The Struggle is Real...ESSENTIAL to Growth

| Team | Press

As leaders, teachers, parents and mentors, it’s natural to have an instinct to protect our teams, students, and children.  You would do anything to prevent them from struggling or failing.

Although well-intentioned, there is a dark unintended consequence to not allowing them to struggle.  By being too protective, we are only harming them in the future.  We rob them of the gift of discovery and the ability to see what they can overcome.  Instead of learning  their strength and resilience, we plant the seeds of future learned helplessness.  They would forever be baby birds waiting for us to give them their next meal.

If we didn’t allow our children to fall, would they ever learn to walk? 

There is strength to be gained through struggle. There is knowledge to be earned in the reflection of failure.  Just being told something is not enough.  We need to earn that knowledge for it to truly imbed in our minds.

Grit, resilience, adaptability and a growth-mindset are traits that are high indicators of success.  These traits are forged in trial and error.  They are developed through growth earned from hard lessons.

By being over-protective, we can slow and stop their growth.  Allow them to embrace their struggle.  Give them the chance to succeed.

Consider this story of a boy and his caterpillar...

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The struggle is real….Important!

Once a little boy was playing outdoors and found a fascinating caterpillar. He carefully picked it up and took it home to show his mother. He asked his mother if he could keep it, and she said he could if he would take good care of it.

The little boy got a large jar from his mother and put plants to eat, and a stick to climb on, in the jar. Every day he watched the caterpillar and brought it new plants to eat.

One day the caterpillar climbed up the stick and started acting strangely. The boy worriedly called his mother who came and understood that the caterpillar was creating a cocoon. The mother explained to the boy how the caterpillar was going to go through a metamorphosis and would soon become a butterfly.

The little boy was thrilled to hear about the changes his caterpillar would go through. He watched every day, waiting for the butterfly to emerge. One day it happened, a small hole appeared in the cocoon and the butterfly started to struggle to come out.

At first, the boy was excited, but soon he became concerned. The butterfly was struggling so hard to get out. It looked like it couldn’t break free... It looked desperate... It looked like it was making no progress.

The boy was so concerned he decided to help. He ran to get scissors and then carefully walked back. He snipped the cocoon to make the hole bigger and the butterfly quickly emerged!

As the butterfly came out the boy was surprised. It had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings. He continued to watch the butterfly expecting that, at any moment, the wings would dry out, enlarge and expand to support the swollen body. He knew that in time the body would shrink and the butterfly’s wings would expand.

But neither happened.   The butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings.  It never was able to fly…

As the boy tried to figure out what had gone wrong his mother took him to talk to a scientist from a local college. He learned that the butterfly was supposed to struggle. In fact, the butterfly’s struggle to push its way through the tiny opening of the cocoon pushes the fluid out of its body and into its wings. Without the struggle, the butterfly would never, ever fly. The boy’s good intentions hurt the butterfly and forced it into a life of paralysis.    

As you go through life, keep in mind that struggling is an important part of any growth experience. In fact, it is the struggle that causes you to develop your ability to fly.   As leaders and mentors, allow the struggle to happen so your students can fly on their own.  They deserve it.  


Over the years, so much innovation has been the product of struggle, mistakes and failure.  We cannot grow unless we are allowed to struggle.  If you want to help your team truly grow, give them the gift of struggle.


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