Sometimes it’s hard because it has to be

A lesson for me on excuses and complaints

One of my favorite books of all-time is “The Last Lecture” by a man named Randy Pausch. If you’re not familiar with the story, Randy was a beloved professor at Carnegie Mellon University. He was scheduled to give a lecture in the “Last Lecture” series. This series was formed to allow the professors to share the last words that they had for their students before they set out on their respective career journeys.

Ironically, before Randy gave his “Last Lecture” he was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. What Randy did next was astounding. He gave his “Last Lecture” under the premise that he was dying. He spoke with conviction about truly knowing what the word “last” meant. He also wrote “The Last Lecture” book while he was going through the process and perils. His words are incredibly inspiring. He knew the end was near and he handled it with unbelievable grace.

However, the story is even deeper than that. Randy surely touched a significant number of students during his time as a professor at Carnegie Mellon, but that number was dwarfed by the people that were touched while dealing with his illness.

It took nearing death for Randy to take the steps he needed to take to inspire the vast number of people that he did and I would venture to say that the only reason he was able to do so was because of his situation.

The point is this. Randy Pausch was put in a situation where no one would have blamed him if he just curled up and quit, but he didn’t. He pushed even harder. When the circumstances got difficult, he had more resolve, not less. When everyone told him to slow down, he went faster instead of breaking.

Randy spoke in his book about brick walls. He said this:

“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.”

I pray that your difficult situation isn’t life threatening. Typically our brick walls are things much less severe. We face things like lack of money, busy schedules, rejection letters, blogs without any visitors, fear and self-doubt.

When I run into situations like these, I try to remember a few things:

  1. Exactly as Randy said, we often face difficult circumstances as a filter to see how badly we want something.
  2. Difficult decisions are sometimes not about us at all. Sometimes they happen so that we can touch other people in a way that would otherwise be impossible. I believe Randy’s situation was an example of this.
  3. Lastly, life will always be difficult. No one’s life is easier or harder than mine. We all face struggles of different intensity at different times. It’s inevitable, so face them with the best possible attitude that you can.
“The only difference between today’s struggles and tomorrow’s will be your internal attitude toward them.”

When you are faced with a struggle, embrace it for what it is. “It will all be okay,” is vey bad advice. It won’t always be okay. Sometimes it will be as far from okay as it can get. But our attitude — we have control of how we approach every situation, even when it’s not okay.

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