Back when I was in high-school, during one of my kickboxing practices, I had to act as a sparring partner for a few weeks to one of the best fighters in the country.
It was the most humiliating and excruciating experience in my life. There’s no other way to put it. There was nothing I could do to even touch the guy, let alone beat him.
Yet, even though I consistently got beat, my skills improved considerably. When I look back at the four years I spent as a fighter, I often remember that one time I got a lucky jab at him or when he broke my nose.
Quentin Tarantino once compared our work towards progress as running a race.
If we run against people who are slower than us, yes, we win, but if we race against people who are much faster, we’ll come last every single time, but our time will be much better.
We live in a society that loves winning.
Winning is the only thing. The desire to be first. To be the best there is.
There are some victories that are impossible. Sometimes, a good defeat is its own reward. Sometimes, the best we can do is fight an impossible battle and manage not to lose it.
Having to fight against someone with far superior skills would provide me with the kind of mental clarity and focus that made me be so present in the moment that everything was moving in slow-motion.
If I wasn’t careful, I’d find myself on the floor, trying to figure out what day of the week it was.
I couldn’t win, but I still struggled. And I enjoyed it so, so much.
The world tells us to focus on reaching our goals.
“Shoot for the moon.”
Make millions and then die trying to spend them all before they plant you in the ground.
But the real reward is found in the moments of struggle when reaching the destination becomes most uncertain.
The hero’s story, when he has yet to figure out a way to beat the bad guy.
It’s not the victory that makes something worthwhile, it’s the struggle that precedes it. We must give this struggle a name, a meaning, unless we want to fail.
When I work out, the reward is not in gaining muscle. The reward is the struggle to wake up before everyone else, go to the gym, and lift weights until I feel my soul exiting my body. My struggle to lift heavy weights, even though my body wasn’t designed for this type of activity, is what pleases me most.
When I write an article, the reward is not in how many likes or reads or money my words make. The reward is the act of punching those keys. The struggle to gain enough mental clarity to be able to translate my thoughts and ideas into words that another human being can understand. That’s what pleases me most.
Whenever I remember writing my first novel, I don’t look back at editing the last page of the manuscript, or seeing it on the virtual display on Amazon, but rather the arduous task of spending 8–10 hours a day in a world that did not exist, a world I had to make from scratch.
The victory is never guaranteed. No matter how good you are. No matter what you do.
But the struggle?
Rest assured, that’s all yours.
So, be grateful for the chance to struggle for something you care about, for the opportunity to hustle, to find creative solutions to problems, to overcome adversity and obstacles.
That’s where the real pleasure is.
The struggle alone pleases us, not the victory.