Pain and purpose, succeeding from within

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I can understand that other people sometimes want to hurt us, but I cannot understand why we would ever let them, or why we sometimes hurt ourselves. People who would avoid the destruction of something valuable at all costs will still allow themselves to be broken by someone as if they themselves had no value.

I have often been astonished at how different people respond to negative life events. At times, I have spoken to people who are crushed by things that others would just brush off. These people will dwell on a negative comment or find themselves held back by a hundred “what if”s. To them, every little negative becomes and enormous road block.

In contrast, there are people who go through horrendous misfortune and hardship and emerge almost intact. They always retain that belief in themselves and their abilities, no matter what life throws at them.

I don’t judge people in either camp. The emotionally weak are not cowards and the emotionally strong are not heroes. Some of how they react is ingrained, some of it is learned. But I do think that the self-belief of emotionally robust people can be taught to anyone, and that it can save those who suffer needlessly at the hands of others as much is can spur those who are tougher to be tougher still.

What can’t be taught is determination. In my experience, that has to come from within. It has to be a need that seeks fulfillment, a desire that longs to be expressed. Successful people don’t resent the time and effort that they pour into their ventures because very often they are their ventures. Their businesses are an extension of their personalities that they nurture and cosset as if they were children.

When others lack faith in them they push on anyway, often more fiercely. They persevere, despite setbacks, and it is this willingness to get up and dust themselves off after each fall that makes them successful. Determination is what gets them to where they are going in the end.

It’s not all plain sailing of course. I’m not trying to paint successful people as Terminator style robots who doggedly fight to the death without hearts and feelings. I’m not trying to suggest that when some knockback has driven their business into the ground that they don’t feel the pain of looming failure. What I am saying, is that despite being beset by the same feelings as anyone else, they do not take the same actions. They react to their feelings with acceptance. When they feel apprehensive they keep on trying, because stopping is never an option that they would consider.

As Winston Churchill said, “This is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never….”

Believing in ourselves when it’s something that doesn’t come to us naturally can be hard. If the habit of a lifetime is to always expect the worst to happen and that we won’t be up to the challenge then it’s going to take a lot to unlearn that kind of approach. But it can be done, and it has been done before by others.

Winston Churchill said: “Success is never final and failure is never fatal. Courage to go on is what counts in one’s life.”

When I first met Daniel Křetínský ten years ago, he was ‘only’ a lawyer and a partner of the J&T Financial Group. He had bought himself a new Maserati Quattroporte for 3 million Czech Crowns and felt guilty that he could have paid so much money just for a car. He was 29 years old and I was impressed at this young, successful man. The fact that he thought the car was extravagant made me think that perhaps he was uncomfortable with his success and that he just needed to get used to it.

I thought that he had reached his final destination, but I was wrong. Just ten years later he is the youngest among the ten richest Czechs. He is a billionaire in US dollar terms. His growth has been phenomenal, but the thing that you learn is that it’s not actually money that drives people such as him. It’s the passion they find for something and the desire to succeed at it. Becoming wealthy was almost a side-effect.

It was Rockefeller who said, “If your only goal is to become rich, you will never achieve it.” By which he meant that the pursuit of money alone is not enough reason to keep going. First you need to experience the urgent desire to succeed at something, to build it, then the money will come.

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