Pain = Suffering x Resistance

In my venture capital job, I meet many people. Over time, some relationships develop and evolve to the point where it really isn’t just about business.

For example, this past week, an exec. texted me from the office, at wits end with her job and dysfunctional company culture. I periodically sync up with one of our investors, whose husband is gravely ill. And, I still remember the entrepreneur who was nearly out of money and sleeping on people’s couches (more here).

Perhaps, the hardest part of the job is when people come to me with really serious issues. Whether it’s about business or something personal, sometimes, I really don’t know what to say. I don’t have any glib answers or frameworks.

Brad Feld has blogged about how his VC job sometimes makes him scream. I know what he means. Sometimes, I feel like the priest in the confessional or a therapist.

I think it’s a privilege to be there for entrepreneurs’ victories, but also, for their struggles. That’s when the entrepreneur-to-VC relationship really rings true, when people stop b.s.-ing each other.

If you’re going through a tough time, don’t assume it’s because you’re unlucky or that you’re not worthy of success. Suffering is a part of life. Everybody suffers.

The way to break through the suffering is to accept it. Shinzen Young has written: Pain = Suffering X Resistance. It means that the more you accept suffering, the less painful it will be.

So, when I’m out of answers for someone, I think about one of my favorite songs, “With Everything” (see below or click here). Sometimes, all we can do is surrender to the moment. You might as well accept reality. Catholics will “offer it up”. Buddhists will meditate. Muslims will embrace Allah’s will.

Once you accept that “it is what it is,” I think you’ll find that inner peace starts to percolate. Studies show that escaping into work, porn, food, alcohol or drugs is absolutely not effective. Denial doesn’t solve suffering.

In my life, I’ve found that suffering is actually an opportunity. It invites me to develop, evolve, mature, and grow. I’ve found that, in the end, everything always works out for the best. Eventually, things all fall into place.

No matter what obstacle you are facing, I fully believe that you can learn to accept it and become a better person as a result. Suffering can be meaningful.

So, in the end, happiness is a choice. If you choose to accept challenges, as opposed to run away or deny them, you’re so on the right path. In fact, as I’ve blogged before here, the most important question you can ask yourself is this: how much pain do you want in order to make progress?


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