I want to share an idea that has transformed my life – that challenge itself is actually a feature.
This feels very counterintuitive to our Western society.
When you ask the typical person, “Hey, I’ve got a magic wand, and any of your wishes can come true.” I would imagine a lot of people would say something like, “Hey – let me win the lottery, win a billion dollars, and then I can quit my boring job, sit on the beach and do nothing.”
When you think about the reality of that, it’s actually incredibly limiting – you’re not stretching yourself, and you’re likely to be bored out of your mind.
There’s no limit of extremely wealthy people, especially those born into wealth, that are deeply unhappy and it’s not sort of what we were built for.
Human beings come out of the earth. We are part of life, like any process of life.
Let’s draw an analogy to a tree for a moment. When you think about a tree that lives in a very peaceful environment – with no environmental stress, only light breezes, and everything going fine for the tree, versus a tree that is forced to endure intense storms and changes in weather and sort of the push and pull of nature, what it’s going to have to do to survive is dig deep roots and become stronger and basically evolve to have the capacity to withstand the challenges that life is giving it.
And similarly, when you think about human beings, we’re similar to trees. We come from the same life processes and we live in the same ecosystem. And similar to trees, our life challenges force us to dig deep and to discover resources and strength of will and capabilities we never knew we had.
I naturally think of someone like Victor Frankl who survived unspeakable atrocities in Auschwitz, but came in with the beginnings of a psychology of life and actually tested it in that brutal testing chamber of Auschwitz. He ultimately emerged with a real life test and validation of a core philosophy of meaning. And then, ultimately, he shared his story and an entirely new branch of psychology with tens of millions of people – because he was forced to dig deep and endure and find meaning in the struggle.
Each one of us has the incredible ability to do that.
I also love a quote by Sam Harris, along the lines of, “What did we think? Did we get to this incredible boring version of life in this video game where we have no more challenges, this incredibly boring level where suddenly you wake up and there’s nothing, everything is taken care of?”
There’s no demands on you, no challenges, nothing falling apart. That’s not the fundamental nature of the world we live in.
The beauty of a challenge is number one – as you rise to the challenge and stretch yourself, your reward is, counterintuitively, more challenges. You then build capacity to overcome more challenges. And then, your next reward is expanding your circle of capabilities and getting even bigger challenges.
So in this counterintuitive way, the more you achieve, the more impact you’re having, the bigger the challenges you get, and that’s your reward. So really shifting your mindset to actually love challenges builds new capacity and strength – it’s just a wonderful way that I’ve learned to think and just a wonderful way to endure the daily challenges of something like entrepreneurship.
And then second, and perhaps even more important piece, is once you are highly successful, when you’ve achieved all those challenges and you have all these resources, you have more capability to give to others, to really help others in need, to mentor others, to share your financial capabilities, whatever it may be.
You have that capability to be a role model and to really lead. That’s why counterintuitively, I really believe that the challenge itself, the challenges of your life are actually features. And when you see it in that way, you escape from societal conditioning of shrinking back from challenges and arriving at this mythical, never achievable state of life, where suddenly there are no problems.
Reminding myself of this as often as I’m capable of has really transformed my attitude, how I feel and how I approach work.