A question I think on a lot -
What's it take to do interesting and important things in the world?
That's one of the things regularly explored here - creativity, ambition, self-discipline, paying attention to numbers and getting probability on your side, relating with people, thinking clearly, establishing good habits, etc, etc.
Add this one to the list -
A willingness to suffer for what you want.
You shouldn't like suffering. But it seems that an unwillingness to suffer in the short term leads a lot of people to getting less of what they want in the long term.
For instance, say Bob's got $10,000 of consumer debt at 30% interest. That means he's got a $3,000-per-year anchor tied to his neck, money that goes off into the abyss and does nothing for him.
To pay that off, Bob's going to need to suffer some. He's going to need to do what it takes to spend less or earn more money for a while, and put it all towards killing off that debt. He only needs to do it once and then the anchor is gone.
But oh, were it only that simple...
The whole process will probably involve a considerable amount of emotional distress for Bob. He probably doesn't even want to think about his debt, because it sucks and it's unpleasant to think about. He's going to have to do some research, figure out his options, put plans together. He'll get some good feelings as soon he starts - there's always some satisfaction in taking greater control of your life - but mostly, the beginning process will be unenjoyable.
Then he'll have to stick with his plan, which also probably involves not doing what he wants to do exactly for a while.
When he does it, the anchor is gone. $3,000 per year that was going of into the abyss is back into Bob's pocket. If he keeps building, investing, expanding with his money, he could potentially achieve quite a lot.
But yes, it takes some bad feelings up front.
The same is true of trying to break a chemical addiction. If you try to quit whatever addictive thing, oh, you're going to suffer.
Nobody wants to say that, because it's not pleasant. Everyone wants to say and hear easy-fast-free-painless - of course. Who wants to suffer? Nobody wants to suffer.
But you know, I'm starting to put "willingness to suffer" very high on my list of traits that predict success. A lot of doing cool and meaningful things sucks at the beginning. Sometimes there's a way around it, but not always.
That's when the person who is willing to suffer wins.
Two closing thoughts:
*Don't suffer stupidly. If you've got an abusive boss in a shit job, get out of there. Be willing to suffer towards a clear goal when there's no superior options - yes. Don't suffer for the sake of it.
*I'm certain the capacity for this can be built. There might be some inborn baseline, but it can definitely be cultivated over time. A willingness to suffer and a capacity to endure suffering on the path you want to walk - yes, that can be built. And I'm thinking it's one of the larger predictors of success.
You know there is that part of us that yearns for it, that even though how much pain or wretchedness it seems we still find it beautiful. Anyway, more power to your blogs!
Self-deprivation for a later reward during childhood has been correlated with success later in life.
I always feel like giving up when I see that there is going to be suffering at the beginning of a project. And I almost always do - that's a bad trait, gotta work on that. Gotta start making it a habit to endure pain and suffering for worthy causes while I'm still young, then it should come naturally when I get older, right?
Hmm. I'm actually not so sure about this one my friend.
Certainly, the ability to persist through pain has a place. But to me, this is a flavor of raw willpower, which I'm increasingly less of a fan of as a key ingredient in success. I think it's more of an emergency resource, for making major change quickly, but one with often a high cost.
I've had much more success with some of the examples you claim (shit job, chemical addiction) by re-framing my worldviews such that the correct choice was no longer that difficult, because I was seeing things more clearly.
Constantly suffering in silence is not a good indicator to me. The ABILITY to suffer and remain true against temporary situations, sure. Heroin addiction is going to require a certain amount of suffering, and there's no time to readjust your worldview, so you just have to do it.
But for instance, I've been able to severely reduce my sugar and alcohol consumption, simply by understanding more what they do to my body, and how even a little bit can be very harmful. Then it isn't suffering, it's just a choice, and I find that when I can do that, I have a much higher success rate than when I rely on my will to suffer.
Smithsonian Magazine has an interesting article about "The CIA Burglar Who Went Rogue."
The short version? Douglas Groat, a former Green Beret and police officer, became an elite CIA agent. After a mission got screwed up, Groat started complaining and trying to hold people accountable. He was warned to cut it out, but kept the pressure up. Eventually he was demoted, then fired.
At that point, he starts putting pressure on his former employer by leaking about a bug he'd planted to a foreign government. And he similarly kept pressure up, asking for $500,000 in severance sicne he'd lost his pension, retirement, and income after what had happened.
Now, here's the really interesting part.
The CIA actually offered Groat a contractor's position that would take him until his retirement, when he'd be eligible for his normal pension. They were offering him $300,000.
When I hear Christians discuss "leading people to Christ" I get a little uncomfortable. I think it's because there's this automatic assumption that Jesus is going to make their lives happy-go-lucky. Jesus is going to bring them joy, hope, peace, purpose, etc. But if you've been reading through the gospel of Luke with me these past few days, it doesn't really seem like that's what he's promising us, does it? He says he comes to bring division, to turn us against each other. He says that to be a disciple means you have to take up a cross, you have to be willing to suffer rejection and ridicule. The only good thing about following Jesus is at the end of the tunnel, the kingdom of God.
Jesus knows that following him isn't a cake walk. He knows that following him means giving up everything. It means putting him first and everything else second. It means detaching yourself from material possessions and building up heavenly treasures. And for some reason, I feel like church sometimes paints a completely different picture. But Jesus has a couple parables for that, and the purpose of those parables is to get you to really consider, "Is this worth it to me in the end?"
The first is about a guy building a tower, but in the end he runs out of money and can't finish it. Everybody makes fun of him. The second is about a king waging war against another king. He takes a minute to calculate if he has the manpower to take out his enemy, and realizes he doesn't. So, he sends a peacemaker. Then Jesus is just straight up and says:
"You cannot be my disciple if you do not renounce all of your possessions."
All of them. Not some of them.