The struggle

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Yesterday, in one of our team meetings at SHIFT, one staff member asked a question – and I’m paraphrasing – about what will help set someone up to be successful in their career. I wanted to share part of an answer that I gave, because I think it’s almost universally applicable.

The sign that you’re successful or on the path to being successful is to be in a constant state of challenge, a constant state of struggle. You’re constantly stepping outside of your comfort zone, challenged by new material you’re learning or ways to refine and improve what you already know.


When you feel comfortable, when you feel like you’ve got it down and you’re content to stay there, that’s when you’ve set yourself up for failure, because that’s a clear sign you’re no longer growing. In the fast-paced, ever-changing world we live it, the moment you stand still, the world races past you. The moment you’ve decided you don’t need to learn any more, don’t need to grow any more, your career is over.

I still struggle. I still struggle every day, and I do so joyfully. I struggled the other night writing a new piece of code, trying to understand how a particular API worked. I struggled yesterday trying to become minimally competent in a new piece of software. I struggle every time I get on stage to speak, to be a better speaker than I was the last time. The days I worry are the rare days when I don’t struggle, when I don’t feel worn out at the end of the day.

Now, you might say, “well, that doesn’t sound like a particularly happy life”. That’s a matter of perspective. People who love fitness are happy when they struggle at the gym or to set a new personal record in a marathon. People who love to write struggle with every blank page. If you’re struggling constantly with something you don’t like and don’t want to do, that’s a different story. Figure out what you love first, then challenge yourself in that. That’s a struggle you’ll enjoy.

Be curious. Challenge yourself. Accept that struggle should be part of every day as a sign of your growth, and be concerned if you hit a period when you realize you’re not struggling any more.

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2 responses to “The struggle”

  1. Thank you, Chris. I’ve been avoiding the next project I’m supposed to start for hours because I always dread the struggle or “the resistance”. But I’ve never connected the dots that those are *good* feelings because if I never feel them, I am by definition going backwards. This is exactly what I needed to hear!

    1. Glad to hear it was helpful, James!

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