Ray has been a good friend of mine for a while now. I’ve watched his academic career evolve from a somewhat quiet undergrad and grad student to an impeding PhD graduate. He is currently in his final stages of dissertation defense and I’ve had the pleasure of remaining a willful spectator along his journey. And what a journal it’s been.
If I had to summarize a single word to encompass my observation of Ray’s efforts it would be Endure.
For those not familiar with the arduous and monumental task of earning (and I mean earning) a PhD, it’s an immersive, all-encompassing endeavor riddled with intense bouts of testing ones own mettle, patience, and fortitude. From my external vantage point is an observational dichotomy of mental rigidity and willful and sometimes resistant flexibility.
At the risk of sounding a bit belittling of the academic rigors, endure perfectly sums up what I see students undergo. Sure, a significantly high level of cerebral acuity is certainly a prerequisite, but the ability to possess said skill-set lacks any predetermined effectiveness and efficiency without the ability to endure. It’s much like having a cache of the best tools money can buy and the accompanied skills to use them without the strength to actually put them into action.
How enduring applies to most anything
The old adage of “anything worth having takes hard work” or somewhat in those words rings so true. It’s boring advice and isn’t new, but is quickly being forgotten. I will omit the usual monologue of stating the obvious regarding this instant gratification world we live in, but it at least bears mentioning for the sake of my point.
Take the most challenging circumstances or desired outcomes that possess an important part of legitimate goal-setting in your life. Most, if not all, owe their success to the simple, but somewhat overlooked principle of enduring some sort of hardship whether it be focus, continuous hard work, or extreme patience. We often look too closely at the forthcoming and ultimate end to our “suffering” when it was our unforeseen innate ability to apply endurance that truly mattered.
We are looking squarely and solely at the almost expected benefit of getting to end-goal with little or no observation of what it took to get there. Giving this unsung hero the due recognition can serve us well for future needs.
A negative experience with an arduous process versus the positive experience associated with accomplishment need not be two opposing forces. The negative connotation derived from process will potentially taint and ultimately undermine the next challenge that will certainly arise. Embracing, therefore, the process and recognizing how powerfully effective this awareness can be, will only arm you with a significant advantage. Said advantage will build on itself, fortify your resolve, and give you the ability to maneuver within the struggle for more sound and, subsequently effective future achievement.
How endurance can supersede knowledge
Arming yourself with the seemingly unending stream of information and not to mention the enormous task of disseminating fact from fiction is a noble task. We are taught in our formative years to get our facts straight, read first, and to make an educated statement or opinion regarding important decisions before us.
All well and good, but when is enough enough?
Action, then, becomes the next and obvious step. Planning without action, again, allows us to comfortably stay safe within our scheming walls never to take on full responsibility for neither success nor failure. We have no skin in the game. Nothing lost, nothing gained.
When, however, we do get past the initial resistance of action and put forth a notable effort it is endurance that will almost exclusively determine rate and effectiveness of successive momentum. The ability to endure will become a valuable tool toward the ebbs and flows of the journey.
Furthermore. endurance has the ability to supersede specific knowledge by pushing our efforts forward no matter the apparent lack of details thought to be needed to succeed. Enduring may allow us to traverse through uncharted and unnerving territory enabling the unknown and hidden to be seen which may have been limited by “too much preparation.”
The act of enduring pushes us whether we are ready or not.
Cultivating the ability to endure
We often associate the term endure with images and feelings of sweat, strain, and toiling endlessly away at a task burning the midnight oil or burning our candles at both ends (lots of burning for some reason). Or we may remember the way to get to Broadway? Practice, practice, practice. The simple, yet repeatable advice implies that we must endure countless hours, days, and weeks within our chosen craft.
A trap we risk falling into is one of aimless effort. We can easily fool ourselves into thinking our endless commitment is the right path. All we have to do, we think, is outlast and we will get there. But practice, sometimes, does not make perfect. Perfect practice can only make perfect.
If we are practicing the wrong way, wasting effort, ignoring efficient processes, and investing our pride in “suffering” then we are shortchanging our true potential. The term endure is then polluted and relegated to its stereotypical layman definition inferring the negative process mentioned earlier.
Armed with this absolute necessary awareness we have to dissect our practices, put our behaviors in check, and shore up and plug up any leaks in our processes. Once we are efficient without the petty, shallow, and useless distractions of our surroundings (both physical and mental) we then can move forward with a sound plan to properly apply endurance to our actions and protect our limited and valued time.
Awareness requires willingness much like planning requires action. We make plans, act, become keenly aware of our process, and apply will to our efforts.
What I learned
Ray will be defending his dissertation and eventually moving on to a post-doctoral position. He has epitomized the principle of endure. Since he’s been neck-deep into his work, I am of the opinion that he isn’t all that aware of his endurance. Instead he’s been intensely focused and immersed in his studies.
My unique and somewhat advantageous perspective (from the outside) has allowed me to observe the positive attributes of Ray’s journey. I’ve been able to capture moments and marathons alike of enduring effort replete with an indomitable will to move forward, whether he was fully prepared or not. I’ve witnessed his ability to “ship his product” without some conceived or perceived from of “perfection.”
He’s shown me that true, long-term endurance has the unique and almost mystical ability to conquer monumental tasks. As I’m well aware of the endurance it takes to overcome physical challenges, including those related to health, it’s been my pleasure to be witness to the lessons my friend has had to learn in order to embrace the process and keep pressing forward.
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