“I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.'” Muhammad Ali
Training to be a world-class boxer must be tougher than we can imagine. And yet, Ali’s words are filled with wisdom for us: We’re all in “training” as we pursue our craft. We all face moments when what we’re doing seems too hard and we want to give up. We all face moments when our choice is to quit or to suffer — to fight through whatever is stopping us from doing the writing we want to do, the writing we know we’re capable of.
At the heart of Ali’s words lies a simple strategy: Present pain = Future gain. To get where we want to go, we’re going to have to endure difficulty and frustration in the moment and push past them. Easy to say, but not easy to do. Just about everything in our society is screaming the opposite: have fun, chase happiness, check your email, buy this and this and of course, this, and you’ll feel great about yourself.
Only a few voices in the wilderness are calling to us and saying, “To do work worth doing, work you can be proud of, takes time, patience, and discipline. You’ll have to give up what you want right now to get what you really want, what really matters to you. You’ll have to expend effort and suffer.” The only media moments I can think of that come close to capturing this attitude are the Nike ad, “There are no traffic jams on the extra mile,” and a T-Mobile ad: “To dominate the field, you gotta put in the work.”
So here we are, at a crossroads: We can take the road less traveled or the crowded highway. We can accept, like Ali, that pursuing our craft demands suffering, or we can turn away from the whole idea. Interesting to note that Ali talked about training, not fighting. When he was in the ring where he could “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” he was probably in his element, in his zone. That’s where all his training was leading. The same goes for us. Let’s be champions.