Cherish The Struggle

This has been the hardest year of my life.

As I write this, I’m fresh off the back of my third spinal surgery in a little over 6 months.

Why am I telling you this? Well, firstly, after starting the mental health initiative Hope You’re Well with Hunted, I promised to write about things like this regularly.

Not just for Mental Health Week. And not for any other reason than normalising it. Therefore, the first part of this article centres around this statement:

It’s been a struggle.

That isn’t news to anyone who knows me, because it’s all I’ve talked about. I’ve become very aware of the importance of talking. But of all the lessons to learn, I feel like that’s a big one.

When you outwardly accept ‘the struggle’, strange things happen

For me, I found out who my friends are. And it turns out I’m very lucky.

I’ve learnt about the kindness of my closest friends, who’ve helped me immeasurably, but also the kindness of complete strangers.

After writing about Hope You’re Well on LinkedIn, I had an email from a guy called Scott. A total stranger, who liked the sound of the initiative and wanted to know more.

I called him from my prison cell flat to tell him what others on Hunted have done, and offer any perspective I could.

Just a chat, with a stranger, about some wellbeing perks he could offer his staff.

Things like offering mental sick days alongside physical sick days. Or the ability to email in, on sick days, instead of a phone call. Or any of the other things in this list.

After I put the phone down I forgot all about Scott.

But a full month later, he emailed again. Only this time, he just asked ‘How you doing?’

It knocked me back a bit.

See, whilst chuntering on about Hunted, I’d inadvertently bitten his ear off about the accident. With Scott hailing from Solihull (where I was born) we also talked about supporting Villa and the collective struggle of that fate. Along with, apparently, my inability to leave the house.

Scott just wanted to check in, and let me know he was around if I needed to vent again.

Somehow I’d found an ally off the back of a random LinkedIn conversation.

And that’s a lesson that wouldn’t have been possible without the accident. The lesson being… ‘There are some good people out there, who’ll go out of their way to help, but you won’t find them if you don’t talk.’

The constant battle ground

If there’s one job where ‘the struggle is real’, it’s recruitment. And usually, everyday.

Frankly, if you don’t face a constant daily struggle, you’re probably doing it wrong.

Every day’s different. And, some struggles are smaller than others.

A poorly worded CV.

A tricky client.

A candidate you know 100% is full of sh*t, but you book for interview anyway.

The heartfelt apology after it turns out true.

A lot of struggles in recruitment aren’t your fault and not something you can easily change. A little like my bike accident. But in truth, you go looking for struggles.

Recruitment is the everyday struggle you cherish, because every time you solve it, you win.

And with these wins, so reward follows.

Placing a candidate in their dream job changes someone’s life for the better. But it also makes you money.

Working through a tricky placement with a client is challenging, but their business grows at the end.

It sounds like a cliché, but the bigger the struggle, the higher the reward.


How to cherish the struggle

If you’ve ever seen an interview with a billionaire, you’ll have noticed a similar pattern of retrospect. They often say the happiest time of their life was ‘the struggle’.

When they had no money. No success. No material possessions. And seemingly no hope for the future.

And yet, they look back, with great fondness.

Now, before you jump down my throat, I’m aware how easy it is to be happy retrospectively, after finding huge success. Failures you turn into successes are even sweeter.

But financial success only plays into one part of happiness. And this will be evident in your own life.

Take being healthy for example. Have you ever noticed how someone has a new lease of life after a near death experience?

Sure, it’s easy to look back with fondness at a struggle, when you know you eventually win.

But just because you’ve not made billions, doesn’t mean the outcome hasn’t been valuable.

Every bad experience, no matter how severe, will teach you something.

And it’ll teach you far more than the good times in your life. You’ll learn resilience. Strength. The value of friendship. The benefits of talking. The value in shouting at a pedestrian so he looks both ways.

Whatever it is, it’ll be a lesson worth knowing. And without that struggle, it’s not something you’d know.

What does ‘the end’ look like?

Those billionaire interviews you see, whose subjects look pensively at years gone by. They know the outcome’s favourable.

“All’s well that ends well.”

They sit there with a wry smile, thankful of the journey. But that’s not the end of their story.

Until they draw their last breath, there are twists and turns to come.

The same with you. Sure, you’ve had a bad day. A bad year. The worst in living memory perhaps?

But it’s not the end.

The resilience we have as humans is astonishing. We’re the most versatile machine of perseverance the earth’s ever seen. Use that to your favour and know there are always better times round the corner.


The theory of relativity

Everything’s relative. How well you think your life’s going is tainted by something called heuristic availability. Which is basically, if you’re having a bad day, it affects your entire outlook.

When you’re having a good day however, everything seems to go well. You’re happy.

But for all the good things that have happened in your life, how important were they?

What lessons did you learn?

When I look back, the good times rarely taught me anything. And in reality, they never lasted that long. There was always something to come along and interrupt it. That’s life.

Whilst my ‘struggle’ this year’s taken me through physical agony and mental anguish, I’m aware of how lucky I am.

Pain’s a great motivator in striving for health. And as painful as it is, I know my ailment’s temporary.

I have a roof over my head. I have understanding bosses. Mates who’d do anything for me. I’m in the top 1% of wealth in the world (despite my bank balance’s claim to the contrary). I’m extremely fortunate.

If nothing else, going through a bad spell teaches you lessons like this. It offers perspective. On your plight versus others. And how the depth of bad times amplifies the good.

It’s crucial to stop and look around every now and then.

No matter what you’re going through, there’ll be something amazing in your life. Right now as you read this.

A family member.

A friend.

A relationship.

A job.

Even just an outlook or realisation.

Without the bad times, there’s no emphasis on the good. You’d never learn your hardest lessons. You’d never grow as a person.

This article, if nothing else, is a mental gee up. A cathartic exercise for me, and a reminder to you of this one simple message…

You’re doing great!

Be proud of what you’ve achieved.

Be glad of the struggle.

Be thankful for the lessons.

You’ve learnt more in the worst times of your life than any other. So cherish them. As hard as that sounds and counter-intuitive at the time. You’re stronger for them and have greater experience for battling struggles to come.

There will be more struggles. Probably today.

But by welcoming them, you come out the other side better off.

If you’re struggling at the moment and can’t find a positive to be gained, don’t panic. There’s help out there. And people who’ll listen to your problems, like you’ve done for me today.

If you feel like you just need to unwind, this article might help.

Or this one with some wellbeing book recommendations. Or this one, with some useful apps to help you through the everyday.

But learn to cherish the struggle and you’ll unlock a new level of potential in yourself you never knew you had.