“The fear of being judged keeps so many of us from taking a shot at our most ambitious dreams” -Srinivas Rao
The other day, my wife and I were walking through a park in Seoul.
The park had a walking path that is designed to simulate acupuncture and massage techniques; the path was strewn with pebbled routes of different rock sizes. If you walk in the path with your bare feet, it’s supposed to feel like an intense foot massage.
I wanted to try it. I had heard it could be really uncomfortable — and it was.
By the end, the bottom of my feet were killing me. I had only walked a few meters, but that’s all it took. Imagine walking on rocks for 15 minutes straight.
I was giving my wife a hard time because she had chosen to not walk in the path. “Why didn’t you join me?!” I demanded, jokingly.
“Because I didn’t want to put myself in pain on purpose,” she replied simply.
And that stuck with me.
Pain on Purpose
“Bad things are fuel. You don’t just want fuel — you need it. You can’t go anywhere without it.” -Ryan Holiday
I’m not talking about masochistic pain — pain for “no reason.”
I am talking about the pain of discomfort. Embarrassment. The pain when you look stupid or foolish. The pain of unfamiliar territory.
This is the type of pain we need to experience on purpose.
The larger mob of society — that enormous majority that will never truly be successful — avoid this pain. They run from it. It scares them, it hurts them, and they refuse to experience it. If they’re forced to, they often numb themselves in order to escape it.
But this is not how the courageous, successful individuals of the world approach this. In fact, they do the opposite.
Don’t Avoid the Pain
“To fear pain is to fear something that’s bound to happen.” -Marcus Aurelius
Avoiding this type of pain is one of the leading causes of death among creatives, entrepreneurs, writers, and anyone with a goal of improving themselves.
How many people haven’t donned their ill-fitting gym clothes because they didn’t want to feel the pain of embarrassment?
How many authors haven’t bothered to make a peep about their book idea because they were afraid of the criticism of others?
How many would-be entrepreneurs haven’t even mentioned their idea to anyone because they were scared of rejection?
The casualty rate is among the millions, with more added in droves every day.
We need to run towards these experiences.
We need to experience pain — the right pain — on purpose.
Many successful entrepreneurs have recognized the benefits of experiencing the pains of embarrassment, failure, and rejection. They have began training themselves to experience this pain, on purpose.
In his book The Four Hour Workweek, Tim Ferris describes how he began wearing ridiculous outfits (clown shoes, light-up ties, neon sunglasses, etc.) to parties and social gatherings on purpose.
He was training himself to experience, and therefore overcome, the pain of embarrassment and ridicule.
In his popular TEd Talk, Jia Jiang discusses how he created an intricate “Rejection Therapy” structure where he would purposely place himself in situations where he would look silly and foolish.
Some of my favorites:
- Asking for a “burger refill” at a fast food chain
- Knocking on a stranger’s door to ask if he could kick a soccer ball around in their backyard
- Asking a stranger to borrow $100
- Ask a stranger for compliments
These entrepreneurs and innovators know the benefits of experiencing — and overcoming — pain.
Experience pain on purpose.
“If I fail more than you, I win.” -Seth Godin
In Angela Duckworth’s book Grit, she discusses how experts successfully hone their craft and become world class individuals.
“Trying to do things they can’t, failing, and learning what they need to do differently is exactly the way experts practice.”
This is exactly why most people will never be successful.
They are afraid of failing. They are unwilling to experience the pain of failure, loss, rejection, or embarrassment.
This is exactly why you must experience this pain on purpose.
Place yourself in situations where you will almost certainly fail. Where you’ll almost certainly look silly or foolish.
Like jumping into an ice cold pool, the shock will blast your entire system. For a few moments, the pain will overwhelm you. It won’t be pleasant.
But after a while, you adjust. Like adapting to cold water, our minds adapt to the pain, and it subsides. You learn, you grow, you gain experience the majority of society will never position themselves to experience.
They’re unwilling to experience pain — especially on purpose.
But not you. By running towards the very thing everyone else is avoiding, you are separating yourself from the mediocre majority and positioning yourself to learn, grow, and experience more than nearly everyone else.
Fail more. Experience pain more.
“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” -Helen Keller