Jerry Seinfeld told Tim Ferriss, “Pain is knowledge rushing in to fill a void.” