I know I know this isn’t likely a topic anyone is really fond of. It’s the new year, and we are all thinking big and working towards our goals. By now our past has probably taught many of us that with achieving goals there will be struggles along the way. I write this not to say to ignore those battles, but to encourage you to embrace them and hit them head-on. We have seen many instances where the leading actor in a story or movie does this very thing, but we can lose sight of the lessons they learned or how they really got through those tough times. Struggle can do quite a few things in your life. It:
1. makes you better.
2. makes your smarter.
3. applies pressure that will enable you to see a side of yourself that victory cannot!
Going through struggle enables you to be creative. When things are well you will process things the usual way, the status quo average quality way. But the struggle helps you to come up with unseen ideas or backdoor strategies that can become the new status quo.
For instance, let’s take the movie Pursuit of Happyness. The main character Chris Gardner had a serious struggle: his wife left, he was homeless, and he had a son to raise. Remember this is a real-life story, not fiction. To complicate matters, his opportunity came in the form of an unpaid internship (side-note: beware that when you call for help, that you do not be dismayed of the vehicle or path that support comes in). Chris cannot work long hours like his fellow younger single intern competitors because he has to pick up his child from daycare and find shelter for them. This situation by itself would have made many people quit and look for something else. However, what did Mr. Gardner do? He took a good look at his reality, and he embraced it! He found a way to outwork the fellow interns by becoming creative. He didn’t chit-chat around the water cooler, he did not drink too much water to prevent many bathroom breaks, and as soon as he hung up from talking to one potential client, he was immediately calling another prospective client. As a good friend of mine would say “Thank God for Glory!” He did not WASTE time, he was dialed in, focused, pick anything to describe it, he was it! His struggle made him better; he was more efficient than anyone around him. His battle made him the one to be hired! Others around you don’t need to know your struggle because it’s not the end of your story. By Mr. Gardner’s work ethic, would any of his coworkers have known the complicated situation his life was currently in? No. He didn’t have time to complain to anyone; he was busy making progress. When was the last time you were so busy making development that you didn’t have time to complain?
Alright so maybe that illustration doesn’t work for you. I will give you one more. One of the (and I mean THE) best soldiers I know in the military was once a failure. He retired as a Master Sergeant in the Army National Guard. He was also a Master Fitness Trainer (he helped many soldiers to pass their fitness test) and a subject matter expert in Human Resources. His famous reply to any question asked of him (before he spits out the answer verbatim as stated in policy) was “Did you check the regulation?” He carried himself as if he knew all of the regulations in the National Guard by memory, and that is quite a few regulations. At his retirement party, he got up to speak and shed a bit of light on his past by talking about when he first became a soldier. Surely this great soldier would get up and say that he was perfect from the time he first enlisted to retirement, but not so. After Basic Training all National Guard soldiers report to their job training whether it be a Mechanic, Infantryman or Human Resources Specialist. When he got there, guess what happened? He flunked out of his first job training! He said that he would fall asleep in class, not remember any of the instruction, and therefore fail the tests. After failing, he was faced with a choice: he could go back home (which for many of us is not an option) or choose another job field. If he happened to fail a second time well, then he was going home for sure. He decided to take another job and out of the struggle he became the notorious fact checker and regulation reciter we know today. No one knew how he came to be the great soldier he was. We just assumed that he was always that way, but it was his struggle that made him better. It made his smarter.
Both of the men above created a plan and took action. They both created advantages out of their disadvantageous situations. You can, and should, do the same. Struggle will make you look at yourself in the mirror and see you for who you are, but it will also force you to dig deep within yourself. To dig deep and motivate you to give more of yourself than you usually would. Your struggle can make you work at a pace or give you a sense of urgency that victory cannot. Struggle can put you on a path an easy triumph cannot. Embrace your struggle; you may never be this creative again!