True success is something to savor.
Be it in your career, your finances, your physical fitness, your building of a family, or anything else.
To achieve true success is a fundamental component of happiness, because being successful in a chosen endeavor is part of striving toward one’s potential as a human being.
Now, success isn’t something easily quantified.
But if you feel like you’re giving something 100%, and if you’re achieving the goals you’ve set for yourself, that’s success.
All well and good, but I want to talk for a moment today about an inescapable and ugly truth of success.
This truth, while arguably unfortunate, is what holds a lot of people back.
It’s what keeps real success reserved for the few.
And it’s also what makes success that much sweeter.
Success And Suffering Are Inextricably Linked
To become successful (at pretty much anything in life), you must suffer.
The picture that accompanies this article was taken recently poolside here in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
I include this picture not to show off; rather, I include it to show that I know a lot about suffering.
And we’re not talking just in the metaphysical sense; there’s physical pain and suffering.
In fact, I’m in pain every single day of the week. There’s not a day I wake up in which I’m without soreness and aches across my entire body from some recent workout.
Maybe models on Instagram don’t want to talk about this. Maybe people want to sweep it under the rug.
But being in great physical condition, which almost always requires regular, vigorous exercise, is going to lead to physical suffering.
No pain, no gain?
I’m in the gym six days per week. I love exercise and all of the benefits it confers.
But I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a great deal of suffering as a result.
There’s the momentary pain from the actual exercises themselves. And then there’s the lasting and ongoing soreness afterwards as the body repairs itself.
But it’s not just exercise and achieving success in your fitness and appearance goals where suffering is part of the gig.
This is true across all facets of one’s life.
To Succeed Is To Suffer
This is analogous to financial success, which is what most of my writing focuses on.
I didn’t get to where I am in life – living off of passive income and being financially free in my 30s – through inaction or the purposeful avoidance of hardship.
I instead took the opposite road.
Every decision I made on my way to financial independence was, after looking at all available choices, almost always the one that involved the most suffering – at least in the short-term sense.
The simple act of selling my car is a great example.
You have to understand how easy it is to get up in the morning, jump in a car, and drive yourself to work in the fastest and most direct manner possible.
I didn’t have that option once I decided to embark on a car-free life, though.
Instead, I had to wake up extra early so that I could stand outside, waiting for the bus. Sometimes it was early. Sometimes it was late. I had to plan for both.
As such, I was more exposed to the elements: heat, humidity, rain, etc. Rain in Southwest Florida, by the way, can come down like a helacious sheet of water. An umbrella can be rendered practically useless. I just had to deal with it.
Then there’s the ride to work, which is longer and less direct because public transportation planners don’t have Jason Fieber’s home address and work address in mind when they plan bus routes.
Of course, there’s also the snickers and ridicule from co-workers and even clients when you show up to work via bus. Many Americans seem to think that riding the bus will result in cancer or something.
This is just one choice I made. One of many.
I could go on here, but it would beat the point to death with a hammer.
Suffice to say, any success in life will require taking the path less traveled. It will require suffering, compromise, pain, and extreme effort. You have to clear obstacles and overcome challenges. You don’t sit on the couch, eating a gallon of ice cream, and magically arrive at Success World.
The choices you will make – no, the choices you must make – will be tough calls.
Of course, I saw the benefits of these choices, especially in the long-term sense. The optimist in me knows no other way.
And this leads me to my next point.
Suffering Makes Success That Much Sweeter
The path less traveled is often more difficult. You have to clear the brush. There’s no well-worn path to follow.
However, that’s what makes the view that much better. You’re not clamoring for a look.
When you know what you had to go through and put up with in order to become successful at whatever it is you’re after, you’ll enjoy the end result that much more.
If I just swallowed a pill to make myself look like I do, there’s no way I’d enjoy it as much. I’d take it for granted. Furthermore, there’d be little that would separate me from anyone else who took the same pill. There’s nothing special about it.
Indeed, I’ve written about how I did such a thing when I inherited some money upon turning 21 years old.
I took it for granted.
I didn’t savor it. I didn’t appreciate it.
And it was wasted away rather quickly, unfortunately.
That experience taught me a lot about not only the value of money, but it also gave me a huge life lesson in the value of appreciating what you work hard for.
Likewise, if my FIRE Fund were the result of someone just writing me a check, there’s no possible way I could appreciate it as much as I do. It’d be impossible.
Instead, I savor the sweetness of success as much as I do at least in part due to the sacrifices and struggles I know I had to endure in order to build that Fund and become financially independent.
The juice doesn’t flow only after a day’s hard work. The juice is largely in the action itself. The process is the juice.
And the juice is almost always worth the squeeze, assuming you’re involved in a worthwhile endeavor that is fundamentally related to your identity, purpose, and happiness as a human being.
If you want success, you must suffer. I believe this to be absolutely true, no matter what it is we’re talking about in life.
However, that suffering will lead you to salvation, assuming whatever it is you’re chasing is going to positively impact your life and other lives around you.
Moreover, it’s the act of suffering itself that makes success so much more enjoyable. I don’t believe success can truly be appreciated without experiencing the associated difficulties and sacrifices that are inevitable.
Overcoming obstacles makes you stronger. And it makes you grateful once you’re on the other side.
There’s a permanent grin on my face these days, even though I’m in physical pain at the same time. That’s because I know the juice is worth the squeeze. And because I squeeze so hard, I’ve got plenty of juice to enjoy.
What do you think? Is suffering part of success? Is the suffering part of what makes success so sweet?
Thanks for reading.
P.S. A number of fantastic resources helped me become financially independent in my early 30s. Check them out if you’re also interested in becoming financially free!