A few days ago I had a conversation with a good friend about the Field Survival class I recently attended at Randall’s Adventure Training. He mentioned taking and I said that if he did, I would go with him. His response: “I’m getting the feeling you enjoy the suffering…” I don’t enjoy suffering more than anyone else, but I do find the value of doing hard things to be tremendously high.
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The Value of Doing Hard Things
I have had a few more thoughts about this conversation and am sharing them with you here. If you’ve never done something hard, never had an ordeal, never spent some time in the “pain cave,” I hope to convince you to. This is largely geared toward my younger audience members, but also toward guys of any age who haven’t experienced a raw, physical ordeal at some point in their lives. If you’ve never doing something physically hard, you should. Here are some of the reasons I like doing hard things. Here are some of the reasons I believe everyone should do something hard from time to time.
Reason #1: Appreciation for Life
A steaming cup of coffee, ice cold Gatorade, a pizza, fresh out of the oven and slick with grease, a bed with clean sheets and a soft comforter, a flush-toilet, and a thermostat: what do all these things have in common? They are all things that you and I take for granted. Modern life is pretty fucking easy. We life in an unprecedented time in human history.
Being in a situation like the Field Survival course would be nothing exceptional to most humans who have ever lived. But to those of use who have only lived in the past 100 years or so, it is exceptionally novel. You can’t eat what you want, whenever you want, and as much of it as you want. You can’t go “inside” to get out of the rain, and you can’t turn up the heat, except to throw a log on the fire.
Upon returning from a class like this it is literally amazing to be able to eat anything you want. You can go to Taco Bell or Outback or a whole damn pizza from Papa John’s, and wash it down with any of scores of flavors of soda! Walking into a grocery store is a slightly mind-blowing experience. You can turn the heat up and just decide not to be cold. The act of lying in a bed becomes an experience you actually appreciate.
And this appreciation is a huge part of the value of doing hard things. Doing something hard gives you a glimpse into the past and fresh eyes with which to see the present and be grateful. It’s hard to believe you can be so thrilled to wake up in your bed. It’s an incredible feeling to know you can have coffee if you want it, or make breakfast whenever. And it is an incredible feeling just to be so grateful for such simple pleasures.
Reason #2: To Prove Yourself
I really like attending courses where completion isn’t guaranteed. Events like this are pretty few and far between, but are definitely worth seeking out. They are usually pretty much the epitome of “doing hard things” and they give you a chance to find out what you’re made of. They also let you find out what everyone else is made of. At the end of it there’s no facade, no bravado, no machismo – everyone knows who is who. There’s no pretending you’re a tough guy after that; either you are or aren’t.
You also get a pretty profound sense of satisfaction from looking around at the end and knowing you’re in a group of people that completed something hard. There’s a mutual respect there, even if is unspoken. Unfortunately, the nice, soft, easy modern life we live provides very few opportunities for you to prove yourself in an environment of hardship. Most people will have to seek such an environment out, and it is totally worth it for the chance to prove yourself a man among men.
Reason #3: To Build Resilience
Doing hard things also builds resilience. It is a form of inoculation against hard things in your future that may not be voluntary. This is probably the biggest value of doing hard things: it makes other hard things suck less. It also lets you know exactly what you can do and re-frames your idea of “hard.” Walking across a parking lot when it’s sprinkling rain is nothing after you’ve spent four hours outside in a torrential downpour, on night one of a three-day class. Being a tiny bit hungry is no big deal when you know you easily go two days without eating.
Breakups, deaths, stress at work…there is no shortage of emotional stress in life. Persevering through a physically difficult trial will help build your mental and emotion strength. Doing physically hard things makes you emotionally resilient, too. At least, I believe it does. One of the few guarantees in life is some time spent suffering. Having some tools do deal with it makes these stressors much easier to deal with and less impactful. Why? Because they are as much mental as physical. The physical stuff is what is easiest to see and record, but there is an enormous mental component to things like this. When you can quit at any moment – and go get warm, fed, dry, and sleep – it takes some mental toughness to keep going. The more you exercise it, the stronger it gets.
Doing Hard Things
Hard things are hard to come by in modern life. I urge you to get out there and try to find something hard with which to challenge yourself. With a month of hindsight, I still can’t say enough good things about Field Survival. If that’s too “off the deep end,” do a GoRuck event. Commit to something difficult and do it. It is hard to want to get out of your comfort zone. Trust me – it isn’t any easier for me. You may hate it in the moment but suck it and see who good you feel at the end. You’ll be glad you did.