Moments of suffering can serve as effective tutors. Not the physiological suffering or fear of basic safety kind. But rather the suffering of belonging, esteem, and self-actualization.
While I’ve forgotten much of the specifics of organizational theory taught at Copenhagen Business School, I’ve never forgotten how being forced to sit with my screen visible to a busy pass way in a Copenhagen office made me feel. The loss of control and privacy traded for the whims of a boss that “thought it looked better”.
I don’t reach much for the computer science of sorting algorithms in general or binary trees in particular, but the frustration and indignation I felt wrestling with Java Swing to produce a video database for a school project will be with me forever.
Although I actually do remember much of the basic business economics and accounting I learned in school, their importance were never truly driven home until I worked through a string of collapsed businesses due to magical investment thinking of the late 1990s and early 2000s.
These moments and many more lit a rage inside me because the suffering felt so needless. I concluded all of them with a sense of “it doesn’t need to be this way”. As the internet would say: We Have The Technology! (Or, the path to invent what we need seems obvious).
I wasn’t always in a position to do anything about the particular situation, but I was always equipped to store the memory and emotion for latter use.
Harvesting the power of suffering is a thin line, though. It’s easy to store it all in containers of resignation, defeat, and bitterness. That’s not a useful source of energy.
You must pair suffering with hope. The hope that you’ll be able to set this wrong right. And then set about to do just that.