Suffering for Success – Is It Necessary?

Is it a requirement for success that suffering be involved? Must we always sacrifice one thing in order to gain another?

67 Q success vs suffering

The Assumptions We Make

The idea for this topic came to me after talking with one of my neighbors, whom I speak to every couple of months. Our conversation made me think about assumptions that people often make about others, and that they have made about me.

I had just returned from a month-long trip and my neighbor was asking me how my holiday went. As a subscriber to my mailing list, she told me, “I got one e-mail from you after a week and that was it. I didn’t get any additional e-mails and I was so happy for you because you work hard and really needed the trip.”

I asked her, “How do you know that I work so hard?” She thought for a minute and then said, “Well, I guess I couldn’t know that.” I thought that was interesting because so many people that sort of know me through social media or who see me every once in a while think that I’m working really hard. This idea they have is not based on any facts. It is their assumption about me. For example, my neighbor sees when I leave the house in my car, but I could be going anywhere, to the store, to a party, it is not necessarily something work-related.

It is common for people to think that when you become successful in your career or business, there must be some sort of suffering or sacrifice on the other side that balances out the success. They might think that if you are experiencing success, then you have to work so hard and such long hours that your relationship with your family must suffer. They believe if something is great, then something else has to be bad.

Do You Ever Do This..?

An example in its lowest form would be a person seeing a beautiful woman and thinking, “She must be cheating.” It is an example that might sound offensive, but a lot of women [and men] think this way. When they see a beautiful woman, they say, “Oh, she must be a bitch” or they assume she has some other bad traits. I find it so interesting how we always seek some form of balance for others and for ourselves.

Another example of this would be seeing somebody who is ripped, really muscular, and thinking, “His life couldn’t be fun because he probably never parties or drinks. He looks that way, but he has to suffer all the time in order to look that way.” Of course, this generalization is not always true. Personally, I think life is better when you are physically fit. There are lots of perks.

If you know me at all, you know that I only get maybe three or four e-mails a day and I’m never on Facebook – I can’t even access it. You also know about all the holidays and trips that I take. Nevertheless, people like my neighbor, see certain characteristics or behaviors and make assumptions, when they really do not know the facts.

Evaluate Your Thinking

My purpose for this article is to have you think about all the assumptions we have regarding success. Many of us think that if we want to achieve a certain goal, something else is bound to suffer. For example, you may believe that if you want to spend a lot of time with your family, then your business will suffer. When you see other successful people, you think, “I could never be that successful because I want time with my family.”

Warren Buffet is one of the richest people in the world, maybe the richest, and he gets to the office every day around 9AM and leaves between 3PM and 6PM. He also says that he spends about 12 hours each week playing an online game, I believe it’s bridge. He has done the calculations and found that playing online bridge for that amount of time has added up to millions of dollars he could have been earning instead. However, he loves playing and says he would not change it.

Think again about an area of your life in which you would like to be more successful. Do you believe you have to suffer or sacrifice things that are important to you in order to achieve that success? Is that really the truth or is it the form of thinking and assuming that you have to trade in something in order to get something else?

Of course, sometimes, we do have to trade in things. Think about what you would be willing to give up. If you are thinking that you can’t run a successful business because you want to be a great father and spend lots of time with your family, are you trading in money-making activities for family time or just e-mail checking and other less important activities? I would gladly spend a couple less hours every week checking e-mail in order to spend that time with my family and friends.

Another possibility is that if you want to spend more time with your family but there is a certain activity in your business that generates a lot of money and you do not want it to suffer, then think of that as an opportunity for growth. Maybe you can delegate that to someone else so you can build on it even more.

Change Your Views

The conversation I had with my neighbor is one I’ve had with a lot of people over the last couple of years, especially with people that don’t know me that well. I have one friend who I talk to every couple of years, and the last time I spoke with him, his girlfriend was almost attacking me I was not with my wife, Daniella. She happened to not be with me that day, yet this couple was assumed that since I have been successful, I do not spend that much time with her.

Because of this couple’s belief system, they saw my success rising and this made me, in their minds, a worse husband. This same evening, they were talking about other successful people that they know. This friend’s profession requires him to sometimes work with famous people. I listen to him often describe these people in one sentence, “I work with this person and he’s an asshole because blah, blah. I heard this and that about him.” We all have experiences like this with people from time to time.

We really have to try hard to rethink how we view success. I think it is so powerful to have the abundant mindset, which is “this and that” rather than scarcity mindset of “this or that,” which implies one thing must suffer in order for something else to benefit.

I hope you will consider the limiting beliefs that we often have and look to other mentors as examples. Whatever you are doing right now, somebody else is doing that same thing at a higher level and possibly spending less time doing it. Identify those people, study them, and see how they do it.

If you enjoyed this article, please let me know by leaving a comment below or send me a Tweet @EelcoDeBoer.

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  • 29 June 2015
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