Pain is good.
Pain tells you when you’re stretching your limits, and growing. You can be comfortable for your entire life doing the same old thing, but you’ll never grow and go beyond that limit if you don’t want to experience any pain.
Pain tells you when something’s wrong, so you can learn from it. It’s why leprosy is a curse rather than a blessing: when you can’t feel the fire, you don’t know why to pull away, and you don’t know what to think of it when you see your scars.
Pain lets you know you’re taking the risks you want to define the life you need. A full life was never achieved by idling in comfort. You need all the facets of pain, from physical, to mental, to understand and grow yourself.
What you can do with pain
When you understand pain, wonderful things happen. Every company is founded on the premise of solving the pain of others.
You need to understand what real pain is before you start being successful selling a solution for it. A large reason most startups fail is because they’re solving pain that doesn’t exist: they view pain like a phantom limb—it must be there.
Inevitably, with no market validation, they realize the pain they thought was there is a figment of their imagination. The company closes because there’s no reason for it to exist, and perhaps there never was.
Your why has to be solving the pain of somebody. If that pain is large enough, and hurts enough for them to come to you, that’s when you will succeed as an entrepreneur.
“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.”
― James Baldwin
Be comfortable with pain
One should strive for comfort with pain, if not comfort itself. Comfort is the enemy of progress: when you’re comfortable, you’ve resigned yourself to what is happening now as being good enough. There’s always ways forward, and new things to learn, so this should never be true.
Pain can slow you down if you let it. Instead of dwelling over it, and trying to ignore it, take it as a constructive bridge to the future, and work towards solving it rather than wallowing with it. Your comfort with pain will grow you into a better person.
“Numbing the pain for a while will make it worse when you finally feel it.”
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Being comfortable with pain is a sort of superpower. It allows you to experiment. After all, what do you have to fear? You understand pain, embrace it, and look to learn from it. If everything goes well, that’s great! If everything goes poorly, well there’s a learning lesson in there, and you can cope productively with it: you’ll take that chance to grow.
Either way, you win.
So that speech you’ve been putting off giving, that girl you’re too shy to ask out: why not move forward on those?
Things you can do with your new superpower to move forward:
Do something you wouldn’t do every day. Take every chance you can to experiment and grow. What do you have to lose?
Relate better to others. Did you really think nobody else in the world has gone through pain? If you can understand your pain, you can understand theirs.
Move on. Really bad shit happens to people all the time. We fail, and others fail us. Sometimes the laws of the universe itself seem to fail us: the good die young, and there’s nothing we can really do about it. Once you understand that, it makes it easier to look forward on what can be done, rather than dwelling on what couldn’t.
Build great new things. Once you’re fully equipped to cope with your pain, and understand the pain of others, you’re perfectly suited to take on the risks you need to do everything you wanted to do. Pain is good, and so are the ventures you’re building. If you register all the pain you get positively as a sign of where you need to grow yourself and your venture, nothing will stop you.
Stop being comfortable. Have you learned to love a shit situation? It’s not too late to go beyond that. Pain is the enemy of comfort, it’s what comfort is designed to shield you from. When you decide enough’s enough, you’ll finally be growing towards a full life, rather than hiding from it.
Comfort is bad, pain is good.
I myself have gotten through plenty of both failing at many things, and succeeding at a few. It can be easy to fall into the trap of holding onto everything you have, and not clawing for more opportunities to grow: I know because I’ve been there. It’s only after I realized how valuable pain was, and how to use it productively, that I’ve been able to move on, and make rational decisions on driving towards the fuller life I’ve always wanted.
I want to be a builder. I’ve come to accept that comes with a fair amount of risk, and a fair amount of pain. But that doesn’t matter to me: after all, comfort is bad. Pain is good.