“To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.”–Friedrich Nietzsche
I find so much inspiration form this quote that I’ve also found a way to make it an integral part of my life. Especially as I grow older.
Comfort is a silent killer
I like being comfortable, what I’m trying to avoid is getting comfortable being comfortable. The strategy I’ve come up with is to intentionally put myself in situations where I struggle physically and mentally. And the reason is to keep me in the mindset of achievement and success in the face of steep odds.
The key to this is not to have an easy exit, the only way is to push through.
My suffer therapy is a 103 Kilometer bike ride at high altitude. Not too much, right? And it really isn’t that far. Except for the final 23 Kilometers that begin with an intense, off-road, climb.
By the time I reach the start of the climb I’m tired and hungry and the high altitude sun has taken its toll. But that’s the point, it’s time to suffer.
It’s an 11 km climb with a gain of 860 meters. And there is no exit. It’s a dirt road through rural farm country.
It’s right about here I start thinking about my home, my shower and what’s in the kitchen. I Start going through all the cabinets in my mind looking for what’s there, searching for something sweet.
Abilities can be developed
This doesn’t come naturally, I like comfort, security, and to stay away from danger. And when I am in the middle of these rides I swear to myself it’s the last time I will do it.
Every time, once it’s over and I’m recovered, I start thinking about the next one. It’s addictive.
How this relates to building a business
I don’t know, I think it does so I’m looking for the connection because I really have no idea what I’m doing. I’ll think through it as I write.
As I’ve said before, I relate everything to my ability to push through difficult physical tests. This has to relate to the ability to develop a mindset for success in business. Learn to push through tough stretches on the bike then apply those lessons in business.
Getting lucky once in a while is possible, but it’s through this kind of training and building a tough mindset that will ensure repeated success over time.
The ability to endure tough stretches
Every day I wake up and plot out my day. There is no boss telling me what needs to get done, I’m the boss. I decide what gets done, and then do it.
When I look at the road ahead of me, I can’t see very far. Writing, for example, is like that for me. I’ve been told time and time again that to succeed online with WordPress I have to write. Produce content and demonstrate I am an expert in my field.
Ok, but writing is not easy for me and I’m not alone, I’ve heard that too. So I’m going on this journey and it is another form of suffering – a stretch, but it is mental suffering.
Even the best of the best feel it
Last night I was listening to the Tim Ferriss podcast in the car and he had Jim Collins on the show. Both of these men are very successful in business and have each written many New York Times best sellers. And both of them describe the writing process as torture.
They also sound like they liked the torture.
Self imposed suffering. This is where it pays off. If I can do it on the bike, I can do it on the page. It’s a mindset.
Learning to love the process
I’ve only been writing for about a month now. To set myself up for success I have scheduled 2 hours everyday to write. Even if I just sit there and stare at the page, I sit there and stare at the page.
But something interesting is happening, I am starting to see the creative process of writing. I’m going back and reading what I wrote and changing words, re-writing sentences, paying careful attention to punctuation and how it sets a tone.
Speaking of punctuation, check out this exercise in punctuation I found online:
An English professor wrote on the board: A woman without her man is nothing.
The class was then asked to punctuate the sentence.
The men wrote: A woman, without her man, is nothing.
The women wrote: A woman: without her, man is nothing.
The tools Make the process A lot easier too
If not compelled to do this I wouldn’t, but now that I am doing it, it’s becoming something I look forward to. In the middle if the day, or before bed, ideas come to me. The sentence that didn’t feel right sorts itself out and I have to do it now before the idea moves on and I can’t get it back.
Google docs has become the writing tool of choice – mainly for the convenience. I like to think I’m old school, so I was writing in a Moleskine notebook, and I still love it, but when an idea hits having my phone, which for better or worse is always in my pocket, is just the way to go.
I open the doc and what I wrote on my computer a few hours earlier is right there. Didn’t even have to hit a save button. There is no suffering in that! But I endure nonetheless.
The one thing I won’t do is write a journal online. Nothing to do with privacy and everything to do with having the sensation of dragging a pencil across the fine texture of a piece of paper. The computer will never be able to replace that intimate tactile experience.
It’s a business
Then there is the SEO side of it. Can’t lose sight of the fact this writing is happening to create content that hopefully resonates with an audience. But first that content has to be found so I must keep keywords in mind when I am making final edits. I use an add-on for Google Docs by SEM Rush – Thanks for the tip Pete Everitt!
The name of the tool is SEMrush SEO Writing Assistant. And it analyzes your writing as you write and gives you a score. You can set up some parameters such as the reading level you are targeting.
My writing was scoring ridiculously low on readability. I checked the setting and it was set for 10th to 12th grade. Apparently my writing is not to that level.
I switched it to 7th grade and now I score high marks.
Writing for readability
I did a little research and found that a lot of writers who are considered some of the greatest authors of all time never wrote above a 9th grade level. Check out this link to see what I found.
A few examples: Leo Tolstoy barely broke the 8th grade level. F.Scott Fitzgerald didn’t even make it to 8th grade level, he sits just above the 4th grade level. There are some big names on this list.
And this is just on the fiction authors list.
The non-fiction list has Sheryl Sandberg, just above 7th grade, Tim Ferriss at 8th grade, and Daniel Kahneman, one of the greatest thinkers in history, is at the 10th grade.
What it means to means
My take away from this is it doesn’t matter. Just write and the more people who can read it the better. Imagine writing the greatest story ever told but no one can read it because it’s too hard to read? What a waste.
One more notable author on the list is Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway wrote at the the 4th grade level.
The physiology of Suffer Therapy
To finish this off I want to explore one more theory I have.
I used a term suffer therapy in the beginning of this piece and I believe there is something to punishing the body and forcing it respond. The mind, too.
Over the years I’ve noticed that when I am hurt or not feeling well that each and every time if I go out and torture my body on a long bike ride, or a day out on the mountain, I always feel better. And I mean always, without exception.
An example I remember is I had a bad flu back in college that just wasn’t getting better. So I went skiing. Felt better the next day. And this is just one of many examples I have where this is the case.
Suffer therapy works. At least physically. Now to test it on the mind.
It’s time to apply this strategy to the tough days at the desk. On the days I am questioning everything, I need to push through. On the days I don’t feel like it, I have to embrace it and keep pushing.
The best mindset would be to look forward to these days. Possible? Yes.
Why look forward to it? Because it’s an opportunity to improve. And that is what I take away form these days and why I have set it as my strategy.