The extent of our struggles determine the extent of our growth.
I’ve experienced this in my own life repeatedly, and I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a success story that wasn’t immediately preceded by a failure story. The entrepreneur, artist, actor, or singer is on top of the world, but their story usually started with some combination of a painful relationship, a failed endeavor, a battle with drugs or alcohol, or a seemingly insurmountable debt.
It’s so common that it almost seems scripted.
But it isn’t.
I’ve only been on earth for 32 years, so I still have some significant wisdom gains ahead of me. But one of the most obvious pieces of wisdom I’ve realized so far in life is this very fact.
Life is served in equal and opposite measures.
The amount of business success we can have appears to be directly related to the amount of struggle we went through to achieve it.
The amount of health we gain appears to be directly related to the amount of sacrifice we’ve made to acquire it.
The amount of joy we can experience appears to be directly related to the amount of pain we’ve felt.
I know that last point to be true in my own life. When our first son passed away two days after he was born, there had been no greater pain to that point in my life. This level of sorrow and rawness was new.
But fast forward to finding out we were pregnant with our daughter Berkley? I had never experienced such joy in my life. And I don’t think that level of joy would have been accessible without first experiencing that equal but opposite measure of pain.
I think our natural inclination in life is to seek out the upside of life.
We want the success, but we prefer to get there with the least amount of friction possible.
We want the head over heels relationship, but we prefer to get there without the necessary bend-don’t-break testing of the two people in it.
We want the gratification of a healthy mind and body, but we prefer to gain it without the exertion necessary to get there.
But what if we reversed our approach?
What if we intentionally sought out the things that are difficult in life in order to access the things that are great in life? The things that wouldn’t otherwise be accessible.
Every great story starts with a great tragedy, but if we spend our days avoiding the latter we may never give ourselves the opportunity to experience the former. That’s not to say we should seek out death and destruction – it’s to say that we should welcome it as an opportunity when we find it.
Because each down and out moment in our life is a chance to reinvent ourselves and change our path in a powerful way. As the ancient Stoics say, the obstacle is the way and the thing in our path becomes our new path.
But we can’t ever find the new path if we’ve spent our life doing everything we can to stay on the old one.