The Importance of Hardship

Jorg van der Ham
Feb 20, 2018 · 2 min read

A young boy stood in line together with 23 other boys and girls. All wearing white shirts and with serious looks in their eyes. It was a different period, jobs were scarce in China in the eighties. The line is moving slowly and one by one they were let inside the KFC. In the end 23 people where offered a job. It was the 30th interview of our young boy and again he was not hired.

The young boy was Jack Ma. The boy that couldn’t find a job anywhere, went on to create the Alibaba group, the fourth biggest internet company with a market cap of $200+ billion. A company that forged a vast amount of wealth for many Chinese retailers and for itself, making Jack Ma a billionaire many times over.

Just one positive decision from a KFC hiring manager would have greatly changed the course of Chinese e-commerce and would have deprived China of their most important internet company. Instead of a giving young Jack a job, the hiring manager unwittingly gave him something far more precious.

Jack Ma worked on his new startup called Alibaba after having failed twice, sitting on buckets instead of chairs not turning any profit for 3 consecutive years. Would he have had the grit for this without the experience of hardship in the back of his mind?

Hardship is seen as something negative in our society. When people are enduring hardship we are looking at our governments to erase it. We overlook that it also has value. Hardship creates a drive so powerful that it literally can change our world.

I’ve seen this many times over in my personal and professional life and it’s something I actively look for when recruiting. No life is without hardship. Embrace it and it will take you far beyond what you can imagine.

Jorg van der Ham

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