The Mandatory Mindset for Life
"If you make pain your friend, you will never be alone. If you make suffering your ally, you will never be weak."
Reframing your relationship with pain and suffering is the single philosophy that will carry you to a life of greatness..
There are three guarantees in life.
- And time waits for no one.
Now, I am not a pessimist by any means. But I am not an extreme optimist either.
I am a realist. Someone who accepts things for what they are instead of what I wish them to be.
More importantly, I try to mentally prepare myself to handle any situation that rears its ugly head.
After all, life has a way of kicking you in the teeth when you aren't looking. It doesn't always greet you with roses and chocolates every morning. It's not all butterflies and rainbows. Or in my daughters words, "Unicorns and ponies."
There will always be the occasional tornado that is waiting for you on the front porch as you blindly step out for a Sunday stroll.
You can't be ready for anything. But you can learn how to respond to anything with a sound mind and a steady hand.
The great James Stockdale who was a Prisoner of War for over 7 years in Vietnam did an interview with the renowned author Jim Collins.
Jim simply asked the admiral "Who didn't make it out?" In reference to the other P.O.W.'s who coudnt endure the torture by their captors.
Stockdale replied, "Oh, that's easy, the optimists."
Collins was confused, "The optimists? I don't understand."
Stockdales didn't hesitate with his rebuttal.
"The optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, 'We're going to be out by Christmas.' And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they'd say, 'We're going to be out by Easter.' And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart."
"This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be."
It was Stockdale's acceptance of his harsh reality that got him through such a dark time.
He had faith that he would persevere, but he never lost sight of what was directly in front of him. He embraced the moment with all its ugliness. He adapted to the current circumstances and did everything in his power to control the one weapon they could never take away from him, his mind.
Now, I am obviously not trying to impose that all pain is equal. It would be disturbingly insulting to compare sitting in parking lot traffic to suffering from a terminal disease, or being a P.O.W like Stockdale.
What I am telling you is that the more you embrace pain and suffering, the stronger you will become.
There is no joy without pain. No strength without suffering.
if you can adopt a mentality where you not only accept the suffering that comes on your path to greatness, but you also seek it. Your life will change forever."
Suffering comes in many different forms.
- Suffering through failure.
- Suffering through discipline.
- Suffering through experience.
- Suffering through regret.
The first three ways will produce growth and excellence. The last will produce shame and resentment for yourself. It will lead to a pit in your stomach that will sit with you until the day you perish.
Once you can see the beauty in pain and suffering, you will never feel disappointed.
There is a reason why Talib Kweli called Life a "Beautiful struggle." Because it is.
Life is a messy masterpiece. A polarizing journey filled with betrayal and loyalty, toxicity, and purity, agony, and peace, hate and love. And It's all part of playing the game of life.
But the ones who redefine pain and suffering, play it well. They tend to "level up" quicker than most.
Tattooing this mental framework on my brain has been nothing short of a game changer.
But you must always remain humble.
Recognize that there are people in this world, who have endured a level of pain that is mind numbingly tragic and traumatic.
Use these people as sources of inspiration. Helping you understand the incomparable resilience of the human spirit.
I am talking about Viktor Frankly who endured four concentration camps.
I am talking about Nelson Mandela who endured 27 years in prison.
I am talking about Aaron Rolston who endured 5 days stranded alone on a mountain with his arm trapped under a boulder with no water, or food,
I am talking about the millions of paraplegics who have to move through life without the ability to lift, walk, run, and sprint with the same ease as we do.
These people had to reframe their relationship with suffering in the most dyer and unthinkable circumstances. Some had to do it for a window of time, some had to do it for a lifetime.
We live in a soft society. One that is filled with people who pamper you with "It's ok. You deserve to be lazy today. You worked hard for 3 days straight. Take a break."
I am not condoning not taking a break, but I am shedding some light on how quickly we forget what real commitment and hard work look like.
Would you be complaining about your current stage in life, if you were sitting in a cell for a crime you didn't commit?
Would you be whining about traffic, if you were stripped away of your ability to even walk because you suffered through a tragic accident that caused paralysis?
I doubt it. These stories should push you to live a life rooted in gratitude and humility.
So as we part ways, remember this.
You must master the art of suffering. Embrace it. Voluntarily seek challenges that force you to tap into a level of inner strength that you didn't know existed.
As the spartans say, "Sweat more in training. Bleed less in war."
Be ready for the unexpected storms by routinely stepping into the rain.
Over time, you will be immune to the heavy drops of pain. Even if it is a downpour. You will only see the beams of light that break through the darkness of clouds. And it all happened because you made pain and suffering your greatest allies.And in that moment, you will unlock another level of life. I promise you that.