What are you willing to suffer for? What do you feel called to do with your life? What meaningful pursuit are you tempted to turn back from just because it's gotten hard and miserable?
Barry Blanchard is, by a great many credible accounts, one of the greatest alpinists our country has produced. His award-winning book the calling gives testament to his life of work and play in the mountains–funny, touching and sometimes terrifying*. Barry Blanchard is bona fide world-class.
The idea of "world-class" shows up in the text of many mission statements and in the presentations of a great many idealogues, visionaries, CEOs and entrepreneurs–the very same people who feel massively frustrated with the evidently inadequate performance of their organizations. It's so over-used, it's ceased to be meaningful.
I recently decided to compete in two epic mountain biking stage races in the next few years, partially as an excuse to train for something and partially to see if I have the jam to complete them. The man who won both of the races this year (Moab Rocks and the BC Bike Race) is Yeti team rider Jeff Kabush from Squamish. Jeff is the Barry Blanchard of mountain biking, winning these races in unimaginably fast times. Jeff Kabush is bona fide world-class.
My cycling coach wisely advised me to not compare myself to Jeff–a professional athlete born with a body made for racing mountain bikes. Troy went on to say that Jeff's life is about suffering: suffering all day during training and suffering all day during races. Like Barry, he has developed the emotional resolve and mental toughness to withstand the enormous discomforts of achieving at a high level.
Great achievements require great character and great commitment. My conclusion is this:
Anyone interested in performing at a world-class level better be prepared to suffer for it.
Something really worthwhile is not going to be easy. This flies in the face of the well-rooted and maybe misunderstood Joseph Campbell idea of "follow your bliss"–implying that if something is hard, it can't possibly be my calling. But "bliss" is an easier sell than "suffering". And for many really meaningful projects bliss just doesn't work as well. It's incomplete on it's own. Biking and ice climbing (and business) are unpleasant much of the time but they are very rewarding, just like any worthy pursuit.
We all have ways of overcomplicating our work and personal affairs and making things harder than they need to be. That's an unnecessary form of suffering and there is nothing noble about inefficiency. Finding something worth suffering for. That's noble. Engaging in the work to develop our natural talents. That's worthwhile. Life is a process of coming to terms with the difference.
Now for my pitch. Writing is also a form of what Shakespeare called "a sweet suffering". My fourth book with Brett Wilson and John Francis is available for purchase. Buy it here. I don't just do this for my health. Inside, both men share vulnerable stories and insights about their business and personal struggles, in a very personal conversation that's not normally public.
*Barry inadvertently taught me how to ice climb during a series of voluntary "public service gestures" that very likely saved my life in my first year of climbing. I am literally pursuing my calling as a result of his.