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Does ‘The Struggle’ Make Success Meaningful?

Photo: Pierrick Van Troost


Does ‘The Struggle’ Make Success Meaningful?

And should you ever leave one?


These questions were recently put to me and I must say they’re among the best questions that I’ve ever been asked. They related to my work with companies and entrepreneurs but they are also relevant to just about all human endeavours!

My answer was Yes!

In my view, the struggle does make success all the more sweet –  when we have gone ‘through the fire’, made sacrifices and achieved something significant it makes our success more meaningful.


Or to put it another way, when we have saved our pocket money (or wages) to buy something, when we have trained physically and achieved a sporting goal, when we have studied hard and passed an exam when we have worked long hours and achieved a business goal…all these successes are made more meaningful given our efforts.

In the case of buying something with what we’d carefully saved, if we were given something similar but better and more expensive, I’m confident it probably wouldn’t be as cherished as the thing we’d saved for. Struggle makes things valuable.

“When should we leave a struggle?”

I think there are two main reasons for leaving – or at least changing our approach to – a struggle:

  1.  When the goal is not achievable! If you’re going to dream, dream BIG, but make sure that your goal is, at some level, achievable:
    1. I love athletics but I’ll never be able to run as fast a Usain Bolt. I love space exploration but even if I started now and put in hundreds of hours of training and study, I’m not going to be an astronaut!
    2. There are usually no silly goals, only silly deadlines. My deadlines for these goals have long passed!
  2. When the struggle has become the goal in itself.. Often in life we can struggle for struggle’s sake: usually when we’re convinced that we’re right despite our poor results. The struggle has become the goal rather than the means to achieving the goal.


In this case – when the struggle is not delivering the results you really want – it’s time to leave that struggle and find a new one. Or, look for a new approach to the struggle, seek some outside assistance: a coach or a mentor and apply some new information to the problem.

It’s key to focus on what you really want (the ultimate goal) and the best way of getting it.

Lastly… getting help with a struggle doesn’t take the struggle or the buzz of success away…!

All the top athletes have coaches – often several of them for different aspects of performance – and the training they go through is often brutal and exhausting! They train for hours a day, have to eat the right foods, prepare mentally and then go on to their particular field of play and make the shots, drive the car, or execute whatever their sport demands.

The same goes for the world of business. With a coach or mentor, entrepreneurs and executives still have to execute the tasks of the business, make the tough decisions – and often work a few late nights but the chances of achieving goals are far higher and success still remains meaningful.

This African saying sums up struggle nicely…

If you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far, go together.


Originally from the UK, Ian has lived and worked in Southeast Asia for nineteen years. The last eight of those have been spent coaching and mentoring over sixty executives and business owners. Ian's specialist area is helping executives in mid-market growth firms improve their strategy and revenues, retain their key team members, improve execution and build cash.



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