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The Theory of 5: Struggle and Strength

Searching for comfort is one of our strongest desires as humans. We tend to gravitate toward what gives us pleasure and recoil from what could cause pain. Most people crave contentment. Most want gratification.


Chris Saraceno is the Vice President & Partner of the Kelly Automotive Group

Facing Challenges to Develop Grit

Searching for comfort is one of our strongest desires as humans. We tend to gravitate toward what gives us pleasure and recoil from what could cause pain. Most people crave contentment. Most want gratification. 

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In its proper proportions, there’s nothing wrong with comfort. We must recognize, however, that during times of pleasure, it’s challenging for most of us to develop personally or professionally. It’s when we’re pushed beyond our comfort zone that we grow stronger and more resilient. 

Circumstances that take us to our limits will show us what we’re made of. Anyone can prosper when all conditions are favorable. It’s easy to succeed when everything breaks our way. Those who find ways to advance and achieve when the world seems to be against them, however, learn far more about themselves and others. 


Struggle builds character, and character is what makes the difference between our ultimate success or failure.

First, think of someone who is born to privilege, who has everything given to them throughout their lives and expects nothing to change in the future. Now, think of someone who has had to fight for everything they’ve earned, who has succeeded despite the odds and knows both the best and the worst the world has to offer. Ask yourself these questions:

• Which of these two people do you think knows more about themselves?
• Who will be able to pick themselves up better after a setback?
• Who has more to offer their team?
Who wants it more?


Making it through difficult circumstances forces us to build mental and emotional toughness. This is how we develop the grit necessary to dig deep and overcome the challenges in front of us. Our ambition and our motivation are often directly related to how hard we’ve had to work to achieve the goals we’ve set out to accomplish. 

These are generalities, of course. I’ve known several people who were raised in wealth who have made a huge difference in the world, but they’ve faced many of their own hurdles in life. They were taught and challenged how to dig deep, and to think of how and what they could do to assist others who are facing their own struggles.


Those who achieve great things understand that struggle may be necessary and unavoidable. When challenged, we have two choices: We can give up, or we can see the challenge as an opportunity to grow. Once we get beyond the obstacle standing in our way, we know the reward on the other side will be worth it. 

In my last article, we discussed the importance of asking ourselves good questions so that our minds — our onboard computers — can produce good, useful answers. Responding to challenges is another way of examining this concept. 

For example, let’s look at a salesperson who has had a bad month. It was the kind of month where, if everything could go wrong, it did. Bad weather, reluctant customers, uninspiring and low inventory — you name it, it happened. 


The challenge facing this salesperson now is how to make the coming month better than their last month. They can either ask their onboard computer a destructive, negative question (“Am I not cut out for this line of work?”) or a constructive, positive question (“What will I do to sharpen my skills and practice and implement new methods of prospecting?”) 

This is the moment of truth that makes all the difference. Will this salesperson up their game, look for ways to sharpen their skills and search for new methods of prospecting? Or, will they resign themselves to the idea that it’s all downhill from here?


Are they up to the task? It depends on their mental toughness. It depends on their grit.

One method my mentors and I have found useful is to make sure we have written goals that are attainable, but that reaching these goals force us to stretch our comfort zone. By having stated goals in front of us, we’re better able to ignore our current, temporary trials and build our careers and our lives for the long term. Instead of getting bogged down with today’s problems, we’ll focus the success we’re working to create. This is part of the mindset that builds success. We work through today’s pain to reach tomorrow’s pleasure.


We can’t control all the circumstances in our lives. We’ll have rough days. We’ll have curve balls thrown at us. We’ll have setbacks that could sideline us for a while. What we can control is our attitudes, our outlooks, our beliefs and our convictions. By keeping the faith that our struggles make us stronger, we can get past today’s challenges. We can see for ourselves what’s on the other side of the obstacle. This is how we will grow to become the best versions of ourselves.

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