We’ve all heard it before: success demands sacrifice, demands suffering. However, it takes more than simply being miserable or feeling blind distress to reach your goals － you have to know how to suffer properly.
Yup. I just said there’s a right way to suffer.
The idea was first introduced to me by my good friend Bear, a Native American elder whose life and standards are informed by traditional Navajo beliefs.
During one visit filled with musings about suffering and the differences between our cultures, Bear pretty factually stated that the western world has become weak and fractured － mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. In the same breath, he offered up the remedy to it all: to suffer intentionally, in as controlled an environment as possible, and finally shed all the distractions and noise that disconnect us from ourselves.
Super enticing, right? But as much as people will undoubtedly want to shy away from it, Bear’s really onto something here.
You see, success is about surpassing what you’ve already done before, moving past boundaries for what you believe you’re capable of achieving.
This requires you to push yourself －or alternatively, be pushed － far beyond the bounds of your proverbial comfort zone. It means you must allow yourself to feel uncomfortable in ways you’ve never experienced and be relentless about actively chasing such discomfort.
It’s all about productive, controlled modes of suffering.
The trouble is most of us haven’t been doing the kind of suffering Bear’s suggesting.
Instead, we’ve become subject to the pain and struggle that come from addictions and escapism, leaving our lives managed through pharmaceuticals, or whatever else is currently being marketed as an instant-fix for peace and happiness.
And before you say anything, no one is immune. Because when one suffers, we all do.
It’s a systemic problem and there’s no telling when (or if) we’ll ever overcome it to suffer in the way needed for real progress to take root.
It’s out of our hands. The only way to move forward is for our country’s leaders to be brave and sure, to face these challenges head-on instead of merely sticking to the status quo. They’re the only ones who can end this epidemic and transform our culture in a way that allows us to properly struggle and thrive.
Yeah… Suffice it to say, things are looking a little bleak.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though.
All of that is the big picture, and it’s undeniably important. But there’s a smaller picture here, too: your life. And that is something you do have control over.
So, strive to become the leader of your own existence. Objectively look at your life and see if you’re really your best in all aspects.
Do you have happy, healthy relationships? Is your physical and mental health optimal or can it be improved? Do you live feeling free and peaceful or are you being held down by nagging dilemmas or toxic situations? Do you inspire others with your leadership? Are you creating positive change in your community?
The hope is that you feel good about your answers. But if you don’t, you can do something about that.
Keep in mind, a leader’s job is to be a bridge to desired outcomes, not just sit there and suffer － or have others watch you and suffer － as these goals slip through your fingers.
You’ve got to actively work towards what you want, to make the changes necessary to create a better future for you, your family and friends, and everyone else around you.
There’s a proper way to suffer and there’s a poor way to suffer. Don’t allow yourself to become stuck in the latter.
Don’t suffer in silence nor let your relationships, health, and stress overwhelm your performance or productivity. Learn what distinguishes proper suffering from the improper form and embrace what that looks and feels like. The only way you finally achieve your highest potential is by accepting it, by going through it.
Not everyone is capable of this, to be sure. But I think you can.
And if you’re the type of leader who’s willing to give it a shot, to embrace discomfort and transformation? Reach out. We should talk.
Read on to discover more truths on trending topics: a combat veteran’s perspective on January 6th.