DR. CUMMINGS: No pain, no gain

January 12, 2014 

What does this mean? As I look forward to 2014 and the 365 days it will bring me, how many of those days will be painful? Can’t I just skip the pain and get the gain? Is pain really necessary?

Hell, yes!

I don’t know anybody who got what they wanted in life without pain. I look at my own family. My dad kept our family alive during the Great Depression by selling old clothes door to door in the back streets of Chicago. My daughter wanted to be a teacher; going back to college in your 40s can be a real pain. My wife wanted to live without cancer; a double mastectomy is very painful. If you really want something, you’ve got to be willing to suffer a bit -- or a lot -- to get it.

What do you want?

Do you want a successful relationship? Women are much better at this than men, but that’s because they’re willing to put up with a lot more. I sometimes marvel at male stupidity. We seem to think that we should make all the decisions, win every argument, always be right, and then -- get this -- she should like it. A successful relationship, with your spouse, with your boss, with your fellow workers always requires biting your tongue, holding your temper and listening when you want to shout. It can be a bit painful. Ask your wife.

Do you want to get ahead in your company? Is that what you want? Are you willing to sacrifice your personal time and work long hours? Are you willing to watch others get promoted ahead of you and not get discouraged? Are you willing to take work home in order to sit in the stands for your child’s Little League game? Not everyone who got ahead in business played politics; some of us really worked for it, painfully.

Do you want to have friends you can trust? Is this what you want? There is nothing more rewarding than true friendship. But you have to work at it. You have to make time for them. You have to write to them. You have to visit them. You have to be there for them. But above all, you have to tell them the truth. This is what makes the difference. If it’s just an acquaintance, you can avoid the truth or even spin it a bit, but if it’s a friend -- the truth has gotta come out. And the truth can hurt. Melvin Kruger and I have shared many painful truths together over these past 39 years, but the pain has only brought us closer.

Do you want to live to a ripe old age? Be careful what you wish for. Now we’re talking real pain. If you’re going to stroll down the street in your 80s and 90s without a walker, it means you’ve no doubt had both knees operated on and probably a hip or two. You’ve let your fingers curl down with arthritis because the pain of the straightener isn’t really worth it. Your hair is thinned out or gone. You have eyeglasses all over the house because you can’t read your mail. You keep saying “What?” when people talk, and once you hit your easy chair, you’re sound asleep.

Ahh, but all this pain is well worth it. To see another brilliant sunrise, to smell the coffee brewing in the kitchen in the early morning, to hear another grandchild laugh, to feel the warmth of that smile from the person who knows you better than you know yourself -- believe me, it’s worth all the pain of getting here.

View Dr. C.’s leadership videos on www.digitallydrc.com.

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