Through many of my struggles and failures in life, I’ve become far more acquainted with adversity than I ever wanted. In my 20s and 30s, failures and major setbacks were devastating to me. As I approach my 50s, I have a more sanguine attitude about adversity.

Basically, sh*t happens in life. You can take every precaution, prepare in every conceivable way, and despite all that, there will always be major setbacks and failures. 

I used to think that success was “normal.” When I was struggling, I couldn’t wait to get back to “normal.” 

I’ve come to appreciate that life has cycles. There are both ups and downs. There is not such a life that has only positive things in it without any negative.

Adverse events aren’t obstacles to a “normal” life; they are a part of it.

The key to overcoming adversity is two-fold.

First, realize that, in every adversity, there is an opportunity to learn and grow.

If you adopt the right attitude, you end up learning what you need to grow.

If your business suffers in a recession because you had poor financial metrics, you’ll learn (the hard way) why you need them and need to look at them regularly.

If you’ve neglected your personal relationships and they fracture during times of high stress, you’ll learn the hard way that neglect has its costs. The costs may not always be obvious, but they are always incurred.

If you cut corners on your health and get a major health scare, you learn the hard way that there’s a difference between a shortcut and cutting corners. Always take the legitimate shortcut, but be wary of the ultimate cost of cutting corners.

I’ll be honest. Hardship is… well, hard.

Yes, you can learn and grow.

But, it’s often quite painful.

Pain that comes from struggling through a difficult set of circumstances to get to a better place has a name.

It’s called “growing pain.”

Pain that comes from voluntarily remaining entrenched in difficult circumstances without ever trying to progress also has a name.

It’s called “suffering.”

In both cases, there’s pain.

Pain with a purpose, direction, and destination is a growing pain. It is temporary.

Pain that’s completely pointless is suffering. Suffering can be perpetual.

When life gives you difficult circumstances, you can choose to grow from the pain and struggle through it, or you can just suffer continually until you choose otherwise.

In difficult times, you might not have a choice about pain in the present. However, you do have a choice about whether there’s pain in the future.

Choose wisely, as your future depends on it.

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