Friday Musings: What Pain Do You Want in Life?

Happy Friday! You crushed this week, didn’t you? If not, no sweat. What you are about to read will change your life, FOREVER… or, maybe it’s just a moderately interesting way to avoid working.

Next week doesn’t stand a chance! Enjoy our Musings!

By Shane Trotter

My name is Shane and I have a problem. It’s a compulsion, really, that has come to dominate far too many of my waking hours. I’m often plagued by a need to infinitely expand my "To Read" list, creating evermore stress to rush on to the next book. I'll get so excited about what I"m going to  read next that I speed through my current selection.

I know what you’re thinking. Yes, I have a “To Read” list and yes, I am an unabashed nerd. I savor the first crease of a brand new book, feel a slight (read: tremendous) euphoria when entering bookstores, and can stare at maps, graphs, and charts for days. I’m that guy at the zoo who isn’t ready to move on to the Lions yet, because I haven’t finished reading about the Black Rhino. #nerdprobz

Reflecting on this pattern, it occurred to me that I could tell you some pretty transformative books, but I hadn’t acted on a lot of their advice. I could scarcely even remember the powerful stories and actionable directives. They sat like trophies on my bookshelf, while becoming less relevant to my life, every day. Aren’t we all guilty of telling people they “have to read” How to Win Friends and Influence People (you really should read this book), while having forgotten almost every wise aphorism it contains?

Rather than feeding my ego by checking more books off the list, wouldn’t it be better to find a handful of extremely powerful books and read them to mastery? Certainly there is a balance. New books offer new perspectives and variety, which is the spice of life, after all. I devised a plan to identify the 6-8 most important books I’d ever read. You can find them all featured on the IHD Book List. Each of these books would be purchased in both a hard-copy form and audio via (not all at once). I always read my hard-copies while creating reference sheets that I tape to the inside cover for quick reference to favorite passages.

It is the audio books that have proved most helpful. I rarely, sit down and physically re-read a book. However, each month or two I listen to one of these transformational books again in audio form. In the course of a year, I’m able to re-explore all these most cherished concepts, while still having plenty of time to explore new books, whether through reading or listening. Each time I go through one of these choices again, I’m amazed at what I’ve forgotten- amazed at the clarity and inspiration that is rekindled. It’s nearly the exact same as the first time, except I’m a little older and have a little more perspective to help filter and apply each pearl of wisdom.

This past week I went back through Mark Manson’s, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***. Despite the irreverent title, this may be the most eye-opening and instructive manual on good living that I have ever come across. Manson is honest, hilarious, and extremely well read.

My favorite of Manson’s perspectives is the issues he has with the self help culture’s obsession over the question: “What do you want?” We are constantly told to explore what we are missing. This is exacerbated by our lifetime immersion in consumerism. We assume all we have to do is identify what we want, work to get it, and then appreciate the awesomeness of reaching happiness. Of course, better yet would be to win the lottery and just be given what we want, without all that annoying effort. Those lottery winners are always the happiest, neatest people… right?

Manson believes we are asking the wrong question. While there is actually an argument to be made about wanting the right things (investing in skill development and experiences), the reality is that a lot of what we want is fairly universal. Even the most humble and non-material people probably would love more money, more respect, more love, more freedom, and more lavish vacations. We all want really cool stuff and really cool experiences.

In light of this, Manson emphasizes that, “The better question is: What pain do you want in your life? What are you willing to struggle for? Because that seems to be a greater determinant of how your life turns out.”

Most would love to be paid like the Google CEO, but we aren’t willing to study and work 70+ hour weeks for years on end. Nearly everyone would love to have an awesome physique, but most don’t want to change how they eat and stick to a vigorous exercise regimen. Do you want better mental health? You may have to learn to meditate and create boundaries for your smartphone. Talk to any high-school athlete. They all want to be the best. They all want to win state. Sure there is a genetic component, but most are unwilling to do all of the little things. They’ll skip a few days of summer workouts, stay up way too late, and choose to be cool rather than address divisive, lazy teammates. Everyone wants a great relationship, but few are willing to check their ego, confront their own issues, and have the hard conversations necessary to grow stronger, together.

Shane struggles to find anything valuable to write. 

Shane struggles to find anything valuable to write. 

Suffering is inescapable. Get used to it. If you want to spend your life trying to indulge every impulse, you will experience pleasures, but greater pains. The cost of partying every night away is health, productivity, and a revolving door of hangovers. Good luck creating a meaningful career path, or finding strong friends.  

Justin Lind has an amazing relationship, physical vigor, and a nomadic lifestyle that allows him to write and work remotely all over the U.S. A normal week for him features rock-climbing, coaching kettlebell or handstand clinics, publishing online, and hammocking in some of the country’s most beautiful places. Do you want this freedom? Choose his suffering. Not only did he have the guts to quit an engineering job, he’s embraced the discipline of lifelong learning, the risks of freelance work, and the constant inconveniences of living on the road. Van life isn’t for everyone, but for him this juice is worth the squeeze.

The point is that there is a cost to every decision. Happiness follows choosing the right problems and working to solve them. Ask yourself: what decisions would be worth the pain? What purpose justifies its inherent hardships? If you don’t consciously decide, you’ll be at the whim of those most childlike impulses to indulge every pleasure and avoid every pain. You’ve met that guy and you didn’t like him.

My ratings may be harsh, but they are fair. 

My ratings may be harsh, but they are fair. 


IHD Housekeeping:

Justin Lind and I have joined forces to rev up the IHD blog, while growing from a little mutual support. Together we’ll refine and clarify the best practices to promote inspired, fulfilled living in the 21st century. Justin is a former engineer with a concise, crisp, and disciplined style that perfectly compliments my overly passionate, excited puppy tendency to get too broad and grandiose. We first met a little over a year ago. After admiring his work for Breaking Muscle, I reached out to interview him for the Breaking Muscle Podcast. We quickly realized our shared values and mutual vision for helping others live meaningful, limitless lives. He’s one of the best coaches and people I’ve ever met, whose sincerity, creativity, and talent are sure to set him apart. Look forward to Justin’s first post this Tuesday, June 5th!

We’ve created a Tuesday, Friday posting structure. Tuesday posts will feature our longer, more formal writing, while Friday Musings will tend to be shorter, lighter explorations of what’s banging around our brains.

Of course, I never know where a topic will take me. Consequently, today’s musing was a little longer than I’d prefer. For this “lighter” musing I chose the topic of “suffering.” Brilliant!

Love what you just read? Did you like it, anyway? 

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