Discover more from Tomorrow's Ancestors by Zelda Poem
And choose the price you’re willing to pay
The difference between someone who pursues a conventional path and a renegade is that the latter is aware of the cost of their chosen path.
It never occurs to people who follow along with what they’re told that they might be missing out on most of their potential. But someone who walks away from social expectations knows exactly what sacrifices they’re making - and there’s always someone around to remind them about it.
Most people think an unconventional path is harder, but no matter what you choose (conventional vs original), it comes with hardship. So, what price are you willing to pay? For me, the answer is evident: I am a pain seeker.
“Seek pain” is part of my design but it was first articulated to me while reading about Replit. It’s a principle that is fundamental to their company culture.
“When something seems off, start asking questions. When something is painful, get curious about why. When something’s uncomfortable, dive in. Don’t ignore it. Don’t get defensive. Get inquisitive. Look at the data with clear eyes. Accept nuance. Ask for feedback constantly.” Replit’s operating principles
When talking about seeking pain, what we’re really discussing is the quest for progress. Discomfort, challenge and confrontation is the most direct path to transformation, learning and growth. It boils down to consciously going after the hard things, with the aspiration of creating a better version of yourself or of what you’re building.
Bigger challenges = bigger rewards
When you play a game with bigger challenges, the rewards are bigger, too. In the case of seeking pain, a reward can look like:
- learning something new,
- building a product that enhances people’s lives,
- earning some golden nuggets of wisdom,
- or even just having stories worth sharing.
As much on an individual than on a collective level, we are made to progress, which involves confronting ourselves to exciting challenges. This is why school is a bad experience for most people: it is way too underwhelming.
Of course, from a conventional path to a marginal one, there’s a spectrum of challenge sizes to tackle. In my case, what a friend once told me captures where I situate myself: “Every time we call each other, you live on a new continent, have launched a new project, and have a new lover.”
She was right - I have quite a sensational path. But with the weight of my 22 years spent on this earth, my physical body sometimes feels like it’s 10 or 20 years older for all the stress destiny and myself have made it endure.
I’ve come to peace with that. You need to learn to enjoy the cost you pay for the path you decided to walk.
How to seek pain and make the most out of it
Just so you know I’m legit in the seeking pain game, let me flex some examples of what I’m talking about:
Dropping out of both school and my mom’s home at 16 years old to go lead an education revolution;
Running an educational program and doing conferences in front of hundreds of students at 17;
Traveling the world by myself and moving to a small Mexican town without knowing how to speak Spanish at 21;
Deciding to shave my head from one day to the other because I noticed I was feeling stressed about doing it.
Putting yourself in difficult situations and learning from them boils down to 3 simple steps:
If you’re living your life on autopilot, chances are you’re not aware of your deepest fears.
Start by developing mindful practices, allowing you to get clarity about yourself and the frontiers of your comfort zone. Be curious about your limiting beliefs and why they shaped themselves in the first place.
Once you’re clear on what it is that you’re afraid of, you can move on and just do it. WHAT? Yeah, it’s called Exposure Therapy and it consists of confronting the object of your fear in order to break the irrational pattern of avoidance you’ve developed.
For example, when Amjad, the CEO of Replit, noticed he was crippled by anxiety when it came to public speaking, he decided to join improv classes to confront his fear. He ended up becoming a charismatic public speaker - at the price of feeling intense stress and embarrassment while he was learning to overcome his dread.
Reflecting on what you’ve experienced is a crucial final step. Acknowledge the discomfort and the failures just as much as the progress and epiphanies that came with them. Write it all down. By articulating what you’ve been through (however significant or not it may be), you’re able to extract and remember important lessons.
The poison is the medicine.
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The line between post-traumatic growth and post-traumatic stress
Taleb coined a concept in his book Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder that I’ll never forget: the difference between post-traumatic stress — the negative effects of experiencing trauma, and post-traumatic growth — the positive output of experiencing trauma.
You can’t control being a victim of a traumatic event. But you can control (if you’re careful) how far you’ll go in intentionally seeking pain.
For example, at 19 years old and having worked 7 days a week for insane hours, without ever taking breaks or doing the vital self-care of eating healthy or doing exercise, I was burned out and had to take a break. That break ended up being 3 years away from my field.
I had sought too much pain. That was my responsibility - nobody forced me to do it. That time, the cost was way bigger than the reward.
Seeking pain, intense growth, or wild dreams needs to be balanced with a healthy routine, a great support system and, as I mentioned earlier, time to reflect and process the things you experience.
Seek pain, but not to the point where you give up or traumatize yourself.
I hope this made you want to extend your comfort zone and be clearer on the life you aspire to! Follow my podcast on your favorite platform to hear more on Amjad’s journey on seeking pain, coming soon.
I am always happy to hear your thoughts, whether in the comments, by reaching out on Twitter, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next time,
Do you know anyone who needs to read this?
Thanks Kyle for the editing and Zack for the feedbacks.