Choosing How You Suffer

I was listening to Shane Parrish’s interview of Ed Latimore on The Knowledge Project Podcast, when Ed said something that really caught my ear. I had to rewind it to listen again.

You’re going to suffer because you’re unattractive and have horrible health, or you’re going to suffer while you’re working out… Difference is one suffering is moving towards what you want… the other suffering is going away from things. – Ed Latimore

Now obviously, Ed just isn’t talking about working out. This quote can be applied to many different areas of life, such as relationships, careers, entrepreneurial ambitions, etc.

When I was approaching my mid-20’s, my back started to bother me, I was lethargic after work, and I was getting sick quite a bit. I took a look in the mirror and pretty easily figured out what was the problem. I sat at work in front of my computer for 9, 10, and sometimes 12+ hours a day, I would eat like shit, and come home and sit in front of the TV until it was time for bed. Fridays and Saturday nights were spent downtown buying rounds and the following mornings were spent with hangovers. Something needed to change.

I don’t know what gave me the motivation at first to start working out besides the revelation that my health probably wasn’t so great, but I decided to start hitting the gym. At first it was tough. It took a lot of will power to drive to the gym after a long day at work, but once I started, I realized it actually gave me energy. My body was starting to feel better, I was better with managing my work related stress, I gained self confidence, I got sick much less, and I didn’t look half bad.

Getting over that initial hump of suffering was tough. I could have driven home and watched some reruns of the Sopranos or hit the bar, but instead I chose to suffer. The great part about this kind of suffering is it is only temporary.

The reason this type of suffering is only temporary is because it gets you closer to a goal you want. If your goal is to gain self confidence, curb stress, get stronger, and look better, then lifting weights is one way to get there. I know it 100% worked for me. What felt like suffering at first turned into a passion of mine.

This can also be applied to money and careers, and there are countless examples. Mad you don’t make enough? Start networking. The social awkwardness and embarrassment at first may feel like suffering, but that suffering may lead to a higher paying job. Or maybe when you get home from work, sit at the computer and learn to code for two hours a night. The 10 hour loss of free time each week may feel like suffering, but a more rewarding career with a higher earning potential might await you.

Next time you’re suffering because you don’t like how things have turned out, take the hard road. Suffering in the short term may lead to happiness in the long term.

6 thoughts on “Choosing How You Suffer

  • This is a really good distinction. I went through this when I started using a standing desk at work. Previously my legs and back ached all day as I sat in my office chair. When I started working from home, I bought a standing desk and made a commitment to stand for the majority of the day. It definitely is not easy when your body is used to sitting all day! But I’m choosing how to suffer here – standing is an investment in my longevity and happiness. 🙂

    • Awesome! I’ve looked at those Veradesks but I’m scared away by the price point (unless work pays for it). But you’re right, it’s an investment in your longevity and happiness.

  • That is a really cool way to think about things. No matter what we are going to suffer so make sure you are suffering to improve yourself! I agree with this on health it is easy to let things slip and take the easy route. My goal since graduating college and entering the work force has been to stay consistent in working out. I don’t want to have to make a comeback its much easier to stay on top of things and keep my health in check.

    • Consistently working out has done wonders for me. Of course it’s not easy getting up everyday and heading to the gym, but my days start off much better when I workout. Keep it up.

  • I love Farnam Street Blog, I always gain insights from Shane’s work. I like this concept of suffering to get what you want, because we’ll all suffer in one way or another anyway! It might as well be working towards a goal. Great post 🙂

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