Bad News: You're Going to Suffer Good News: You Get to Choose How
Choice is powerful. We can choose our friends. We can choose our career. We can choose our clothes. And, as Viktor Frankl profoundly noted, most importantly, we can choose our attitude. The choices we make are not controlled by our circumstances like we often think they are. They belong solely to you, to me.
Much has been written about setting goals and aspirations, as there should be. It’s important, and a consistent attribute for all leaders and those aspiring to excellence. However, I think there is a more important question than what are your goals? Who do you want to be? Or, what dreams do you have?
This question is a much better determinant of what you will actually accomplish. It snaps you from the fairytale dreams into cold reality, but we rarely think of asking it to ourselves.
What suffering are you willing to endure?
Why Should We Care? This is THE question. It presents you with a clear, simple choice. Those that acknowledge, embrace, and even enjoy the suffering required of their dreams are the ones that achieve them. Those that resent and complain about the suffering never reach their potential and usually cash out before they even get close to it.
Worse yet are those that look to avoid suffering at all costs. Those are the “cold and timid souls” that Theodore Roosevelt refers to in his Man in the Arena passage. These people spend their lives avoiding suffering as an attempt to protect themselves from criticism, judgement, and failure. Their choice to avoid suffering leads to an unfulfilled life - which was their choice. Not choosing is choosing.
For those recognizing that everything worth achieving is going to require suffering and sacrifice of something, the question simply becomes what suffering am I willing to endure? Notice, the question is not what goal am I willing to suffer for. This is an important question to consider, but not the driving force because it zeros in on the result. By focusing so much on the result, we often neglect to consider the entire process. We want to embrace the process fully - that’s where the suffering is.
I was the Athletic Director at Graham HS for 5 years and am still very good friends with the former wrestling Coach at Graham, Jeff Jordan (https://jordantrained.com/). I’m a basketball coach that loves wrestling thanks to Coach Jordan. Wrestling is a great sport and one of the reasons is because of their relationship with suffering. Our basketball team worked out with our wrestlers in the off-season specifically for this reason.
I was around some of the best high school wrestlers in the country while at Graham. At no point can I recall them complaining about cutting weight, working out in a room that was breath-takingly hot, or practicing 2-3 times per day. At Graham, everyone wanted to be a state champ - and a lot of them achieved that goal. But, in order to achieve that goal they had to choose those skipped meals, the discomfort of drilling in a sauna, and extra daily practices. To attempt to avoid that suffering wouldn’t make sense to them. They chose the suffering and the achievement of their goals followed.
REAL TALK - Action Steps It’s almost laughable how much we dismiss the process for the result - apparently ignorant to the fact that it is always the process that produces the result. Committing ourselves fully to the process is the only way we can achieve what we aspire to.
Here are a few ideas around embracing the process … and the suffering!
“It takes what it takes.” - Nick Saban
What Saban is referring to with this quote is the suffering you have to choose in order to play college football at the level Alabama expects. Every undertaking ‘takes’ something.
David Taylor (https://www.m2wrestling.com/) was a 4 time state champion wrestler and the #1 wrestler in the country while I was the athletic director at Graham. All four years of his high school career, I would get a call on Christmas morning around 10am asking if I could open the wrestling room so he could get a workout in. Christmas morning, 10am. For David, that’s what it took.
What does it take for you?
Decide if you want to embrace that process
Training Christmas morning at 10am isn’t for everyone, nor should it be. The process, and suffering, must always mirror the goal though. If I aspire to be a great leader, for example, I must embrace the discomfort of holding others accountable, showing up early to meetings, staying late to listen to a colleague, release success to the team, and accept failure for the team. If I don’t want to enter into difficult conversations for the good of the team, that’s ok. I just can’t be a leader.
Too often we are willing to accept some of the suffering, but try to avoid areas of suffering that we particularly dislike. It doesn’t work. Commit fully or don’t commit.
Make no excuses
Once you decide you’re in. Remove excuses from your life. The excuses we make are often attempts to avoid or lessen the suffering required of our commitment. They do nothing but undermine our efforts and the process.
Begin by not saying them out loud. You’ll begin catching yourself making an excuse. This self-awareness is essential in breaking the habit loop. As you gain awareness, you will start catching yourself even thinking of an excuse - stopping it before it has a chance to do any damage. Eventually you won’t even consider excuses and will realize the strength that comes with overcoming the challenges you once made an excuse to avoid.
So, back to the original question - What suffering are you willing to endure?
Your answer to that question will determine the level to which you reach your potential in any area of your life. Life is all about suffering. Those who try to avoid it, are choosing the suffering behind an unintentional, insignificant life with minimal depth and minimal impact.
Choose your suffering on purpose. Live intentionally.
For more information on building excellence in your teams, visit us at www.bluecollargrit.com. We would love to know how we could help!