by Darrin Schenck


by Darrin Schenck


Here is something to think about…really think about.  You need to think about it now, because when the time comes that this will apply, you will need to have thought it through already.

Tough Times Create the Most Improvement

In other words, sometimes you do not really know what you are capable of until the pressure is really on.  Athletes know this to be true; what creates the “greats” is rising to the occasion.  For everyone else, pressure and stress is something most people strive to avoid.  Whether it be difficult conversations or going back to school online while working full time, we as humans tend to want to avoid anything that is uncomfortable physically or psychologically.  I guess it is in our nature, as animals tend to be creatures of habit and take the path of least resistance, maybe we are hard wired the same way.  Maybe we are not, but our “civilized” lives have slowly degraded to where we are now.  Don’t get me wrong, I like doing things the easy way too.  But there are times when that is not going to cut it.

You can equate this to pulling an all night study session for school.  Whether you waited until the last minute, or were just struggling to learn and retain the information on this subject, you may have found yourself in a situation where you needed to hyper-focus and really buckle down, far more than usual.  Sometimes it takes a disordinant amount of pressure on you to really see what you are capable of.  No one wants to work at a frantic pace all the time, but the ability to do it when needed can be invaluable.  In my opinion, this is one of the skills teaches you, how to pull an all-nighter and still pass a test.  The looming deadline and pressure of retaking an entire class and also hammering your GPA is a very fine incentive to get things done.  Again, not a way of life if you want to keep your sanity, but an important skill to can count on once in a while if you develop it.

Now extrapolate this out to a larger context of life.  Having been through several failed entrepreneurial ventures I can attest to just how hard things can get.  In the last one that I went all in on, I threw up in the shower 11 different mornings in one month, starting the day already stressed out of my mind.  It was brutal, and I watched my Dad and other friends and family struggle under the weight of the slowly dying venture.  I never, ever want to go back to something like that again.  My only comfort for me directly in that whole scenario was that I could get another job and start over.  My Dad on the other hand lost a lot of money and the cabin up north that he so dearly loved.  He was willing to gamble his most prized possession, and he lost.  His retirement plan went up in smoke when this business venture failed.

Although things eventually worked out for me, I found myself in another situation, similar to ones before.  I had no money, bills to pay and needed a job.  I took the first thing offered to me, and started working for a corporate drug testing and background check company.  It is a saturated industry, lots of competitors, and not a glamorous one at that.  Imagine your daily job was going to job sites at standing in the restroom to do “observed collections” for drug testing purposes.  Yes, my job was to watch other men urinate into a testing cup and then collect the sample, put a lid on it, and send it off to a lab for testing.  It was awful, and I quickly grew to hate it.  It covered my bills at the time, so at least I got that part in check.  But clearly it was not a long term plan, and I started to formulate a plan to change my circumstances.  I was deep in credit card debt at that time, had no money saved up, and no real plan for solving these issues.

It’s a long story and I am skipping over the details, but eventually I ended up where I are today.  Now I live, by comparison,  a life of comfort, money in the bank, a much better paying job, and one that I truly enjoy.  But I learned a couple of important lessons from these times of extreme stress:

  • ALWAYS have a back up plan.
  • ALWAYS have money in reserve, which gives you options and time to solve the problem
  • NEVER allow a lack of foresight on obvious issues be a factor

But I learned a few other things too.  Eventually the storm passes, and I can survive more than I thought.  Sometimes you just don’t have more than two choices:  lay down and die or get up and keep fighting.  I think it was rapper  50 Cent that said: “Depression is a luxury of rich people.”  What he meant was when you have kids to feed and no way to do so, you will walk through fire to make that happen.  I did have the luxury of it just being me that I had to rescue.  I wasn’t married and I didn’t have kids that I was responsible for.  I knew I wouldn’t end up homeless, I have too many friends to rely on if things get that bad.  But it was close at times.

History has shown that sometimes it takes a huge amount of stress to really move the needle.  For example, there were more technological improvements during WWII that any other time.  The ABSOLUTE NECESSITY to solve problems and create a better outcome.  If you’re not convinced, watch the movie Oppenheimer.  Because the war was raging in Europe, they were in survival mode and these type of things were not feasible.  But here in the US, we were involved without being right in the mix on a daily basis, and the stress of war created solutions and efficiencies that were previously thought impossible.  A country that thought they had maxxed out at producing 5,000 fighter planes a year suddenly discovered a path to churning out 20,000.

When you find yourself in a period of extreme stress, please understand that most likely it is temporary.  The storm does pass in most cases.  Sometimes it takes this level of pressure to get to you produce the equivalent of four times as many aircrafts in the same amount of time.  This is not a way to live for an extended period of time, so be sure that when the clouds start to lift that you stockpile money and prepare for another storm while things are good.  Your future self will really be thankful when you do.  And what you might find that you can take a few more punches than you originally thought, and still keep going.  And sometimes, the best version of you will come out the other side of a tough time.  This is hard to consider while you are knee deep in it, but looking back on it, you may find that you changed things within you to create the better version of yourself.

I wish you luck in your endeavors.

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