A colleague recently told me of how badly his last one year had gone. He summarized it saying “I did so much in the last 12 months, that I can’t even talk about what I did anymore”.
It wasn’t that he didn’t do anything worthwhile – rather, he’d tried his best to save a project that was going haywire, and had stuck on despite adversities of all kinds and amidst colleagues who were quitting because they couldn’t handle the stress. His problem was that whatever he’d done in the last year weren’t his real responsibilities. He’d done whatever came across his table because there were many people who relied on him and he believed he had to plug the leaks in a sinking boat.
As I heard him out, a word crossed my mind: Endurance. And for a few moments, I wondered if I had the mettle to go through what he had, and whether I’d have survived like he did.
So yes, the year had been stressful for him and he’d probably hated each minute of doing what he didn’t want to do but had to. He also probably couldn’t put any concrete learning on his resume because it was difficult to articulate the situation, and a lot of what he did eventually to save it, didn’t gel with the rest of his profile.
Besides, “key expertise in fire-fighting” doesn’t look quite good on an IT resume :|.
But (I think) he could probably discover the benefits of the experience much later, provided he acknowledged it – acknowledged and understood that he had, over the year of immense stress, built his capacity to endure.
Life throws us a lot of opportunities to build aspects of ourselves. I often relate this process to constructing a building. We’re busy constructing the building that is us and while we’re at it, it helps to consciously take time to build in favorable characteristics into our structure – characteristics such as reliability, sturdiness, capability to weather difficult climes and (obviously) a rock-solid foundation.
A while ago, I wrote about the Patience Muscle. Endurance is an organ.
You create it over time through adversities and it becomes part of your body. And once it is in you, you can acknowledge it’s presence and breathe through difficult times.
Because you know you’ve been through worse and you’ve come out through it and you have survived. Because your endurance organ stretches and scales. And because your first baby steps in enduring and developing endurance will eventually help you sprint up the steepest slopes.
We’re all familiar with physical endurance and that physical capacity building develops mental endurance.
However, I also think it is important to look at experiences in life as building your mental and emotional endurance, even if they are just thrown at you and you react badly and flail and see yourself as an utter failure. Infact, I would think it is also important to seek out experiences that build emotional endurance, accept that it’s a work in progress and therefore, never give up or believe that it’s all a waste of time and energy.
You see, the thing with emotional endurance is that it surprises you with its ability to pop out in circumstances that you were not expecting it to make an appearance. It hones your skill in getting back to your feet after suffering a beating – you’re not just lying pulverized on the ground. There’s a certain power that gets attached to your intent, and that forges through your attitude, appearance and words.
Endurance shows. Endurance makes people rely on you. And it makes you rely on yourself.
So build it. And while you are at it, have fun :).