The best measure of a person’s greatness is the capacity for suffering.
— M. Scott Peck
Imagine yourself in the literal circumstance of having been beaten so hard in the face that you are bleeding inside your mouth so profusely that it starts running down your throat. As it gushes faster with each successive blow, you begin to choke on it, the more you choke, the more unable you become to act calmly to stop the root cause of your imminent demise: the bleeding itself.
The reason you die is not because the choking was inevitable, or that you would have bled out—the reason you die is panic.
Sometimes in life we face situations that challenge the entirety of our faculties. We are unsure if we will be able to survive, and we are certain that if we do, it will not be unscathed. Such is the plight of the entrepreneur and employee alike. The difference between the two is that the entrepreneur is likely to be better practiced at it. With the world changing as fast as it is, nobody is safe, and people who have the experience of facing danger and death daily have a higher probability of surviving.
If it seems all to metaphorical and abstract, let’s bring it down to a realistic scenario. You find out you’ve been fired. Or your biggest client has dropped you suddenly right before paying you that check you were counting on to cover your rent and food for the next month. It happens all the time. What would you do?
You would probably panic.
You would probably think about taking defensive precautions—firing employees, cutting costs that might compromise your ability to continue operating. You might say “I can accept this new normal,” even though it paralyzes you completely.
You would probably get on the phone and desperately start calling new clients or new customers. They’ll smell the desperation. They’ll smell the blood on your breath and hang up on you.
You’d probably start calling all of your friends and begging them to help. Your best friends will help you as much as they can. But they won’t save you. When you realize this, you start to panic more.
Stop thinking about the blood.
Start thinking about the wound.
You have some teeth missing, and the blood is pouring from the holes where they used to be. You need to get a cloth and some ice and make it stop. It won’t stop all at once. But you have to make it stop.
Your first solution won’t do anything about the pain, either. The pain is there to stay. But at least the bleeding has stopped. At least you aren’t choking. At least you’re still alive…for now.
Then you have to figure out how to get your teeth back. You have to figure out how to suture up your face so you don’t end up looking like a monster when you go out in public. This will take time. It will require patience. Now you have a chance, though.
No matter how practiced you get at this, you’ll always start to panic—even if a little. You must learn to quell that impulse the same way you learn as a child not to go to the bathroom in your pants. It has to be practiced over and over until you eventually don’t even think about it consciously.
The blood starts running down your throat and you walk calmly to get ice and cloth to stop the bleeding in your mouth. Then you turn around and punch the world back even harder than it punched you.
The only way to do this is through deep self-knowledge, the right outlook and philosophy of life, and an exacting discipline of yourself, your desires, your needs. You have to cut everything away that is holding you back. And, of course, you have to actually practice it, to endure legitimate suffering when it comes your way.
How great do you want to be?