We are a soft, weak generation lacking in resilience, and I don’t see the trend improving. Even the most minor setbacks can derail us from our goals, leading to early failures that didn’t need to happen.
In Napoleon Hill’s book Think and Grow Rich he relates the story 3 Feet from Gold as a tale of the men who quit too early.
For brevity, here’s a summary of the story:
R.U. Harby’s uncle found a vein of gold ore. Harby and his uncle hid the vein and raised money for the mining equipment. They did very well in their digging, making enough money to pay their debts. Harby and his uncle thought they were going to be wealthy.
The vein of gold dried up, Harby and his uncle kept digging and found nothing. Eventually they gave up and sold the machinery to a junkman. The junker hired a consultant who told him the gold was 3 feet further, he dug and made millions.
The moral of the story? Harby and his uncle gave up too soon. They lacked the resilience and fortitude to dedicate themselves to a project. They didn’t even try to change their methods to see what else was possible.
We’re weak in the face of failure.
A friend of mine recently told me about a high school student that lost an election for student body president. That student is now in therapy to cope with the loss.
Really?! Harby and his uncle probably kicked themselves in the ass for not digging further, but I don’t think they would have needed therapy.
Stories like this piss me off to no end. We’re wasting resources on a soft generation trying to get everything they want and not understanding that there are costs.
Sometimes you need resilience to push through and not give up. Sometimes you need to be Stoic in the face of failure. You never need to be completely defeated. You have opportunities to succeed or change if you’re still breathing.
We’ve all been fed with silver spoons.
“Yet we’re soft. We quit early. Settle. Complain. Think we deserve a break. Make lazy, self-serving assumptions. Try to get the most for the least work.”
— Ryan Holiday
Things are so easy now that most people can’t handle the disappointments in life. We expect to succeed at everything because we’re only exposed to success. Nobody likes to tell you when they didn’t get promoted, are having a tough time with their marriage or lost thousands on a failed business venture.
We see headlines of multi-billion dollar startups. Our Facebook friends brag about their new cars and houses. Everything is peachy.
Let’s not forget that we’re living in the most stable time in human history. If you’re in the U.S., odds are you aren’t being drafted for a war. You have health care. You have access to government aid for food. And you probably still have money to pay for your monthly Netflix subscription.
With a life this easy, how are we not setting ourselves up for major psychological breaks?
There may not be a light at the end of the tunnel.
And that’s OK. Sometimes a failure is a failure. Once you’ve failed, stop dwelling on it. Analyze your failure, see where you went wrong and learn from it. Start again with your new wisdom.
Find a new purpose and pursue it with a fire that scares people.
Because, like Harby and his uncle, sometimes all it takes is extra work. A little more persistence and they would have been successful. I’m sure they worked hard for what they had, but they still quit too soon.
Work until you fail or succeed. Don’t give up too early. When (not if) you fail, look at what happened to cause it, then move on with your life.
The worst case scenario isn’t that bad.
One way cultivate more resilience is through the Stoic practice of negative visualization.
When you start working on a goal or project, think of the worst case scenario of what could happen if you fail. It probably isn’t that bad.
Failure shouldn’t be a stressful thing, it’s enlightening. Even if your failures end up causing some pretty crappy outcomes, by preparing yourself ahead of time, you prevent failure from crippling you.
Besides, nobody really cares about your failure, anyway. And if somebody does care, they’ll be dead eventually. So will you. Your success or failure isn’t that big of a deal in the timeline of the universe.
Be a hard ass even if you don’t have to be.
Another way to protect yourself from unnecessary suffering in the event of a failure is to front-load your pain.
You can become more resilient simply by practicing resilience through adversity. Be hard on yourself by fasting for a day or three. Don’t spend any money for a week to see how you’d survive without it. Turn off your heat or A/C and learn to enjoy discomfort.
It doesn’t sound pleasant because it isn’t. Like I said in the beginning, we’re a soft generation. It’s time that we learn from our ancestors and live with discomfort. If you’re ever completely broke and homeless, you’ll at least know how to make the best of it.
Resilience is also bouncing back after failure.
Dealing with or pushing through failure is only half of the battle. So, how do you go from a fall to climbing back up?
The simple answer? Take care of yourself. James Altucher’s book Choose Yourself outlines different areas that he focuses on to live a balanced life. His “Daily Practice” involves taking care of areas of himself that end up contributing to his overall success and well-being. These areas are the physical body, the emotional body, the mental body and the spiritual body.
If you’ve read Steven Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, you may recall that the 7th habit is Sharpening the Saw, or taking care of yourself. If you want to be effective, you need to renew the physical, mental, social/emotional and spiritual parts of yourself and keep a balance between them.
My habits, which seem to closely align with both Altucher and Covey’s words, have definitely helped me develop more resilience.
Don’t be soft.
This is my call to action today – quit being soft.
Develop resilience and a work ethic. Learn to live with less and practice stress. Just don’t forget to take care of yourself in the process.
Create habits that set you up for future success, but don’t be afraid of failing. Don’t give up, but don’t dwell on failure once it happens.
Maybe we can start turning things around. Maybe the not-class-president will read this and quit whining. Someone who couldn’t handle a setback like that didn’t deserve the title, anyway.