In Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliaththere are a few stories he uses to illustrate this point. When people go through difficult moments in life, it doesn’t make them weaker, quite the opposite, it makes them stronger. No better of an example than that of London in World War II.
It’s World War II and you’re living in London
The government is preparing for mass casualties, 250,000 dead they thought they would have to deal with as well as the vast mental health patients seeking medical help. Hospitals were built on the outskirts of town to deal with all the mental and physical damage they were anticipating from the German bombings. But once the war started something interesting happened. Those facilities were never used as “mental hospitals” at all, there wasn’t the mass hysteria from being bombed constantly. On the contrary, people became more resilient in the face of danger.
Why would you think you had more courage when your city was being bombed?
Canadian psychiatrist, J. T. MacCurdy groups the people in a bombing in three categories, the casualties, the near misses, and the remote misses. The Casualties are the first group, but they don’t do much of causing panic, as the psychiatrist puts it:
“the morale of the community depends on the reaction of the survivors, so from that point of view, the killed do not matter. Put this way the fact is obvious, corpses do not run about spreading panic.”
The second group the Near Miss groupmay have experienced some trauma. A bomb went off so close to them they have injuries but in time they will be fine.
The last group the Remote Miss groupare the ones who hear the destruction but are left unscathed. This is a psychological benefit, people see themselves as rather invincible, they’ve survived a bombing afterall! One quote from Gladwell’s story when one fellow was asked if we wanted to leave London during the bombings? His response? “Not for all the tea in China!”, he was having a blast, literally. People were benefiting from the tragedy happening around them.
It’s hard when you’re going through a difficult time to see the positives you are gaining just from enduring it. Sometimes it’s better to struggle through things because it makes us appreciate them much more. Conversely, if you’ve been born with a so-called “silver spoon in your mouth“, you probably haven’t had to struggle much. Without the struggle you don’t learn how to fight, compromise, or try harder in the face of adversity. The silver spoon kids will assume the world is centred around them, without the skillset to work hard for what they want they assume the world is out to get them.
Better to struggle early on. Does that mean there is such a concept as desirable difficulties?
Shoot for the moon and if you hit a star that’s pretty okay too, right?
That’s what they tell you at a young age, shoot for the moon! But what they’re really saying is, try hard, set large goals, do something with your life (unless you’re Elon Musk than the Moon isn’t enough, Mars is the goal!). They won’t tell you have hard that is. They won’t tell you how hard life gets at times, or how unprepared we feel for most endeavors we try for the first time. But that’s the point, you can’t be a risk taker and have everything perfectly planned out. At times you must simply keep the faith that you’ll come out the other side alive.
Just know, no one knew what they were getting themselves into when they took the big leap of faith. Yes some will fail but over time, those who risk taking the leap will inevitably land on their feet eventually. It’s just a matter of time.
Marketing a Summer Camp can’t be that hard!
Is what we say to ourselves every year about Big Idea Camp. It’s getting a lot better but it’s still not easy.
We just finished Big Idea Camp 4.0, four days of craziness out of the Strategy Lab office. I always find it’s the most rewarding week of the year but that’s because it’s also the hardest week of the year. Our team is pushed to their limits. We don’t have start times regularly each day, so to get your team to show up at 8:30 each day for a week is a stretch.
Not just the wake up time, engaging with students every day, getting your actual job done all week, staying sane during the nights and trying to explain to your significant other why you’re not going be home much this week. It all adds to the stress of camp.
But not just camp, stress in general. Pushing yourself to your limits, trying something completely outside your comfort zone, is the best way to grow.
When life gets hard we always have more power from within to deal with whatever life throws at us. Sure some times it’s a “direct hit” and you become a casualty, the odds are much more in favour that you will experience what Gladwell calls a “remote miss”.