Does Struggle Determine Success?

Does Struggle Determine Success?

I hear this all the time: you need to struggle to be successful.

Just this weekend I was watching Creed with my dad and shared the story of how Sylvester Stallone came to star in the first Rocky film.

If you don’t know the story, it’s pretty epic. It was first shared by Tony Robbins and goes a little something like this:

Stallone was poor and struggling. He was scraping by and couldn’t afford rent, let alone food. He worked various odd jobs, while trying to get parts as an actor. He went to hundreds of auditions, which resulted in the same answer: No. No. No.

He was on the brink of demise. His wife pleaded him to get a normal job, but he rejected that idea outright. He believed that doing so would kill his hunger for becoming an actor.

Instead he kept working. He sold his wife’s jewelry to make rent. He sold his dog Butkus for just $25 because he couldn’t properly care for him. He was at an all time low.

Two weeks later, after watching the historic fight between Muhammad Ali and Chuck Wepner, Stallone was struck by inspiration. He wrote the entire script for Rocky over three days.

He finally had something he believed in and he started shopping it around. After some time he found a studio interested in the project and willing to pick it up for $125,000, but Stallone wanted more than a payday. He wanted to star in the lead role as Rocky Balboa.

The studio were less than enthralled. He was a nobody actor with a strange accent. He couldn’t be the lead. Instead they increased the offer to $350,000 and full casting control for the project.

What did Stallone do? The same man who had been struggling so much that he sold his best friend for $25, was turning down $350,000 because of his ultimate goal. He held strong and rejected the offer.

His resolve paid off when the studio finally agreed, but only for the cut rate price of $35,000 and of course the lead role.

The first thing he did was buy back his dog. And of course that movie that he laid it all on the line for became a box office hit and Stallone became an A-list movie star.

Who knows how much of it is true, but the idea of it is certainly compelling. Naturally after hearing it, my dad said, you’ve gotta struggle to make it.

People believe this. Hell even I believe it, but is it actually true?

If there is no struggle, there is no progress.Frederick Douglass

I haven’t struggled. At least not from my perspective and certainly not to the extent you see happening across the world today.

My life is pretty damn cushy. Sometimes I wonder, does that mean I won’t achieve my goals? That I won’t be successful?

I’m not so sure. Struggle is a good thing, but it doesn’t have to mean tragedy. Here’s what I think struggle really is.

Struggle is relative

First and foremost, struggle is relative. We all struggle in different ways. You can’t compare.funny-boy-productive-useless-comic

Every one of has has his or her own demons that they face and must overcome. So while I don’t think I’ve struggled like Sylvester Stallone, I’ve
certainly faced some hard situations and that is just as well.

We shouldn’t be seeking out hardship. Life isn’t fair and we should count our blessings when we don’t face the same challenges that others might.

Moreover, no matter what your struggle looks like, it has one thing in common: sacrifice.

Struggle means sacrifice

I think we often misinterpret what struggle means. I don’t think it is reserved for hardship, but rather that you are making an active choice to prioritize one thing over another.

This simple act of giving importance to one aspect of your life colors the rest of your decisions.

It means you do everything you can to succeed towards your goal. It means you risk stability, relationships, and finances for your vision. Making this level of commitment is where struggle actually shows up, because it’s not easy.

Picking your career over your family or your health or your future is the type of sacrifice that a struggling man or woman makes. Success comes at a price.

Struggle builds character

If there is one thing that I think struggle is good for, it’s building character. Teaching one how to deal with failure, how to be persistent, how to have resolve, how to be gritty – it’s a trait that all of us could benefit from.

Unfortunately, it is also one that most of us avoid. We don’t want to be wrong. We don’t want to fail. We don’t want to experience hardship.

When you look at it from this perspective, you start to see the value of true struggle and why it can lead to success. It is because individuals that truly struggle, also gain these traits that can be the difference between success and demise.

That’s not to say that they aren’t tormented by those same struggles, so it is still a double edged sword.

Struggle is the meaning of life. Defeat or victory is in the hands of god, but struggle itself is man’s duty and should be his joy.Sultan Muhammad Shah

So does struggle lead to success? In a way it does. There are lessons found in struggle that are learned in no other way.

Even so, its better to not worry about struggle, but simply to work hard and take things one day at a time. Do the best work you are capable of.

And most importantly, don’t seek struggle.  You’re lucky not to have it, but you never know what the future may hold.

Enjoy what you have today.

Image via flickr

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