Kids these days have it easy. My son recently started kindergarten, and I’ve had the opportunity to observe both the parent and the youngling forms of the typical human family unit up-close and personal.
The kids that go to my son’s school have it really good — Their parents deliver them to school in luxury air-conditioned SUV’s, wearing designer clothes that most certainly DID NOT come from a second-hand store. Hardly anybody walks to school anymore.
I get it — It’s cold and rains a lot here in the Pacific Northwest. Joe and Jane Six-pack don’t want their little prince or princess getting cold, wet, and muddy on the way to school.
Maybe I’m just turning into a grumpy old octopus, but when I was a kid we walked to school… up-hills both ways, and in the snow! 🙂 Some days I was really wet by the time I got to school, but it didn’t matter — My clothes were just hand-me-downs from my cousins anyway. Branded clothes were for rich kids.
It wasn’t all bad of course — Walking to school was good for me. I was outside getting plenty of exercise, and exploring the physical world around me.
With this experience in mind, I’ve been walking my son (Tako Jr. #1) to school every morning. Yes, we walk even when it rains (which is nearly every day around these parts). Sometimes we do get a little cold and wet, but it’s still some great father-son time.
I feel truly blessed to be able to do this everyday, and I have my financial independence to thank for it.
Tako Jr. #1 has other ideas however. Lately he’s noticed that other kids drive to school and he’s been asking me, “Why can’t we drive to school too Dad? It would be so much faster and easier than walking.”
(Note: It only takes 15 minutes to walk to his school, so this is hardly a torturous walk.)
“Well, son it might be faster and easier to drive, but it isn’t better for us. It’s harder, but we’re healthier because we walk everyday. Struggle makes you stronger.“
This mantra of “Struggle makes you stronger” is something we repeat all the time in the Tako household. We want our boys to learn self-sufficiency and to not fear the difficulty that life can sometimes bring.
Struggling is just part of the process of trying, improving and becoming a better person.
A Culture Of Comfort
If you live in a first-world country (like I do), the story of an incredibly abundant life filled with comfort and convenience should sound pretty familiar to you. People live very comfortable lives in the first-world, and almost everyone takes the path of least resistance because they can afford to do so.
First-worlders are so incredibly wealthy that they have plenty of dollars to sprinkle around and make life an absolute piece of cake.
Like so much pixie dust, they can live a life almost entirely without struggle…
Don’t believe me? Here’s some examples:
- Don’t want to cook meals from scratch? Simply reheat packaged food, get takeout, eat fast food, delivery, or just eat at a restaurant. It’s so much easier, and the food tastes great!
- Don’t feel like doing housework? Just hire a gardener or house cleaner! For $100-$200 a month you won’t need to clean your home or mow your own lawn.
- Don’t enjoy shopping? Order everything off Amazon with 2 day shipping (even though Amazon might not have the best price.) It’s more convenient to shop online and avoid the ugly store crowds.
- Not skilled at DIY repair work? Hire a plumber, carpenter, or handyman to fix whatever your problem. Easy peasy!
- Rather than walking or riding a bike, just drive everywhere. Arrive at your destination without even breaking a sweat!
- Don’t like the weather? Stay inside and turn-up/turn-down the temperature on the air conditioning. Heck, you don’t even need to go outside for exercise — just get a gym membership!
I could go on and on listing these examples of modern comfort by which most first-worlders live, but I think you get the idea. Life can be pretty damn easy if you have some extra cash.
But I’d like to ask a really important question — Is all of this comfort good for us?
I specifically brought up the examples above because I DO NOT engage in them. That’s right — even though I have plenty of spare cash to pay for convenience, I often choose to do these things the harder, more inconvenient way.
Did this struggle save me money and make me financially independent? I won’t lie, it was probably a contributing factor. Certainly NOT doing all those things probably kept a ton of cash in my bank account.
But that’s only part of the story…
The Secret Sauce To A Better Life Isn’t Comfort
Try thinking back to a time when you really struggled with something… Maybe it was a Differential Equations class back in college, the marathon you trained for, or a difficult presentation at work…
I bet it felt completely amazing when you finally overcame the difficulties and achieved your goal. That sense of achievement you felt was possible because you struggled. Because it was hard.
Take financial independence for example — It takes years of saving, discipline, hard work, and plenty of studying to achieve. It’s not easy, but the resulting freedom is totally worth the effort it takes.
Beyond that personal satisfaction and sense of achievement, there’s plenty reasons to purposely choose to “struggle”:
1. Struggle gives you the power of indifference. When you’ve walked or taken the bus to work everyday for 10 years like I did, you eventually become indifferent to the downsides of being outside. Walking through a little rain or snow becomes “no big deal”. You build up a tolerance to little discomforts in life.
2. Struggle can make you physically stronger. I used to work on the 21st floor of a tall building. Rather than taking the elevator, one day I just decided to always take the stairs. It was hell the first few weeks, but it sure beat paying for a gym membership, and my legs got in pretty good shape from doing it!
3. Struggle can make you smarter too. Think back to the last time you read a really difficult book. Maybe it was a personal finance book with a ton of new terms and ideas. It probably wasn’t easy to read, but you got through it, and are now a little smarter, wiser and more knowledgeable person as a result. Studying instead of slacking-off and watching Netflix can be a form of struggle.
4. Struggle can even give you a whole new set of skills. I remember the first time I tried to repair a clothes dryer by myself. I popped-off the cover to the dryer and it was this incredible mess of wires that made absolutely no sense. I soldiered-on, and slowly and meticulously went through each and every wire until I debugged the problem. It wasn’t easy, but I gained a incredibly useful skill in dryer repair.
See what I mean? Struggle leads to a smarter, stronger, more skilled version of yourself that’s a little more indifferent to discomfort. What does that sound like?
A powerful superhuman, that’s what it sounds like to me! Simply put, instead of taking the easy path of convenience, we gain an incredible power over our lives when we choose to struggle a little.
That’s a powerful idea I want to share with my kids.
Since this is the internet, I’m sure someone is going to write-in and tell me that I’m completely wrong about struggle, and that parents should be making a child’s life as easy as possible.
Yeah, OK. We might to have to agree to disagree on that point. I think too much comfort and convenience make us a weaker and lazier version of ourselves.
We need a little struggle in life to become that stronger-smarter-faster-more skilled version of ourselves (kids included). This is what I mean when I tell my son “Struggle makes you stronger.”
Unlike other parents, I actually don’t want to use all my money to make my son’s life as easy as possible. A little struggle is a good thing!
He might not understand it right now, but someday when he’s old enough I hope he’s able to read this post and see the value in it.
So struggle on buddy. I’ll be walking there right with you.