Maximal Growth through Self-Imposed Suffering

I don’t reboot my computer. Ever.

Photo by Ash Edmonds on UnsplashPhoto by Ash Edmonds on Unsplash

That’s not actually true, but I have managed to keep a streak of no-reboots going for months at a time. I have adopted the completely irrational mantra that “Rebooting is for those who are too weak to figure it out.”

I’m running a Mac, so this isn’t some sort of ultra-nerdy Linux rant. No, this is a (short) story about self-imposed suffering leading to growth. But first, a diversion.

Have you ever run a marathon? I haven’t. Marathon runners are crazy people. They want to re-enact a historical event where the star of the story, Philippides, collapsed of exhaustion and died. By so doing, they can either give up, showing that they are more sane than Philippides was, or they can finish and live, showing that they are cooler than some ancient Greek dude. Either way, they know that it’s going to be painful.

Photo by Pietro Rampazzo on UnsplashPhoto by Pietro Rampazzo on Unsplash

People running a marathon don’t ask “is there an easier way?” Instead, they seem to be asking of life, “Is there a way I can suffer more while I’m doing this?”

Growth comes from finding and conquering challenges. If a challenge seems out of our reach at first, this is even better. If we are stuck in a rut, we can create an artificial challenge. We can ask, “how can I do this in a way that will make me learn more?” Instead of trying to find the “mind-muscle” connection, you’re trying to establish the “spirit-will” connection.

We can optimize to get stuff done, or we can optimize for learning. Learning takes longer, but if we choose the task appropriately, can pay long-term rewards.

If you optimize for learning, most people will not get it. As I sat on the phone with the uncle who first taught me how to use the command line, he said, “It’s a Mac. You shouldn’t have to figure it out. You can just reboot and get your camera working again.”

He was, of course, entirely right. I could do that. If I was optimizing to get something done quickly, that would be the most rational solution.

Instead, I was optimizing for learning. Onlookers might assume that I wasted that time. Without a bigger goal in mind, perhaps they might have been correct. No, I didn’t really have the time, but I paid the price anyway. I knew why I wanted that knowledge. I knew why I had to learn how to reset the USB bus on macOS without rebooting.

In this case, the answer was “just because I want to”. That, strangely enough, is when the most learning takes place. Remember that the next time you see a coworker using Vim or someone trying to get stuff done on the command line. They’re sacrificing in the present to unlock future power.

Even if this isn’t your particular brand of masochism, perhaps you like reading about technology, startups, programming, travel, and Korea.. If that’s the case, you might like to follow me on Twitter.

This essay was originally posted on LorenzoSwank.com and reposted on Medium.

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Lorenzo Swank
Entrepreneur in Residence and Venture Partner

Serial entrepreneur, computer scientist, and amateur eletronic violinist, currently working to level up my skills by collaborating with other entrepreneurs on early stage ventures.