If everything in life had gone as I hoped, I would be miserable. The same is true for you. It is only through adversity that we grow into who we are meant to be.
Think about a challenge you faced and how you were forced to respond to it. How did you change in response? Are you more resilient now to future challenges? What things in your life do you have now that wouldn’t exist if you had always gotten your way? Have you met people who have everything handed to them in life? Do you want to be like those people?
I suspect that in answering the above questions, you will come to a similar conclusion as I did. It was only through my desires getting frustrated that I have been able to grow into the person I am today and to accomplish what I have accomplished. I will share a few of those stories to illustrate.
I loved high school debate tournaments. In order to compete at a national level, I wanted to go to debate camp for the summer. My family couldn’t afford to send me, and I was crushed. My debate career was over.
That same summer, I played a game called Magic, the Gathering, and qualified for the national championship event (but still couldn’t afford to go). This time I wouldn’t let money stop me. I ran a tournament at the local game store to pay for my plane ticket. I slept on a friend’s hotel room floor at the event. I won the tournament and became the US National Champion, leading to a career as a professional Magic player that helped pay my way through college.
If not for the failure to get what I wanted, I would never have the life I love today.
Since I was a little boy, I was destined to become a lawyer. Both my parents are lawyers. I continued to debate throughout high school and college. In high school I was voted “Most likely to disagree with anything you say.” I taught courses on how to ace the LSAT (law school admission test). I was accepted to one of the top 5 law schools in the country, and realized I was miserable.
As much as I liked debating philosophy and world politics, I hated the minutiae of the law, poring over contracts, and the day to day adversarial lifestyle.
When I told my mom I was dropping out of law school, she cried. It was difficult to follow an unconventional path, but this opened the door to my career as a game designer. Eventually, I starting my own company and am now happier than I’ve ever been.
The single most painful event in my life was my divorce. I had been with my then wife since freshman year of college (almost 12 years). When my marriage fell apart, I was devastated. I would not wish that experience on my worst enemy.
But slowly, over the years, two things happened:
First, I poured my energy into starting my company, spending countless hours to help it grow and develop. The work helped me forget the pain for a time, and led to the successful launch of our first game, Ascension. That foundation of hard work has allowed me to continue to grow and support my business to this day.
Second, and more importantly, my divorce forced me to take a hard look at myself in relationship. I realized things about myself I never wanted to see and have spent years working to become a better person both for myself and for the loved ones in my life. Without the pain of loss, I would never have taken the difficult steps to become a person who deserves the love I want.
Every Challenge is an Opportunity
Today, I am in a wonderful relationship, a thriving business, and feel more capable of dealing with loss because of the challenges I’ve faced.
I still face challenges that scare me. I suspect the same is true for you reading this right now. This article is here to give us both the strength to face these challenges. Reframe each challenge as an opportunity and accept that what you think you want may not be what you really need.
It won’t be pleasant, but if you face difficulties with an open mind, a willingness to learn, and the ability to pick yourself up after you fall down, then challenges are the best thing that can happen to you.