I have a theory. My theory is that when you are facing a big challenge, your level of performance increases dramatically. You adapt to the new requirements. You grow in order to meet this new problem heads-on.
I am saying this because I am an avid record keeper. I know how much I work and how much I earn. I know at what hour I wake up in the morning and how much I run in a given week.
I’m started to see a trend, something I wasn’t looking for. When I have a big problem in my life where there is urgency, anxiety and even some degree of pain, my performance rises considerably. The best weeks are those in which I’m actively trying to fight some kind of fire, to accomplish a goal that I never faced before.
The irony or the interesting thing here is that the increase is system wide. I am not increasing only in the area directly related to the goal. If I have money issues and I require money fast, I don’t just work more. Every metric goes up and I know why. It is because all the metrics are interconnected and doing one improves the other.
Let me explain.
Running in the morning is not putting money into my bank account. It does calm my nerves (better than alcohol and smoking by a large margin) so I know that if I want to focus on work, I must have a calm mind, therefore, run. When I run, I will have a 30 – 45 minute period of tiredness and complete calm in which I meditate. I am too sedated to do anything else. After I meditate, I feel so centered so I want to take a walk outside. Outside, I’m going to walk, which contributes to my weekly steps goal.
When you face a problem, you activate a certain section of your life. You step up your efforts personally or professionally, in some area of management. Yet, everything in life is interconnected and you quickly realize that doing all the supporting activities leads to better results in your main AOM.
This theory or my experience can be considered tangible proof that problems are good for you. Problems give you the environment, the tangible channel in which you can find ways to be more, do more, have more. Pain of any kind is your trigger and as soon as the pain is gone, you are left with the growth you’ve experienced.
I know that there are two ways of looking at goals. The first one is moving towards something. The second one is moving away from something. I employ both but I am more motivated to solve problems than I am to solve goals. Everything I write in terms of goals is in positive, results oriented terms because I don’t want to give myself a panic attack. Yet, what running away from the hungry and fierce dog behind me proves to work better than running towards the sunset.
The idea of welcoming problems in your life is disturbing for most people. As I’m now in Taiwan ROC, I can say that it is troubling especially for the Asian type of mindset. Your average Asian, no matter if she is in Korea, Japan, Taiwan or Singapore puts a premium on comfort. Every day I am in Taiwan, I watch as people spend considerable amounts of money to maintain and increase their comfort and convenience, even if from a practical point of view, they are not progressing whatsoever in their life.
Yet, this is where progress comes from. If you don’t have a motivation to move towards something, then you will not do this. If you are content with your job, you will not strive for more. If you are happy being overweight, you will not aim to become fit.
Contrary to popular belief and leftist views on life, happiness is rarely the way. Happiness leads to being content which leads to homeostasis. Happy people rarely want to leave where they are because they are happy. Even the definition of happiness – being happy with what you have, contains in its DNA that it goes against progress.
Growth requires pain and anxiety. Growth requires tension that makes you move. Growth tells you “you can’t sit here anymore, you must gather all your courage and act” instead telling you “everything is alright, don’t worry about it”.
Most of the successful people that I know, if not all, are not comfortable. They are in a constant fire fighting mode in which they solve one problem and ten other appears. Yet, once the smoke clears, once the fire is down, the end result is that they’ve built castles. In their effort to fight pain and solve problems, they’ve built themselves to something quite spectacular. People who settle with little and which can find happiness in everything do not become millionaires and billionaires. The reason is that they don’t have any cause to do so. Without the external pressure to change, one can stay the same.
All growth comes from having a monster to slay. The monster must be intimidating. The monster must be dangerous. The monster must stay in the way of something you want at any cost whatsoever. This is the real recipe to success. It is not the recipe to happiness but happiness doesn’t always or generally equals success. Success is the ability to progress and accomplish worthwhile goals. Happiness is a state of mind in which you are satisfied and you find positive emotions in your current situations. Technically, they are the opposites.
I’m sorry if this disturbs you. I’m sorry if I tell you something different from what you’ve heard before but we both know this to be true. You can not find success by dancing on a field and collecting flowers. You can find success by venturing in dark forests where you’ll face your darkest fears about life, about yourself and about what you are capable. You can find it in the moment that you come across a big monster in front of you and after being defeated once, you go back and train until you come back a different person.
If the first girl I’ve ever dated would have not cheated on me, I would have never became good with women. If the first job I wouldn’t had failed miserably, I wouldn’t have became obsessed with becoming good in business. If people would not have told me “oh, you’ve got a belly now”, I would not run almost every day (and I’m not very passionate about running).
If last week I wouldn’t have got a fear, anxiety inducing problem, I would have not achieved the best week yet. Instead, I would have stayed at my average level of performance which matched my comfort level perfectly.
This is something I felt that I understood for a long time but this is the first time I’m putting in words. I’ve noticed in my life how if I need to spend $500/month, I would earn $500/month. If I need to spend $3000/month, then I would earn that amount. My level of performance would raise more often than not to the requirements of the environment.
I am a great person today because (1) I have received challenges that I had to overcome, sometimes at great cost (2) I have found ways to overcome those so instead of being eaten alive by my dragons, I’ve ate them for breakfast.
I have started where everyone else is. Then a problem appeared. I’ve probably failed the first time. Then I’ve grew, becoming a new person in the process and overcame it. This gave me the reward of overcoming it but this was a small reward when compared to the person I’ve became. Each time the cycle repeated itself, I’ve grew.
So thank you problems and challenges. I definitely hate each one of you and I could definitely use some “boring” life right now. But just like a knight couldn’t have become a great knight without dragons and monsters to slay, so I couldn’t become a high performance individual without anxiety inducing, “oh-my-god-the-world-is-going-to-end-if-I-can’t-solve-this” type of problems.