weeks went by, and then one afternoon while the farmer was working outside, he looked up and he saw his horse running back towards him again. But the horse was not alone. The horse was returning with a whole herd of horses. So now the farmer went from one horse to zero horses and now had ten horses to help work his fields. And all the villagers came by and said, congratulations. Wow, this is such good luck to now have ten horses. But the farmer responded, good luck, bad luck, who knows?

And a few weeks later, the farmer’s son came over to visit and help his father work on his farm. While trying to tame one of the horses, the farmer’s son fell and broke his leg. And the villagers came by, of course, to commiserate. And they were like, this is awful. He broke his leg. This is such bad luck. What do you think the farmer said? Just as he responded all the other times. Bad luck, good luck, who knows?

A month later, the farmer’s son was still recovering. He wasn’t able to walk or do any kind of manual labor to help his father around the farm. And the army draft came marching through the town, and every able-bodied young man was required to join them. And when they came to the farmer’s house, they saw the young boy with his broken leg, and they marched past him and left him right where he was. All the villagers, of course, said, amazing. This is such good luck. You are so fortunate that your son didn’t have to join the army because of his broken leg. And by now, you can finish the story. The farmer responded, bad luck, good luck, who knows?

Now, of course, our life experiences are rarely about spiders stopping bees and horses and getting drafted in the army, but the same philosophy of resisting the urge to classify good and bad can be applied to our work. One of the companies that I started, I signed a really bad deal. It wasn’t until years later when the company started to be successful that I realized kind of the magnitude of what I had just whimsically signed one day. And it ended up costing me multi-six figures to get out of it. And for months, alright, for years, I was just sick over it. I was losing sleep. I was kicking myself for being so naive and not thinking through all of the possible scenarios. I was mad at myself for not advocating for myself or even investing in legal counsel before I signed. Basically, I was just in a nightly boxing ring with myself over this mistake that I made signing this deal.

But over the past like six, seven, eight years since I signed that deal and paid my way out of it, I’ve had dozens of more opportunities to sell shares, to sell companies that I’ve started, join boards, invest in other companies, and make some pretty big moves. And with every opportunity that has come into my orbit, I now have this internal encyclopedia of experience and what not to do. If I do the math over the years, the money that I had to pay to get out of that deal is exponentially less than what I’d have to pay for the mistakes I would have made in future deals.

So it’s impossible sometimes to label things as good or bad, whether it’s a hornet, a horse, or a bad business decision, because the knowledge that you earn can save you from making an even bigger mistake down the road. So I will leave you with this: The cost of the bad experience is often the price tag for the knowledge that leads you to the good experience. Thanks for listening to Amplify. If you are a fan of the show, show us some podcast love by giving us a rating and review.


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