Why new pain is better than old pain.
Misery is optional. Pain is not.
The myth – “The pain I know is better than the pain I have yet to experience”. We avoid risk because it might cause pain, and we’re not sure we can handle it. So we just muddle along with the known and tolerable pain of an unremarkable life.
I’m laying in a hospital bed with six rib factures (a couple are broken twice) and a broken scapula (In my delirium I thought the doc said spatula.)
Yesterday I was finishing one of the best long bike rides I’ve done this year and was pushing hard to stay under four hours. Just a half mile from my house I was climbing uphill at a really aggressive 17-18mph and ran into the back of a van parked in the bike lane (I was looking up, but apparently not often enough!) The van didn’t move.
I woke up an hour ago thinking about a taxi driver I had met last year in Charleston, SC on the way to do a keynote address. I asked him what food he liked, and his instant response was surprising – he jumped right to the negative – “I can tell you I do NOT eat shrimp!”, which of course is big in that beautiful coastal town.
Hanging On to Old Pain
“Why?”, I asked. “Because 30 years ago my cousin died in a shrimp boat accident. No sir, won’t touch the stuff.” This old pain was sitting right there on the surface of this guy, controlling his world. It was sad to see. He had never figured out how to get past it, or better yet, to use it to make him stronger.
I had a cousin die twenty years ago at 42 of a massive heart attack while running. If I reacted like my taxi driver, I would have stopped exercising. But life (and business) doesn’t work that way. Pain is meant to make us better, not stop us.
My taxi driver was heavily invested in his old pain. He had focused on it instead of focusing on what he could learn from it, and as a result it had grown like coral and crusted over his whole life. He wasn’t about to take a risk to move forward. While the pain was clearly not something he enjoyed, it was also clear that he was quite willing to live with it simply because it was possible that more pain might follow if he ate shrimp again. The pain he knew was better than the pain he might yet experience. So he just stopped growing.
Should I get back on a bike?
Using the New Pain to Get Somewhere
A couple months ago Dr. Stephen Covey sent me a signed copy of his latest book, The 3rd Alternative, for having quoted me in it. It’s about solving life’s toughest challenges. Read it.
He died last week at 79 riding his bike in Utah, which is what made me think of him. My accident was scary, too – not easy to do the kind of damage I did at 17mph going uphill. Last year I rode with a friend who I thought had died in the accident he had that day – he recovered fully. I’ve seen other scary accidents as well.
The Purpose of Pain
Should I get back on a bike? Seems like a stupid idea. But I believe pain comes into our lives to make us stronger and wiser for the next time, not to keep us from ever eating shrimp again. Pain is pretty much the best way to grow, if we respond to it the right way.
I’ll be back on my bike as quickly as I can safely do it. And I’ll be a wiser and better bike rider, less likely to crash – and a stronger person both mentally and physically for having fought through the rehab.
Use the Beaver Dams to Get Stronger
Life is a stream running to the ocean, and it’s full of beaver dams. Don’t expect to go around them all. It just might be that today’s beaver dam makes you able to blow through a dozen other beaver dams down the road as if they didn’t exist. Don’t go looking for pain – we aren’t made TO struggle, but we are definitely made FOR the struggle. It’s the struggle that makes us stronger.
When the pain comes, embrace it and work through it. Come out the other side a better person and a better business owner.
Live a Remarkable Life
Ray Kroc – “If you don’t want to take a risk, get the hell out of business.” And maybe this applies to life as well. Don’t be afraid to take risks because something happened in the past, and something else might happen in the future. Avoiding risk only ensures that nothing remarkable will happen.
Live a remarkable life. Get back on the bike.