Everyone want what feels great. Everybody needs to carry on a carefree, happy and simple life, to experience passionate feelings for and have stunning sex and connections, to look flawless and make money and be popular and all around regarded and appreciated and a total baller to the point that people part like the Red Sea when you walk into the room.
Everybody would like that—it’s easy to like that.
If I ask you, “What do you want out of life?” and you say something like, “I want to be happy and have an great family and a job I like,” it’s ubiquitous to the point that it doesn’t mean anything.
A more fascinating question, a question that maybe you’ve never considered, is what pain do you want in your life? What are you willing to battle for? Since that is by all accounts a more greater determinant of how our lives turn out.
Everyone needs to have a amazing job and financial independence—however not everybody wants to endure 60-hour work weeks, long drives, obnoxious paperwork,to navigate arbitrary corporate hierarchies and the blasé confines of an infinite cubicle hell. People want to be rich without the risk, without the sacrifice, without the postponed satisfaction important to accumulate wealth.
1. Everyone wants to have incredible sex and a magnificent relationship—but not everybody will experience the intense conversation, the awkward silences, the hurt feelings and the emotional psychodrama to get there. And so they settle. They settle and wonder “What if” for a considerable length of time and years and until the question transforms from “What if?” into “Was that it?” And when the lawyers go home and the divorce settlement check is in the mail they say, “What was that for?” if not for their lowered standards and expectations 20 years earlier, then what for?
Because happiness requires struggle. The positive is the reaction of taking care of the negative. You can just avoid negative experiences for so long before they return thundering to life.
At the center of all human behavior, our requirements are pretty much comparative. Positive experience is easy to handle. It’s negative experience that we all, by definition, battle with. In this way, what we escape life is not determined by the positive feelings we seek but by what bad feelings we’re willing and ready to maintain to get us to those good feelings.
People want a stunning physique. In any case, you don’t end up with one unless you honestly welcome the agony and physical stress that accompanies living inside an exercise center for hour upon hour, unless you love calculating and calibrating the food you eat, planning your life out in little plate-sized portions.
People want to begin their own business or turn out to be financially independent. Be that as it may, you don’t end up an effective business person unless you figure out how to value the risk, the instability, the rehashed disappointments, and working crazy hours on something you have no clue whether will be successful or not.
People want a life partner. In any case, you don’t end up attracting in somebody amazing without valuing the emotional turbulence that comes with weathering rejections, building the sexual tension that never gets released, and staring blankly at a telephone that never rings. It’s a part of the game of love. You can’t win if you don’t play.
What determines your success isn’t “What do you want to enjoy?” The question is, “What pain do you want to sustain?” The quality of your life is not dictated by the quality of your positive experiences however the quality of your negative experiences. Furthermore, to get good at dealing with negative experiences is to get good at managing life.
There’s a great deal of crappy advice out there that says, “You’ve just got to want it enough!”
Everyone needs something. Furthermore, everyone needs something enough. They simply aren’t aware of what it is they need, or rather, what they need “enough.”
Because if you want the benefits of something in life, you have to also want the costs. If you want the beach body, you have to want the sweat, the soreness, the early mornings, and the hunger pangs. If you want the yacht, you have to also want the late nights, the risky business moves, and the possibility of pissing off a person or ten thousand.
If you find yourself wanting something month after month, year after year, yet nothing happens and you never come any closer to it, then maybe what you actually want is a fantasy, an idealization, an image and a false promise. Maybe what you want isn’t what you want, you just enjoy wanting. Maybe you don’t actually want it at all.
Once in a while I ask people, “How do you choose to suffer?” These people tilt their heads and take a look at me like I have twelve noses. However, I ask in light of the fact that that informs me significantly more concerning you than your cravings and dreams. Since you need to pick something. You can’t have an pain free life. It can’t all be roses and unicorns. Also, eventually that is the hard question that matters. Pleasure is a simple question. Also, essentially every one of us have comparable answers. The all the more fascinating question is the pain. What is the pain that you need to support?
That answer will actually get you somewhere. It’s the question that can change your life. It’s what makes me me and you you. It’s what defines us and separates us and ultimately brings us together.
For most of my adolescence and young adulthood, I fantasized about being a musician — a rock star, in particular. Any badass guitar song I heard, I would always close my eyes and envision myself up on stage playing it to the screams of the crowd, people absolutely losing their minds to my sweet finger-noodling. This fantasy could keep me occupied for hours on end.
The fantasizing continued up through college, even after I dropped out of music school and stopped playing seriously. But even then it was never a question of if I’d ever be up playing in front of screaming crowds, but when. I was biding my time before I could invest the proper amount of time and effort into getting out there and making it work. First, I needed to finish school. Then, I needed to make money. Then, I needed to find the time. Then … and then nothing.
Despite fantasizing about this for over half of my life, the reality never came. And it took me a long time and a lot of negative experiences to finally figure out why: I didn’t actually want it.
I was in love with the result—the image of me on stage, people cheering, me rocking out, pouring my heart into what I’m playing—but I wasn’t in love with the process. And because of that, I failed at it. Repeatedly. Hell, I didn’t even try hard enough to fail at it. I hardly tried at all.
The daily drudgery of practicing, the logistics of finding a group and rehearsing, the pain of finding gigs and actually getting people to show up and give a shit. The broken strings, the blown tube amp, hauling 40 pounds of gear to and from rehearsals with no car. It’s a mountain of a dream and a mile-high climb to the top. And what it took me a long time to discover is that I didn’t like to climb much. I just liked to imagine the top.
Our culture would tell me that I’ve somehow failed myself, that I’m a quitter or a loser. Self-help would say that I either wasn’t courageous enough, determined enough or I didn’t believe in myself enough. The entrepreneurial/start-up crowd would tell me that I chickened out on my dream and gave in to my conventional social conditioning. I’d be told to do affirmations or join a mastermind group or manifest or something.
But the truth is far less interesting than that: I thought I wanted something, but it turns out I didn’t. End of story.
I wanted the reward and not the struggle. I wanted the result and not the process. I was in love not with the fight but only the victory. And life doesn’t work that way.
Who you are is defined by the values you are willing to struggle for. People who enjoy the struggles of a gym are the ones who get in good shape. People who enjoy long workweeks and the politics of the corporate ladder are the ones who move up it. People who enjoy the stresses and uncertainty of the starving artist lifestyle are ultimately the ones who live it and make it.
This is not a call for willpower or “grit.” This is not another admonishment of “no pain, no gain.”
This is the most simple and basic component of life: our struggles determine our successes. So choose your struggles wisely, my friend.