Clarity of Mind When Things Go ‘Wrong’

By Max Hill, Podcast Host at “Built in the Bronx”

Maximillian K. (Max) Hill

This morning, I was headed out of town on a trip. I got a steal of a deal on Kiwi.com.

I was all packed, the reservations were confirmed, the AirBnB was booked. As I got off the train in Jamaica, Queens, I reached for my wallet and realized that it wasn’t in my jacket pocket.

I am certain that I left the wallet on the train (or worse, I was pickpocketed without noticing). Obviously, this was a horrible mistake, as being out of town for a week without cash and without a bank card is not an ideal situation.
The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal PerformanceInstead of panicking, I just took a chill pill. I reminded myself of the chapter called “The Downward Spiral” in a book “The Art of Learning” by International Chess Master Josh Waitzkin. Learn more about Josh on Premier Chess Podcast Episode 120 with his father Fed Waitzkin.
The chapter is about regaining presence and clarity of mind after making a serious error. He talks about how when chess players make a major mistake, they usually compound the mistake by making a second, third, and fourth error, making their situation way worse than it needed to be. A better strategy after a major mistake is to think clearly about your next move.
So instead of letting my anger at myself get out of control, lamenting the fact that I missed my flight, will have to postpone my trip, and lost $200 in cash, and have to get my license and debit card replaced, I stayed calm.
I thought to myself: what are my best options in this moment:
1) Thought about going home, grabbing the cash in my emergency fund (which may not have been enough for the week long trip), and then calling an expensive Uber to LaGuardia so I could salvage the trip. Quickly realized that this wasn’t a good idea, since I’d be in a really tough spot without a bankcard if a flight got cancelled or if an emergency happened during the trip requiring some cash.
2) I called the LIRR to report the card lost, gave them the description of the contents, and left contact info in the unlikely event someone turned my wallet in instead of taking the cash.
3) I called the bank and reported the card lost. I will get a temporary card today from the branch.
4) I called the airlines and got credits that can be used during 2024 and while there will be a surcharge, it’s better than taking a total loss on the trip by not calling.
5) I looked at the bright side. I will now be able to attend DevFest at school, our department’s biggest event of the year, which I was going to miss because of the preplanned trip.
So while it sucks that I lost some serious cash, will have to postpone my trip, and run some more errands to get the contents of my wallet replaced, I could have made it way worse if I stubbornly insisted on going on the trip without a bankcard, putting myself in a very bad position. The students and faculty will appreciate seeing me at DevFest as well.

I think the version of myself from 5-10 years ago would have made the terrible decision to take the trip anyway. I’m getting better at decision making.

***Several Days Later***: They found my wallet with all the cash still in it. Wow. There are good people in the world. A holiday miracle.

6 thoughts on “Clarity of Mind When Things Go ‘Wrong’”

  1. Oh no! What a nightmare situation. It’s always such a letdown when we have everything planned out perfectly, only to encounter a major setback. Losing your wallet right before a trip must have been incredibly stressful. I hope you were able to handle the situation swiftly and get back on track.

  2. Stay clear headed when things go wrong. Challenges are part of life, but keeping a calm mind helps find solutions. Stay focused and be resilient, and you will navigate through tough times. When things seem unclear, a written mind guides you to determine the next steps.

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