If it hurts, at least make it count.

It’s Monday, not Sunday. (Captain Obvious is here!) 

I’m sending you this newsletter today because yesterday I was still recovering from an emergency wisdom tooth extraction. What a “fun” way to end what would have been a pretty perfect holiday. 

But life’s not perfect and pain is unavoidable. (Told you Captain Obvious is aboard!) 

I felt it fully over the last few days, as the most horrible, crushing tooth pain paralyzed my brain, rendering it almost useless for anything else. Meds didn’t help, so I was left to cope with it the best I could until I reached my dentist (my second favorite person in the world right now). 

I saw a lesson to be learned here, given wisdom teeth tend to cause the biggest issues of all. So instead of trying to put this episode behind me, I decided to embrace what the pain taught me. 

While evolution has programmed us, humans, to fear pain and avoid it to survive, it is only through pain that we can grow stronger, wiser, and eventually make it through the natural selection process. 

The Stoics knew this well when they talked about the untroubled spirit

“Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness – all of them due to the offenders’ ignorance of what is good or evil.”

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Some might say this is what pessimism is all about but I disagree. 

After trying for years to cultivate an optimistic attitude, I realized that it’s not what I needed. I couldn’t rewire my brain that way. I did find two tactics that worked much better for me: reframing and Stoicism.  

While I’ve practiced the first a lot more than the latter, I believe they make a fine combination for anyone looking to cultivate a pragmatic attitude that helps you:
A. find opportunities for personal growth even in the most challenging situations while 
B. helping you enjoy life in spite of its imperfections and constant challenges. 

It’s been a long journey to actually turning these concepts into practice but, little by little, they added up. Their compound effect is incredibly powerful and it helped me pull myself together after 3 sleepless nights and do a lot better than I expected on a two-day, 19-hours in total car trip back home. 

I thanked my body for working with me, for making it through the worst pain I’ve ever experienced, and my mind for not forgetting to be thankful for all the beauty I was surrounded by in places like this one: 

Wisdom comes at a high cost but I’d pay up every day for it. That’s because the process of getting a bit wiser with each experience builds fortitude - the mental and emotional strength to bravely deal with adversity.  

Looking back, there are a couple of fundamental experiences that have helped me gain a bit of wisdom and put it to good use: 

- Moving from my hometown when I was 18 to go to the university in a different city 
- Living alone and having to manage everything that comes with it 
- Experiencing heartbreak 
- Changing jobs 
- Going freelance
- Being in a relationship that’s almost 7 years strong.  

I’ve previously written about many of these experiences in past newsletters because they’ve shaped the way I think, the way I see the world, and the way I’ve grown up over the last decade or so. 

It’s been a long-time coming but I’m not afraid of pain anymore. I know that it will come but I also know it’s not permanent. Just like anxiety, it will eventually fade and pass and it’s up to me to cultivate the mindset and skills to get stronger when it happens again. 

This was a big realization for me, as obvious as it may seem. The simplest things tend to be obvious but also difficult to practice. Change only happens when we try to see how these ideas, experiments, or recommendations work in real life. 

If you’re looking for inspiration or don’t know where to get started, here are some of the cornerstone books that encouraged me to act on what I read. 

  • The Art of Possibility - the best book on framing I read and would re-read until the end of time
  • Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents - a fantastic book on dealing with emotionally immature parents and the many issues that stem from that 
  • Linchpin - a brilliant book on cultivating a personal standard for excellence 
  • Mindset - an eye-opening book that reveals the huge impact of the growth mindset (or lack thereof) on our lives 
  • Ego Is the Enemy - a powerful read on pitfalls of ego and how to avoid them

These books build on top of each other, adding layers upon layers of realizations, opportunities for reflection, and new ways to see the world and ourselves. 

I hope you choose one of them for your next reading session. If you do, let me know what you found about the book… or yourself. 

Thank you for making room for me in your life this Monday, 

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