Monday, November 12, 2012

In praise of struggle

This morning, part of the class discussion was "why would anyone want to be a CEO, given the stress and pressure?"  After class, a student stopped me to ask whether I was familiar with how (differently) Japanese companies approached leadership.  Later, I happened upon an NPR story about how Eastern and Western cultures tackle learning. Now I'm wondering about cultural and individual approaches to success--to how we learn and to how willing we are to struggle.

While acknowledging diversity within each of the cultures, as well as the existence of "counter-examples," the NPR article states that "(f)or the most part in American culture, intellectual struggle in schoolchildren is seen as an indicator of weakness, while in Eastern cultures it is not only tolerated, it is often used to measure emotional strength." Think about that for a minute.  The implication is that, in our Western culture, success should appear effortless and easy.

The article suggests that equating struggle with strength (rather than with weakness) means that we are more likely to demonstrate the very persistence required for success. And I'm sure I've heard this somewhere before:

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.  Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.  Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.  Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.  Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.  The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

Calvin Coolidge understood the value of struggling, of persisting, of pressing on, of just not giving up.  It may be one of the most important--and most universal--lessons available.

Perhaps easy isn't really...or shouldn't be.

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