The Tuition We Pay

Out of clutter…find simplicity. 

Out of discord….find harmony.

In the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity.”

– Albert Einstein

My next door neighbor has faced some difficulty lately.   Eric is an owner-operator of an 18 wheel big rig with a refrigerated trailer.   He purchased the truck (used) in 2013, and spent the last 3 years accelerating his payments.  He sacrificed other luxuries, to get that truck paid off.  He told me a few months back that he had finally written the final check and was awaiting the title. 

We toasted Eric’s success, and even had a neighborhood barbecue where he opened the envelope with his newly acquired pink slip.  We laughed, we clapped, we ate cake, and we celebrated this great accomplishment.

Two weeks later the engine in Eric’s truck failed.  This began a long litany of trouble for my good friend Eric.  In the ensuing days he found out:

  • The core for his engine could not be rebuilt.
  • The head was also damaged and needed to be replaced.
  • The turbo was nearing failure.
  • The EGR (emissions) system also needed to be replaced

The expenses kept mounting.  By the time Eric got a loan for the tens of thousands of dollars in parts and repairs, three weeks had gone by.  Then he found out that the engine would not be delivered for 8 more weeks. So not only did Eric have these enormous expenses to pay, he also was out of work, with his only means of income sitting in the shop, waiting on an engine.

He came over to vent to me about how bad his life was, and how unfair these turn of events seemed to him.  I understood and empathized with his plight.  I challenged him however to look at his experience in light of what he learned through the process.  We took each failure and examined the lesson learned.  These lessons included:

  •  Buying new equipment is expensive, warranties however are very valuable.
  • Buy options on the replacement engine that may preclude another failure.
  • There are important maintenance services that will extend the life of an engine.
  • There are driving techniques to prevent engine stress.
  • There are ways to vet your parts sources to ensure that you get the right parts.
  • Finally: Trust, but verify (the old Ronald Reagan credo).

Through this exchange, I was able to demonstrate to Eric that the things we really need to learn, are usually best taught in the light of our failures.  Little if anything of significant value is learned by winning.  It is the pain of loss that indelibly stamps the most important lessons on our minds.

Put another way, the pain of failure is the “tuition” we pay for the education we receive.  Education rarely comes for free (despite the latest left wing political ruminations).  The challenge is to embrace the LESSON while leaving the FAILURE behind.    Sometimes the wound that the failure leaves behind is so deep and so painful, that it engenders a fear in us to even attempt to cross that dangerous ground again.  This always amazes me.  Once you have paid the tuition, why would you avoid the benefits of your new found knowledge?   It’s important to remember that we can only truly benefit from what we learn when we press through the failure (and how it makes us feel) to find success on the other side.

Eric has my respect for getting up and dusting himself off.   He did not give up.  He reinvested, took advantage of his newly installed education, and is back on the road making money. 

Most of the time, it takes adversity in order to generate greatness.  Today’s quote leads me to believe that Einstein most likely happened upon his most brilliant theories, while mucking through the middle of a difficult situation.

It’s persistence through difficulty that marks the difference between “Einstein discoveries”, and just getting by.   Let us be persistent in difficulty, and find the opportunities, order and harmony that exist somewhere in the cacophony of disorder, confusion and failure.   

 Compressed Signature

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