The Silver Lining of a Struggle

I’m not a runner, but I ran six half-marathons once.

Growing up in New England, it was always a dream to one day run the Boston Marathon but training for and running six half-marathons was all I needed to realize how difficult that would be.

I learned that running is hard and running long distances is even harder.

Although I only conquered the 13.1-mile race, I learn a lot about myself and what I could do if I just didn’t quit.

The truth is, long-distance running is not about bragging rights, personal records, t-shirts, or race medals. It’s about challenging yourself to do something difficult.

Most people only see what happens on race day – they don’t witness the months of training and the hours spent grinding out the miles day after day.

There is excitement the day you sign up for a race and the day you finish a race.

But the real work, the real struggle, and the real learning are all done in the middle.

The real work, the real struggle, and the real learning are all done in the middle. Click To Tweet

In Donald Miller’s book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, he talks about the importance of the struggle:

“The reward you get from a story is always less than you thought it would be, and the work is harder than you imagined. The point of the story is never about the ending, remember. It’s about your character getting molded in the hard work of the middle.”

As Miller suggests, the hard work in the middle of any difficult challenge is more important than the ending.

The middle of any difficult challenge is more important than the ending. Click To Tweet

Why – you ask? Because…

The struggle builds character. An easy life is one that doesn’t change you. Challenge brings about change. The struggle requires determination, courage, intensity, and perseverance. Some days it takes everything to keep going especially when the end seems nowhere in sight.

The struggle builds relationships. Persevering through a difficult challenge with a team or another person builds strong bonds that last a lifetime. When you suffer and struggle together, you build a defining moment in your relationship. You build mutual respect.

The struggle builds the story. Every great story has a hero’s journey. The main character must struggle and overcome a major obstacle or challenge. As an audience, we become endeared to the hero as they endure hardships and trials. This is the same with people and organizations. We are attracted to those who have faced trials and have overcome them.

As we find ourselves in the middle of this COVID struggle with seemingly no end in sight, we need to realize that we’re in a good place.

Just like being on the ninth mile of a half marathon on a bridge in the cold, windy, pouring rain – this is when we find out who we really are. If we just don’t quit, we’ll learn we can do amazing things.

So, if you’re going through hell right now, don’t stop. Keep going!

Remember these words from Theodore Roosevelt:

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”

So, stay strong and stay in the fight.

Deep Leadership Podcast

If you want to gain some insights on how to power through this crisis, listen in on my joint podcast with fellow podcaster, Jason Oates.