Why Struggle?

3 May

by Joe Vitale
In 1859, Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species, which you might say caused a stir.
But that same year saw another book published that triggered an even greater surge of interest, discussion, and awakening: Samuel Smiles’ Self-Help.
The public devoured Smiles’ book. It sold more than 200,000 copies the first year. It out sold Darwin’s book — even Darwin bought it – – and was instantly translated into other languages. It made the author a celebrity. From that point on, he was considered a type of coach to the dreamers of the world.
But Smiles was no dreamer. He was a hard working Scottish author and government reformer who believed struggle was necessary to develop character. He didn’t believe in positive thinking but in positive doing.
In his 1905 autobiography, he wrote –
“My object in writing out Self-Help, and delivering it at first in the form of lectures, and afterwards rewriting and publishing it in the form of a book, was principally to illustrate and enforce the power of George Stephenson’s great word – PERSEVERANCE.”
George Stephenson was a focused dreamer who created the world’s first public inter-city railway line to use steam locomotives. What carried Stephenson on to greatness was the word Smiles admired the most: perseverance.
According to Smiles, hard work, discipline, and focus were tickets to success. It was how you “self helped” yourself in the world.
Too many people today are afraid of work and too easily willing to quit.
I’ve learned that struggle can be not only good, but even great.
When I’m in the gym, struggling to lift heavy iron weights, it’s the struggle that builds my muscles. If I lift donuts, my muscles aren’t challenged and don’t grow.

When I was first learning how to write songs and perform my own tunes, I told my coaches not to take away my struggle. I knew that wrestling with the new skills was how my body and mind were going to create new neural pathways and lead me to my own discoveries.
But not all struggle is necessary, and may in fact be a clue to alter your course.
When I was driving across the city to run an errand, I got a flat tire. That was struggle I didn’t see in any way was helping me. So I looked at the deeper significance and decided it meant I was to skip the errand for that day.
In other words, you get signals through life to proceed, pause, or even stop.
I’ve often called it The Red Flags Theory.
When you go in the right direction, you get green lights to proceed. Things go smoothly. There’s a flow.
But when you are about to do something that is off path, you get a yellow flag. Maybe the engine light on your car comes on. It’s a signal to pause and reflect.
And when a red flag appears — like a flat tire on the way out — you have to literally stop and assess your direction.
But none of this says struggle is bad.
“Struggle” is a path to manifesting what you want.
It just depends on your mental attitude to the work at hand.

What do you hear in your mirror?
When I write blog posts like this one, I “struggle” to articulate and communicate my message. It doesn’t mean I hate the process or want to quit. It means I care and want to get this right.
It’s an acceptable struggle.
It’s simply part of my process.
In creating my seventh music album, I went through lots of struggle.
Writing, rewriting, rehearsing, tweaking, performing, takes, retakes, dubbing, over dubbing, editing, mixing, mastering and more – all could be considered “struggle.”
But it’s simply “the work” that attracted the result I intended: my seventh album, titled Reflection.
Why struggle?
It’s only struggle if you are resisting the work; if you are OK with what needs done, it’s simply process.
As I wrote on my Facebook page recently at https://www.facebook.com/drjoevitale
“When you resist doing what you know needs done, it is difficult. Find a mental way to enjoy it, and just do it, and it is easy.”
Samuel Smiles worked hard and gave us a book that is still relevant today. I imagine he “struggled” some in writing it. He certainly struggled in getting it published, as his first books were considered failures and his most famous book, Self-Help, was rejected by the first publishers to see it — one of whom regretted it a decade later and told the author so over dinner.
Birth of all kind involves struggle.
Welcome it.
Once you accept struggle, it is no longer struggle.
As Smiles wrote in Self-Help, “Nothing that is of real worth can be achieved without courageous working.”
Now get to work.
Ao Akua,
Joe

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