David Heinemeier Hansson

August 8, 2022

Stay with the pain, don't shut this out

"Without pain, without sacrifice, we would have nothing", intones Tyler Durden in Fight Club, as his alter-ego is screaming from the chemical burn. It's a profound scene that taps into a well of philosophical thought that humans have been struggling with forever. And it's applicable to more mundane affairs too.

I like to think of this exchange whenever I'm ready to tap out at work. Maybe the project is a disagree'n'commit slog, maybe there are fundamental clashes on policies or direction that gnaw. It doesn't really matter, as long as it burns. That's when I need to mentally slap myself, and stay with the "pain".

It's far easier to tune out, of course. To go to your happy place. But that's not where you're likely to make real progress. It's also too easy just to reach for anything to stop the hurt. Forgoing the opportunity to letting it guide you to a deeper understanding. One that'll provide lasting insights on where truly is the better way to go.

Some times you simply have to let it burn for a while. The scar is your sacrifice. The knowledge that you stayed with the pain until the doors of perception were wide open your satisfaction.

About David Heinemeier Hansson

Made Basecamp and HEY for the underdogs as co-owner and CTO of 37signals. Created Ruby on Rails. Wrote REWORK, It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work, and REMOTE. Won at Le Mans as a racing driver. Fought the big tech monopolies as an antitrust advocate. Invested in Danish startups.