Schedule The Pain

Schedule The Pain

  • Acknowledge the Pain.
  • Let Pain be Precious.
  • Go get letdown—it might help you.
  • Schedule the pain.

Stare at it, learn from it and make sure you don’t ignore it. There’s a tendency for driven people (whether you’re an entrepreneur, an artist, a developer) to try and pass off the pain when it comes. And if you’re driven, the pain is inevitable, so much so that you could put it in your calendar.

Someone attempts to destroy your reputation—a former colleague backstabs you, a board member has their own agenda and is turning your loved ones against you, or you realize that one of your band members is doing a solo act and selling his/her own CDs on your tour.

There’s always pain.

I had breakfast with Gary Thompson recently, he's the brains and producer behind the famous Zimbabwean talent show A-Academy. He’s a jovial character who gives 50% tips to waiters, orders more filter coffees than he should, not to mention he’s a family man with 5 kids. We’re working on a project together which is in the pipeline and has something to do with the liberation war, high tea and a few RED cameras.

He talked in depth about his disappointments. How he thought he would be a pro-golfer and he just never got the scores. How his advertising company almost tanked five times because of betrayal and people who wouldn’t pay. How he almost married the wrong girl. And how a thief almost ran over his head with a car.

You can tell when someone hasn’t dealt with the pain. They can’t really talk about it freely, and when the subject pops up they turn into blood hounds. Sort of like they’d still like to get revenge or hire a SWAT team to take out the perpetrator.

Gary wasn’t like this. And here’s the approach I’ve seen him and other successful geniuses use:

  1. Wrestle with the pain. Let it hurt and let it take its course. Go ahead, think about all the things that might have led to the stage, dissect it if you need to, write a book about it, but then be done with the emotional part of it and treat it like a history lesson.
  2. Expect it. There’s nothing worse then being blindsided by an out-of-the-blue letdown. There’s a difference between being skeptical and being aware. Skeptics lean towards never trusting anyone, but aware people have “boundaries, high hopes and low expectations.”
  3. Learn from it. There’s no teacher like pain. A classroom setting cannot mix the emotions and heartbreak with a principle like a life experience. Shift your approach, tighten up the Ask, take note of the tendencies, warning signs and red flags of the situation. Then you become better, wiser and more bullet proof for the next encounter.

A general rule of thumb is that one fails more then they succeed. Some famous VC (I think it was Paul Graham, but I’m not going to look it up while I’m writing) says that they don’t invest in anyone that hasn’t fallen on their face and had at least one massive failure in life.

Failure is easy, but dealing with the emotions is the tough part. So Expect, Wrestle, Learn, and become better with the pain.

“It’s about the journey,” Gary said. “The painful road ends up leading to the climax of the story.”

(photo via wendy)