Great Leaders Often Go Through Great Pain

November 16, 2018By

MountainThroughout my life I’ve enjoyed reading biographies.

Usually successful creatives and businesspeople. But a few oddities here and there as well.

I won’t say that it’s a universal common thread, but something that seems to pop up in many of those biographies is some kind of tragedy.

A death of someone close. A disability. A disease. All types of professional setbacks. Some tragedies are self-imposed. For many there is often competition in life and work and they go through many losing battles.

The most recent book I read was George Carlin’s autobiography. One of his tragedies was with drugs and alcohol. His own, but also his wife’s. His daughter also had struggles. He felt responsibility for it. It weighed on him. His career went through multiple ups and downs.

But through it all he was able to go through self-discovery. In fact, early in his career he realized that what he had been doing in comedy wasn’t his true self. Then he struggled to carve a new niche. Then after that schtick ran its course he had to carve out another new niche even later in his career.

All Kinds Of Tragedy

Unfortunately, being human is to live through tragedy. Some tragedies are greater than others. They’re similar in many ways and unique in others. Your tragedies may differ from mine. Or maybe they’re the same.

Sometimes you look at what others have gone through or are going through and it makes you feel thankful for what you have. Other times you’re the one going through something tragic and you feel like you’re the only one or you wish that you could be living someone else’s life.

The more biographies I’ve read the more thankful I’ve become. Some leaders and successful people have gone through some really challenging stuff. The Kennedy Family would be one famous example. Great successes. Great positions of power, but it seems that not many have gotten through life without incredible tragedy.

But there is seemingly a crossroads that successful people take when faced with tragedy…

A Feeling Of Invincibility

Imagine going through something incredibly tragic. A death. A loss. We don’t have to get into specifics. We can all think of something (probably multiple) things that would greatly affect our lives.

You don’t ever really get over something tragic. But you can move on from it. And that’s seemingly what these great successes are able to do. They don’t forget. They remember, but they move forward.

And it’s almost like they have a feeling of invincibility in what they do after the tragedy. And that makes sense. When you go through something horrible you almost get the feeling that if you can get through that that you can get through anything.

Suddenly, losing a client isn’t such a big deal. Or losing a great employee is certainly a loss, but not something that can’t be overcome. Or making a critical mistake that sets the company back financially. The company might need to start over again. Not many people have the resolve to do that, but if the person in charge has been through the worst they certainly might have the feeling that they can go through a struggle again.

Final Thought

There are a few things to take away from this post.

First, if you’ve gone through tragedy or are going through tragedy…I’m not saying that I understand. All I’m saying is that many great people have reached great success after tragedy. In fact, things almost seemed to accelerate after a tragedy occurred.

Second, is there something that has been holding you back from success? Maybe not a tragedy, but perhaps a fear. That could be a tragedy in itself. You’re afraid of something. It’s legitimate. But realizing it and using it to fuel growth is possible. You can focus on other areas or strength while also facing your fears. Once you face it there is a possibility you’ll gain the feeling of invincibility.

There is hope. There is a future. There could be a great future.