The Merits of Struggle

“Struggle” is a tricky word. Long before the interconnection of IoT and the ever-changing way “We” communicate with each other via related channels, a simple exchange might go something like this:

“Hey–how’s it going?”

“Not so great. Some struggles lately.”

“Oh, wow–I’m sorry to hear that! Is there anything you might like to talk about?”

And then the conversation could progress. Or not. Very fluid, the process, depending on who was involved.

I’ve noticed a different trend over these last several years. I’ve seen or read some folks say or write “I’m experiencing some hard times” or “I’m struggling,” and the immediate feedback has too often been something like, “Oh yeah? Here’s why your struggle is less significant than this other topic.”

Before I proceed, let me first take a moment to humbly acknowledge that I have definitely had the same knee-jerk reaction in many cases. This is something I work with daily and continue to evolve as part of becoming a better version of me. Just to be clear.

Lately I have been ruminating on the merits of struggle. Since hardship is relative to the one who experiences it, I first went back to philosophers to see what they had to say, which was enlightening–as it usually is. It’s my own way of calibrating my thoughts before I attempt to grow. Results vary by person. You may have a better method. (If you do, please feel free to share it.)

I have now spent the last year in sales. This was an unexpected turn for me, and as difficult as it has been to transition to a career that is not a natural fit, I have learned more in the last three hundred days than I had acknowledged the previous thousand.

Here are a few takeaways:

  1. Once you know what you are supposed to do, you should pursue that.
  2. Once you become good at what you enjoy doing, you should strengthen that.
  3. Once you modify your viewpoint of what you can do to make the world better, you should offer that.

These are, of course, vague enough to be applied in whatever fashion you prefer, but I will expand on each of these. What you are “supposed” to do could be seasonal. Plenty of people gave their all for Something that worked for them for a long time, and brought value to those around them. Later, maybe not so much. Becoming “good” at something is in itself a nondescript qualifier of what it means to be “good” or to considered proficient or worthy of consideration in something. I think most people who are “good” at something enjoy becoming better. Therefore, even if it were just for the sake of improvement itself, such an endeavor would prove to be time well spent.

The last one is the most difficult, and as it is so highly subjective, here is what I mean “by making the world better.” For me, one of my chief motivators in life is to show others how “A to B” works. Specifically, going back to my classroom days, my favorite thing was to show the ups and downs of thoughts or actions to learners in the largest sense possible, for nothing more than the hopes that a percentage of students would be able to benefit from such experiences. Broad? Vague? Maybe. Here it is in the plainest fashion:

  • I want More for others based on what I have experienced.
  • I want others to skip hardships or have an easier time with them based on what I learned from similar difficulties.
  • I want everyone I meet to become better by having communicated with me, even if only for a few minutes. This includes people who do not like me and do not appreciate anything I might offer. In such cases, those people are made better by knowing that I am not “for” them, and that is okay.

Some people’s lives fly by and they are clever enough and able to grab onto what matters most to them. They may improve lives or the general condition of things accordingly. They may have no impact at all on the improvement of others. This is also okay. I don’t think that cosmically we are all supposed to function in such manners. However, I think that anyone who might consider the cosmic application of our existence is capable of having significant impact.

That brings us to the struggle. I ask each day for meaningful struggle in that I may do more with my life in the time I have. I don’t mind rolling the boulder, but if nobody benefits from it, I am keenly aware that decades may pass, and I could have nothing at the end of my life except looking back and extolling the virtuous effects of wasted efforts.

That is not a cosmic purpose. That does not work for me.

Here is what I hope for everyone who reads this: I hope your struggle has merit. If you truly believe in what you really struggle to realize, I hope you achieve it. I hope it brings you value, and I hope that you will not waste too much of the time you do not have convincing others the worthiness of your struggle, which may prove to be yours alone to bear.

Broad? Vague? Maybe. Then again, maybe these poor, poor words will mean something to somebody. Maybe this is just the smallest speck of what somebody needs at the beginning of another week.

Let these thousand words swim through you or let them pass right on by. But, if you wake up some days like I do and think that there is probably something a little bit more that you could be doing, please feel free to share that realization in some way.

I am heading back to the classroom when I can. I am thankful for the difficulties of this last year, and as I work to make the most of my time each day, I hope I can be a little more than I was yesterday.

And I hope the same for all of you.


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