“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” Frederick Douglass
“Your dreams always lie outside your comfort zone.” Coach Mike Tully
“A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” Robert Browning
A story worth reminding ourselves of: A butterfly was struggling to break free of its cocoon. Someone watching the slow and painful progress the tiny butterfly was making took pity on it and slit the cocoon so that the butterfly could escape more easily. Once it
emerged, the little butterfly tried to spread its wings. But it tried in vain — and perished. The human helper later learned with sorrow that it in the act of struggling to free itself from the cocoon a butterfly’s wings are coated with a substance that strengthens them so
that once it leaves the cocoon, it can fly. The struggle gives it strength.
“Struggle” is not an easy word to embrace: It suggests resistance, obstacles, impediments: all in all, not a pretty picture. Who wants to struggle, to battle for ground, to fight in order to make progress on the page? And yet, it’s hard to argue with Frederick’s view that there’s no progress without struggle. With this in mind, can we transform our attitude toward it?
Here’s one approach suggested by my friend and mentor Dr. Rob Gilbert:* When you face a struggle or hit a problem, “don’t get frustrated, get fascinated.” What a novel idea! When we’re fascinated, we’re empowered: we become energized, we become inventive, we come up with ideas. The obstacle we face turns into a challenge, not a roadblock.
So, why not try it? Sometime today, or sometime soon, you are going to be struggling with something on the page: a paragraph that’s clumsy, a plot point that is creaky, a character who seems wooden instead of alive. When you find yourself there, don’t resist the struggle, embrace it — get fascinated instead of frustrated and impel it to release its strengthening powers to you. Write on!
* Check out Dr. Gilbert’s wonderful Success Hotline: 973.743.4690.