“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” –Frederick Douglas

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Yes, the struggle is real. After all, I grew up in St. Charles, MO. The 636. The home of “The Struggle.” Lately, I’ve noticed this phrase pop up more and more often in television and social media. It’s even become part of the teenage vernacular. In this week’s post we’re going to address the struggle and how it should be viewed.

The popular phrase these days is, “The struggle is real.” Yes, it’s very real, and is used in a context almost as an excuse. When I hear this phrase it makes me think people are using it as an excuse for why something did or did not happen. Instead of running from a situation or “a struggle”, we should embrace it. Unfortunately, we are raising a generation of people who run from it. A quote I like to use with my athletes is, “You don’t develop good teeth by eating mush.” You’re never going to reach your full potential or develop true toughness by avoiding difficult situations. So we might as well learn to embrace them.

Recently I read a blog article by Salman Kahn, from the Khan Academy. The premise of the article was that we should embrace, encourage, and reward the struggle. Mr. Kahn points out that too often we only recognize and reward our children when they’ve succeeded at something. Thus, our children learn to give up on things that are difficult and only participate in things in which they are naturally gifted in. The truth is no one is good at anything at first. No one is born with the ability to walk and talk, except for maybe Chuck Norris. We all start somewhere, but too many of us give up because we are allowed to quit and make excuses at an early age by our parents, teachers, and coaches. We’re all born to learn, and I’m convinced we all can. However, we cannot continue to accept apathy, indifference, and avoidance. We must remember that failure is fertilizer for the soul. Mr. Kahn also points out that research has shown the brain is like a muscle; the more it gets used, the more it grows. I encourage you read his article here.

I’d like to share a brief personal story. On Tuesday night we took our 3 ½ year old son to his second soccer practice. He was having a blast but then all of sudden it went downhill. As he was participating in a game, he was kicking the ball at other teams’ goal. His coach came over and told him that he needed to kick it at the other goal. As soon as I saw my son’s face I knew what was coming next, tears. He became very upset because he thought he was in trouble and his coach was mad at him. He wanted to go home. My wife and I both took turns talking to him and assuring him that everything was fine. We finally got him to go back and score a goal before we left. He also went over to give his coach a “High-Five” and tell him thank you. On the way home we told him that coaches are there to help and that’s what daddy does with his basketball girls and football guys. I bring this up because I know we’re not the only ones to encounter these types of situations, and I feel as if too many people would blame the coach for being mean or insensitive. Too many people would let their child quit the activity and leave when things weren’t going their way. We all need to take these teachable moments to reinforce to our children that it’s okay to struggle with something and get upset. Most importantly, we need to encourage them and celebrate when they overcome whatever struggle it is that they’re encountering.

I’d like to end with a story I recently read on the butterfly. A young boy had found a caterpillar and couldn’t wait for it to turn into a butterfly. He took it home, found a box for it, and fed it for several days. Eventually the caterpillar built a cocoon and after a few days the butterfly finally began to emerge. Once this process began the boy became concerned because the butterfly couldn’t get out of the cocoon. The boy went to get scissors and cut a hole in the cocoon to help the butterfly escape. However, the butterfly was not really a butterfly. For the rest of its existence the butterfly just crawled around with a swollen body and weak wings. What the little boy didn’t realize is the butterfly is supposed to struggle. Through this struggle to escape the cocoon the fluid from the butterfly’s body is pushed to its wings, thus enabling it to fly.

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The moral of the story is without the struggle, the butterfly could never fly. The same holds true for all of us. We need to struggle in order to reach our full potential. Let’s stop using the struggle as an excuse to give up and start using it as a reason excel.

“Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle.” Napoleon Hill

As always, thanks for reading, have a great week and be an RGP today!

~Kyle