On Suffering

To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.

Source: Friedrich Nietzsche

I divide suffering into the following categories:

  1. Suffering for a greater good (aka type 2 fun)
  2. Suffering for (seemingly) no reason at all

Suffering for the greater good is the hero's journey. It is running a marathon. It is parenthood. It is the pinnacle of Maslows Hierarchy.

When we have a reason to suffer (which could also be flipped to say a reason to live), suffering is not just palatable but something noble.

When that reason is gone or it's been obscured, suffering is not good. Maybe the reason is still there but the realization of it has such a long time scale that the idea of its realization is not enough to overcome the presence of the current suffering. This sort of suffering leads to ent.depression (Private) and ent.burnout (Private)

No one wants to suffer for no reason - movies tap into this with the everyday protagonist that ends up using the sum of their accumulated experiences to make it through a hero's journey and come out ahead (eg. slumdog millionaire).

I'm going to refer to this phenomenon as the "Everything that has ever happened to you has been leading up to this moment" (EELM) phenomenon.

The nice (or infuriating) part of EELM is that as an individual, it's not falsifiable. You either live long enough to realize the EELM moment or you die at which point it no longer matters.

When doing a startup, there can be much suffering. Sometimes it's type I suffering (the hero's journey). Other times, it's type II (no reason at all).

For the latter, the following are some strategies that have helped me cope:

  • writing
  • reaching out to friends and mentors
  • exercise




  1. area.psych