Adversity indeed

This wonderful piece by Steven Pressfield, Built for Adversity, touched me deeply:

The reason the concept of Resistance is so helpful, I suspect, is that it acknowledges the existence of the dragon in our own minds. Yes, it’s there. Yes, it’s real. And yes, it’s cunning and relentless and without pity.

Fortunately, we’re built for it. Fortunately, evolution has equipped us with tools to deal with it.

Since I started my own personal development process in earnest in 2007, I've often thought that, had I known how long the process was going to be, I'd never have started. It's nonsense, of course, because I had no choice: I was miserable, I was stuck, I had to grow or die.

But then in coaching and mentoring others, it's frequently come up: If they have to go through even half of what I had to go through, what kind of prospects do I have to offer them, then? Isn't that going to be way too much for them? I thought it was pretty darn hard, I can't ask anyone else to go through what I've had to go through, can I? Will it have to take five years for them to reach some "reasonable" state?

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But what if the point isn't to reach a "reasonable" state? What if the point is simply to enjoy the process, and to learn and grow? What if the point is that each time we conquer a challenge by growing, we get thrown a bigger horse to carry, because it's not about being free of horses to carry, it's about carrying exciting horses and enjoying the process of carrying them. 

Our capacity is so much greater than we realize. Only by being challenged, and challenged again, and then challenged again, can we hope to realize that potential. It's like when you're living your life with no kids, and you think it's pretty stressful. Then you have your first child, and you realize life was pretty darn easy before that. Then you get your second child, and you wonder what you were fussing about back when you only had one. I remember an alertbox by Jakob Nielsen years ago saying everyone pretty much always feel like they get too much email, because their systems for coping with whatever volume they're currently getting is always one step behind catching up with their current volume. That seems to capture human nature pretty well right there.

This was also what made Steve Jobs so special. He set the bar so high, much higher than any reasonable person would, much higher than what could reasonably be expected of people. But it turned out that they could reach that level, and they did. Because he knew it was possible, he believed they could do it, and he didn't relent until they either dug deep and found it within themselves, or they threw in the towel and quit.

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If there was no antagonist, there wouldn't be a story worth listening to.

Whenever someone says there will be peace and harmony and smooth sailing ahead, you know they're bullshitting. It didn't happen when Obama got elected, and it isn't going to happen after today, December 21st, 2012. Things might change, for sure, and they may even change for the better in some important respects. But if life on planet Earth is here so that we as souls can experiment with life in a world of limitations, then challenges and setbacks and problems and evil and enemies are going to be here for the long term. Because without them, we would be bored. Without them, there would be no point in this grand experiment. That's the whole point.

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Richard Bach in his awesome book Illusions, likens life with going to the movie theater. Life on this earth is no more real than what we see on the screen. But it seems pretty darn real when we're watching. We're at the edges of our seats. We're not sitting there thinking "here's the camera and the light and they're just actors and it's just one still frame after the other in rapid succession". No, we play along, pretending it's real, so we can have the full experience. Otherwise, why bother?

So if life is like that, and we do it to be entertained and to learn and grow, then we're always going to have challenges that make us grow, and that's exactly the way it should be. And we shouldn't feel sorry for the challenges we have, nor should we shield each other from facing the challenges that we must face. Instead, we should have compassion for ourselves and for each other, for every human being faces the same fundamental issues. In that, we are all equal.




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