Today, instead of a question, let’s start with a quote.
“The cave you fear to enter is where your treasure lies.” Joseph Campbell (developed the framework of The Hero’s Journey)
I will do a deeper dive, in a future post, on The Hero’s Journey, but for now let’s look at the essence of his work.
And here is my challenge for the warrior in you…
Don’t bugger off, or tell yourself you are too busy to read this, or any other excuse if I say something that you don’t necessarily want to hear.
Things like … to STRUGGLE (at times) is pretty essential to meaningful thriving.
You may not want to hear that.
You might prefer to hear that fairies and angels and wise loving guides will help you journey through life on your divine path, which will be filled with ease, grace and whatever the opposite of struggle is.
But what we often think we want sometimes (e.g. 1kg of triple chocolate cookie infused ice-cream), might not actually be that good for us.
This newsletter article is inspired after reading a book called ‘Courage to Grow: How Acton Academy Turns Learning Upside Down’ by Laura Sandefer. As an educator myself, I am fascinated with different learning methodologies.
Laura’s book is about the creation and establishment of Acton Academy, which pioneered an entirely new way of educating children. It is based on the Socratic method (lots of questions, teachers act as guides and they don’t give direct answers, but respond with more questions or perspectives to consider); all children are considered as geniuses in their own right; each child is on their individual Hero’s Journey (so this guides their personalised learning path); and they advise parents that part of the learning environment is for the children to experience challenge and to STRUGGLE at times, in order for them to grow.
The results with their methods are exceptional. The school has regular young kids, who have a thirst for learning, questioning and figuring things out, which even see’s them studying college-level subjects and concepts.
One element to help them thrive in their school environment, but also in life, is building up their resilience and mindset to lean into challenge, discomfort and struggle.
So, as you might have worked out, I am all about leaning into resistance, which we talked about recently; and the concept of struggle being a necessary part of the learning, feedback, and growth process.
Where might you be missing out on real growth, because you are leaning away from (instead of into) discomfort?
Crash test dummy
As well being an educator with a thirst for learning, I often use the crash test dummy method to test what works and what doesn’t for me.
And let me assure you…
That method comes with plenty of struggle and challenge – but the rewards are HUGE!!
Take a relatively recent example. I had read and listened to a bunch of conversations on intermittent fasting, and water-only fasting. I knew by just considering the physiology of the body, that contrary to what Kellogg, Kraft, Nestle, etc. might want me to believe, my body is very likely to benefit greatly from not stuffing food into my stomach for an extended period of time. I know there is a huge amount of energy needed, and waste products created, by the consumption and digestion of food.
So just as a car benefits from down-time from constant use, or a computer benefits from being shutdown overnight, I knew my body would benefit from taking a break from digesting food. Even if I have a pretty healthy diet.
Is it easy to fast?
Especially when you decide to go all in and do a 5-day water-only fast.
It was definitely a mental STRUGGLE. It was definitely uncomfortable. It was definitely a pain in my partner’s but as Ferry likes to eat out at the great cafes in Bali (so by day 3, the novelty had worn off for her).
But boy did my body LOVE it.
I knew – given my research – there was growth, regeneration and restoration at a cellular and systems level, plus my gut felt so much more settled, calm and balanced.
I also learnt some beautiful psychological lessons. I realised that my brain could be telling me I needed to eat (NOW!!!) or I would die, but my body (particularly my stomach) at the same time would be telling me it LOVED the break. My gut was in no need of food.
This made it very clear for me: Our brains tell us stuff – probably pretty often – that is not true in reality.
If my brain was making up stuff about my hunger and survival, which was not true, what else is my brain trying to convince me of, which is also not true?
This profound learning and growth experience was available for me – very clearly – as a result of my discomfort plus overcoming the struggle not to stop at a local Warung (cafe) in Bali, and wolf down 3 servings of Nasi Goreng (fried rice).
Note: If you want to do a fast yourself, and are smarter than me, I would recommend reading the book ‘Fast This Way’ by Dave Asprey, BEFORE you begin.
The main point
The main point I am making is, just like at Acton Academy they found the children thrived (e.g. skipping 3 standard school grades in 1 year) in an environment that encouraged the Hero’s Journey of trials, tribulations and struggles. We don’t live our potential if we avoid the struggles.
Don’t get me wrong. There is a good way to struggle and a non-helpful way to struggle.
If I was to suggest one ingredient which enhances the learning potential of the struggle, it is the level of CONSCIOUSNESS or mindfulness, you bring into the experience. There is a big difference between a mindless struggle, and a conscious struggle.
A conscious struggle allows you to stay curious, creative, able to pivot after feedback, and even know when to take a breather.
So know that a struggle is highly valuable, if you do your struggling consciously.
Is there somewhere in your life – e.g. in a relationship, in a work context, for your health, etc. – which you might need to lean into a little bit more, and accept that there might be some tossing and turning, and conscious struggling to reach your desired result and experience a learning outcome.
My parting thoughts and offering
Never stop learning and therefore growing and evolving.
Accept that like those kids at Acton Academy, you are also a genius. Don’t sell yourself short.
You are so much more powerful than you have been lead to believe; so lean into your own Hero’s Journey.
Don’t do what you have always done, if it no longer works for you, or no longer resonates, or if you just want a change.
Start a new chapter.
Choose to learn, grow and evolve, until you take your last breath and embrace the adventure of the unknown.
And here is an interesting question for you to ponder on: Would you rather be surprised or right?
Plus I hope that you are now using the right metrics to measure your success.
Have a super fabulous day and a cracking good week, and all the very best on your Hero’s Journey.
PS: For a deeper conversations, check out my weekly Podcasts here.