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The 3 Chinese Curses: Shifting Your Perspective Towards Misfortune/Hardship

Have you ever heard of the 3 famous Chinese Curses?

  • May you live in interesting times
  • May you be recognized by people in high places (sometimes also reported as: May you attract the attention of the government)
  • May you find what you’re looking for (often heard as “be careful what you wish for… it may just come true…”)

The irony of these 3 curses is that, on the surface, they can seem like blessings.

Let’s talk about Curse #3 first.

One thing that I’ve realized after coaching and training thousands of aspiring and established entrepreneurs is that often success can seem as scary as failure.  People fear what they have to lose when they become successful or how success will change their lives…

Let me give you an example:  it took my student Elizabeth 3 years to sign up for our yearlong Mentorship program.

She was retired and scared that going into business would take over her life and she would no longer have time for the fun and spontaneity she valued so highly.

But when I helped her realize that she could design her business in a way that included her core values of fun and spontaneity, it led to led her to start a business that she’s passionate about after years of false starts and getting nowhere. Now she helps people discover their genius within and claim the work that makes their heart and soul sing. It’s no coincidence that she now supports people in doing exactly what she herself struggled to do.

You see, Elizabeth unconsciously had a belief that to be successful in business, it had to be hard. It had to be a struggle. And that wasn’t something she was willing to do in her 70s. She was “too old for that.” She didn’t need the money. She wanted a business to support her passion and make an impact.

Once she acknowledged the value conflict that was holding her back, she was able to move forward and turn the curse “May you find what you’re looking for” into a blessing…


Another common value conflict (especially for parents) is the belief if I’m going to be successful, I won’t have time for family. In other words: I have to sacrifice who I love to do what I love.

These beliefs often come from watching how our own parents navigated their relationship with work, career, money and business.

Perhaps your father was gone for much of your childhood as he spent all his time working to support the family, and ended up losing the family in the process.

If you’ve had an experience like that as a child, it’s natural to create the belief that if I become “successful”, I’ll be alone.

These value conflicts create what’s often called a “double bind” — a black and white, either/or belief that leaves no room for compromise.

Eg: “Either I’m successful and alone OR I never realize the success that’s possible but I have a happy and fulfilling family life.”

Or, in Elizabeth’s case –“Either I’m successful and miserable, or I give up on my passion so I can have fun.”

But millions of people around the world have found ways to have both. They’ve found ways to be successful in both business and love. And they’ve found ways to be both successful and happy…

They’ve turned “May you find what you’re looking for” – into a blessing…

 What are the conscious or unconscious value conflicts that may have you stuck in a double bind?

This often shows up as saying you want something and then taking action (or not taking action as the case may be) that doesn’t support what it is that you say you want… that’s the classic sign that you may have a value conflict.

Q: Where are you saying one thing in your business (or life) and doing another?

Q: Where are you simultaneously hitting the brakes and the gas?

Q: What’s keeping you from finding or realizing what you’re looking for?


Now let’s look at the first Chinese curse: May you live in interesting times.

I can’t tell you how many students have told me that they can’t be successful or focus on their business right now because of the economy, or Facebook, or Trump, or the Internet. Yet, millions of people have successful, growing businesses despite all of that.

Or perhaps they have a belief that “I need to be a techie” to build a successful business in today’s online world. When the truth of the matter is that I have many friends that have highly successful internet businesses that are not technical at all.

Yes, we live in interesting times.

Yes, email open rates are declining.

Yes, more and more people are entering the industry and competing for your tribe’s attention.

Here’s the thing: Success starts with you. It’s not dependent on what’s happening in the world, it’s dependent on what’s happening in you. You have the choice to embrace these “interesting times,” take control of your destiny and create anything you want when you want it. You have the choice to evolve and succeed no matter what is going on around you.


Now for our second Chinese curse: “May you be recognized by people in high places” OR “May you attract the attention of the government.”

Now this is an interesting one that Murray and I bumped up against this summer.

But, first let’s start with you.

Many of my students are scared of visibility. They’re scared they’ll lose their privacy or they’re scared they’ll be persecuted if they become visible, known or even famous. They’re reluctant to attract attention out of fear of what may come with that attention.

Perhaps they’ve had a bad experience or trauma in the past that came from attracting unwanted attention… or to someone in their lives…

But the truth is that you can attract attention simply by going to the grocery store or walking down the street. Becoming successful by itself doesn’t necessarily put you in harm’s way.

Unless you can turn yourself invisible, the challenges will always be there. Serving 1,000,000 people is just going to give you different challenges that if you were serving 100 or 1,000.

At the same time, the more people you reach, the bigger your impact, and the more likely you are attract positive attention and opportunities.

Case in point: I got an invitation in my inbox just this morning to be interviewed for the Mindvalley Insiders series which includes guests such as Peter Diamandis, Don Jose Ruiz, Shawn Achor, and Neale Donald Walsh. J

I don’t know about you, but I’ll take that blessing and that curse any day of the week.

While there are days when the blessings of my life and business feel more like a curse, I wouldn’t trade who I am, what I do and all that I’ve created.

I’m grateful for everything in my life, including the challenges, the complainers and the haters. They’re all part of my growth path… the design of my life that pushes and pulls me higher.

As always, it’s a matter of perspective.

One man’s blessing is another man’s curse…

One woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure…

Is it possible that the challenges (and curses) in your life could actually your blessings? Hmmm…. Food for thought. J


Now for the funny (and harrowing) story I promised to tell about what happened when Murray and I unwittingly attracted the attention of the Russian government during our travels this summer.

