Back up against it

When you look back on your life, you can roughly divide your memories into good times and bad times.

The good times make us smile, they make us laugh. Sometimes they make us emotional because of the gratitude we feel. As a generality, depending on our luck and effort, the good times would make up about 75% of our lives.

The bad times are those we’d rather forget, those we don’t want to relive. As a general rule, depending on luck and effort, bad times might make up 25% of our lives. Yet, at the same time, they have a hold on us. The bad times, perhaps more than the good times are what form our character, and the course of our life.

Now, I’ve always thought of myself as an optimistic forward thinking person. I don’t tend to dwell on the past, although I do try to learn from it.

One thing I have been thinking about lately: why is it so hard to stay motivated to grow when things are going well? Why does success and the good times breed laziness in me and often cause a backslide?

The other day, I was watching a talk given by Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson to the LA Lakers. He was sharing his life experience, his failures and how he has continued to improve himself and grow his success. One thing he said struck me as I listened.

“The thing that has worked for me… is to remember the hard times. Before anything big would happen, I would take a moment and remind myself… that I was evicted when I was 14, that my family got kicked off the island of Hawaii, that I got arrested… I would remember that.”

This surprised me, as The Rock has always seems like such a positive, resilient, forward-thinking person. Even if you don’t like wrestling or action movies, you can’t help but like him. He is constantly pushing himself to do it bigger and better than before. To see someone in his position consciously dwell on bad times in his life seemed counterintuitive.

But then, he explained why.

“What helps me is to keep the hard times in the front of my mind, because it allows me to go into these big moments with a different perspective. What it does for me, is that I can keep my back up against this motherf***ing wall. Every day, it’s against this wall. And when my back is up against this motherf***cker there’s nowhere to go but that way. That’s it.”

Crude language aside, it was a profound idea.

So often in our lives, we reach a plateau of success. We go into a phase of good times. When we have good times in our lives, it’s almost like ‘happiness fatigue’ starts to set in. We find it hard to be as grateful, as energized, as motivated as before.

To me what is profound about the way The Rock thinks is that he is able to keep driving for results from a place of necessity. He certainly enjoys his life and knows how blessed he is. Yet, he pushes himself to do more by staying cognizant of the hard times.

The last few days, I have been thinking about the difficult times in my life. When I was broke, when I got dumped, when I got fired or lost a big speech contest. Yes, all of those times we tough. But they somehow gave me the fuel to push harder. They built my character and led to bigger success.

In some way, the most motivational times for me have been times of ambitious anger. When I was out to prove myself. When my back was up against it.

Yes, it is important to be happy and grateful. But maybe it’s also important – at least if you’re anything like me – to have something bad that you’re pushing against.

It’s then, when your back is up against it, that you can only go forward.

(Thanks, Rock.)

2 thoughts on “Back up against it

  1. Great post Daniel! I like how the Rock posits this and also your additional perspective. We don’t know sometimes where we’re at and how good or bad something is when we lose our frame of reference. The humility and empathy from a larger than life personality is refreshing.

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