Your Struggles Give You Character

A goal isn’t a goal if it is easy to accomplish.  A goal is something that you have to work at.  A goal means challenging yourself, facing a fear, overcoming disadvantage, taking charge, living proactively instead of reactively.  Goals require hard work and perseverance.  At times, you will falter.  You will struggle.  You may fail.  Through it all, it isn’t the accomplishment that is important but that you pushed yourself through the challenges in order to succeed.

It is easy to stand on the sideline and watch the world move around you while you wish away your life.  I know, I’ve done it.  A large portion of my teenage years were spent smoking pot, listening to rock n’ roll and sleeping.  While none of these things individually are the reason why I was unmotivated to be successful, they were my escape from reality.  It was my way of ignoring the fact that I was failing to live up to my potential.  I was insecure, I doubted my ability, I was afraid.  Worst of all, I was comfortable.  I had become complacent and accepted my mediocre existence.

It took a long time for me to realize that life has so many opportunities to offer and that I was missing out.  Getting thrown in jail really helped me to understand the path that my life was taking.  In many ways, sitting in a jail cell with no one to talk to, coming down from my high, was the best moment in my life.  I knew that I needed to change my life.

Just like people struggle to lose weight or struggle to finish running a marthon, I struggled to get away from drugs.  I lost all of my friends and it was hard to change my lifestyle.  I fell back into drugs a couple of times before finally walking away from it for good but the struggle was worth the effort.  I am able to reflect back on that moment of my life and appreciate the lessons I have learned.

It is easy to be discouraged when things don’t work out as we had planned or if results are not as immediate as we would like.  We forget that success isn’t something that happens overnight.  When we think about climbing a mountain, we envision ourselves standing at the summit, casting our gaze towards the distant horizon but forget about the six hour hike to the top.

Success comes to those who are willing to persist during moments of struggle and pain.  Our struggles and perseverance are what set us apart.  Those who stick it out will see the rewards of their efforts and those who don’t, won’t.  It is your struggles that give you character.  Your struggles make you who you are today.

Becoming Better

We all want to be better.  As individuals, how we define “better” depends a lot upon what we value in our lives.  Some of us want to better ourselves by earning more money, losing 20 pounds, furthering our educations, or being more involved with our families.  The problem with becoming better is that many times a person doesn’t realize they need to make changes until they have reached a breaking point in their lives.

"Mountain Path" by Ernie Fischhofer @ FlickrThis is the fundamental problem with self improvement; we typically find ourselves at the very bottom of whatever mountain it is that we know we need to climb, and the challenge which lies before us is monumental.  Many people don’t even attempt to work their way towards a better self  because they may feel that the effort is not worth the reward or maybe they feel as though they aren’t equiped with the proper tools.  There are still others who will see the mountain and try sprinting towards the top, only to burn themselves out before they have made much progress eventually finding themselves back at the bottom of the mountain once again.

The key towards becoming a better you is to know what challenges await you in your journey and be prepared to overcome them.  There may be times when the effort does not seem worth the reward and that is when you must remind yourself why you have set out on your journey in the first place.  Maybe you want to lose 20 pounds so that you will look great at the beach in a bikini or you want to continue your education in order to find a job that you are happy with.

When you are making these changes in your life you will encounter people who will try to break your spirit.  They will tell you that you can’t/won’t/shouldn’t do it.  To these people I say “Why not?”  Why can’t I do something?  Anyone is capable of accomplishing anything if they set their heart and mind on doing it.  It takes a lot of determination. You will be faced with countless challenges along the way but if you keep your goals in mind you will be able to push past these obstacles and achieve greatness in your life.


Iwo JimaA couple of years ago I packed my backpack with clothes, tossed it in the backseat of my car and hit the road with a good friend of mine.  We were off to see Washington, DC.  Neither of us had been there and we both thought it would be a great place to spend the weekend.  This would be my second “Suicide Mission”, a term I coined to describe a roadtrip over 1,000 miles one way, only a couple of days spent at where ever we were going, with limited funds. 

Sixteen hours of non-stop driving and we were there!

We stayed at a hostel located right in the heart of downtown.  We only had the weekend to see everything we wanted, so after a quick nap we struck out on the town.  It was already dark, so we didn’t get too far, but we were able to see the White House and began to familiarize ourselves with the area around our hostel.

The next day we began our adventure.  Our first stop was the National Archives to see the Declaration of Indendence.  After that we walked all over the Mall, seeing as much as we were able to; the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the United States Capitol and everything in between.  We met up with a friend of mine who took us to Georgetown and introduced us to the Metro.  We ate lunch at the Watergate Hotel.

We spent an entire two days canvassing DC.  If it was a national monument, we were going to see it.  The last evening we were there we went to Arlington Cemetary to see the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  After that we headed over to John F. Kennedy’s Eternal Flame.

By now it was late and getting dark, but there was one more monument on our list; the Iwo Jima Memorial.  Both of us were exhausted.  We were tired and starting to get indignant.  Both of us wanted to see the monument, but my friend wasn’t feeling well.  I tried encouraging him but at that point it was no use. We’d spent more time walking than either of us ever had in our lives.  It was cold and it was dark.  We were ready to go home, but we had to see this monument, so off we went. 

After what felt like the longest walk of the trip, we eventually found the monument, and our excitment and energy returned.  We had successfully accomplished exactly what we set out to do.  We revelled in our success for a brief moment, the struck out again to find the nearest Metro station.

Upon returning home to Wisconsin, my friend found out that he was sick with pneumonia.  Despite his illness, he stuck to our plans.  Even when quitting would have been the easy thing to do, neither of us gave up and we will always remember that trip and especially the feeling of success when we finally made it to the Iwo Jima Memorial.  That’s determination.