At mile 15 on my run today, I heard one of my three favorite quotes in Atlas Shrugged. Galt says to Dagny, “… it’s not that I don’t suffer, it’s that I know the unimportance of suffering. I know that pain is to be fought and thrown aside, not to be accepted as part of one’s soul and as a permanent scar across one’s view of existence.”
As you can see from the elevation graph of my run, the timing of this was perfect.
During my run from Anchor Point to Homer today (17.5 miles, 2000 vertical feet up, 1800 vertical feet down, 7 miles of highway with way too many 18 wheelers and mobile homes, and a steady rain), I had a lot of moments of suffering. This was a hard run – but a glorious one. Atlas Shrugged was playing on my iPod Shuffle – I’m almost to Galt’s radio speech. I had just finished the major descent from the top of Homer Hill and was feeling great to have the really difficult run almost behind me.
I carry this mantra around with me every day in all things that I do – “it’s not that I don’t suffer, it’s that I know the unimportance of suffering.” I’ve suffered plenty, especially when things don’t go as planned, products don’t work, customers defect, competitors stomp on your head, employees quit at critical times, people don’t live up to expectations, and – the ultimate – companies fail. I’ve suffered everytime I had to downsize a company, lay people off, fire a CEO, drag my ass across the country on a redeye to try to deal with an emergency, or deal with someone that is irrational. Failure – at any level – is a perfect opportunity to spend some time suffering.
However, the suffering is truly unimportant. If you make a minor shift in Galt’s statement, substituting failure for pain, you end with “I know that failure is to be fought and thrown aside, not to be accepted as part of one’s soul and as a permanent scar across one’s view of existence.” Every entrepreneur should memorize this, remember it, and live it. Failure (and suffering) is part of the experience, but it shouldn’t be part of your soul or a permanent scar across your view of existence.