We were in Belarus to visit our 10-strong tech team we hired to create our Heroic software. They’ve been working with us for 2 years and we hadn’t met them yet, so we were super excited for the trip. And after that, we were planning to take the train from Minsk to St. Petersburg, and continue on to Russia to meet some friends.

We had all our visas for Belarus and for Russia in order, so we thought everything was good.

We boarded the night train in Minsk at 6pm. They checked our passports and let us on the train. We got settled in our sleeper cabin and had a nice evening together before going to sleep around midnight.

30-minutes later we hear a pounding on the door as Russian officials demanded to see our paperwork.

It was clear there was something wrong, but the Russians didn’t speak English and we didn’t speak Russian.

They signaled for us to pack all our bags and leave the cabin.

Eventually, we realized that one of the officials spoke a little bit of Spanish (of all things), so I could communicate with him.

He let us know that we couldn’t go into Russia via the train we were on and that we had to reroute.

So they pulled us off the train in the middle of the night, along with a man from Switzerland and a man from Azerbaijan.

They had us board another train which sped off for 40-minutes in another direction. We had no idea where we were going or what would happen to us. I attempted to ask the one official in Spanish, but he struggled to communicate what was happening in a way we could understand.

IMG_2114 Eventually, the train stopped and we got out. There was a huge army truck there to greet us that we climbed into the back of.

We got in and they took us through the night to a detention facility, where they put us in a freezing cold room without windows. Mosquitos buzzed around us as we tried to get comfortable.

They came in several times to get our personal information. They needed exact details of when and where we were born, where we lived, where we went to college, where we were going, you name it. Then they insisted on going over every detail we wrote down to make sure they understood and rewriting it in their own handwriting.

Eventually they came back with 20-page typed “confessions” in Russian for each of us to sign.

The “Confession”

They were charging us a fine of 2000 rubles for “attempting an illegal border crossing” and were deporting us back to Belarus LOL.

Apparently, the policy had recently changed and Russia now prohibited foreigners coming into Russia from Belarus, so if you wanted to travel to Russia from Belarus overland, you had to go through any other country but Belarus.

Naturally, we didn’t want to go all the way back to Minsk, so asked them to help us find a faster way to get to St Petersburg. The one Spanish-speaking Russian official had taken a liking to me and mapped out a route from Vitebsk, Belarus (not too far from the Russian border) to Riga, Latvia by bus, and then on to St. Pete by plane.

And with that itinerary, at 6am they boarded the 4 of us into a truck, and took off for the border.

We didn’t know exactly where they were taking us but I got the sense that they would take care of us to the best of their ability.

As we were driving, I stared out the window as we drove through the dawn. There was one moment of exquisite beauty as we watched the hot pink sunrise through the rolling fog on an anonymous river. I was transfixed and realized that I was one of a very small group of foreigners who’d EVER had that moment, and I felt fortunate.

A few minutes later, they dropped us off on the Belarus border, gave us our passports, wished us good luck, and drove away.

We stood there for about 10-minutes wondering what to do, then asked the border guard if he could call us a cab to take us to Vitebsk.

He agreed and about 15-minutes later a tiny cab pulls up and the 4 of us tetris ourselves and our bags into the cab, and 40-minutes later we find ourselves in Vitebsk.

It was shortly after 7am and the 10-hour bus to Riga didn’t leave until 11am, so we took the time to go online and buy plane tickets out of Riga to St. Petersburg.  The bus ride to Riga was of course beautiful and I had several moments of inspiration along the way as I brainstormed my bucket list and “get to do” list. And eventually we did get to St. Petersburg (though it took us 32-hours instead of 12)…

So, let me ask you, are a couple soul-filling moments worth the long and hard journey?

I’d say so.

In my mind, even that curse was a blessing. And it gave us a damn good story to tell…

As always, it’s a matter of perspective.  🙂

Love it? Hate it? Let me know...

  1. Anna Avatar

    Dear Marisa,

    I’m from Russia, Saint Petersburg. I’m very sorry about this situation.I have found some information for you about regulation of this case.

    Foreign citizens are advised to enter Russia through the international border crossing points where there are customs and border control. However, on the border between Belarus and Russia such items are not available

    Responsibility for violation of the procedure of entry to the Russian Federation is defined. At the bus and train stations in Russia have the information announcement that the entry into the Russian Federation of foreign citizens outside the international checkpoint is both administrative and a criminal offence for which a penalty from 2 to 7 thousand Russian rubles.

    1. Marisa Murgatroyd Avatar
      Marisa Murgatroyd

      Thanks for this Anna. I appreciate your concern. We didn’t see any signs in the train station (at least in English). Also they checked our passports boarding the train and didn’t say anything. There were 2 others they took off the train with us. 4 foreigners on one train, so it definitely wasn’t clear.

  2. Roger Avatar

    Seeing the blessings in all of life is the best way to make it through the hardships. After having lost everything twice I can say for certain that while I would never want to go through that again I am so grateful for the lessons they taught me and how they enriched my spiritual and personal growth. You can land in a room full of manure and think this sucks or think there must be a ponnie in here somewhere. That is a great story to tell and to tell it well makes the fine that much more enjoyable. Guess you could say you paid 2000 for a great movie and experience.

  3. David E. Balch Avatar
    David E. Balch

    This shows just how flexible you were and what a blessing God provided the Russian who spoke Spanish.

  4. Matt Avatar

    Could you put the three phrases in Chinese (Mandarin?) I would like to send it as a message to someone that has stolen from me

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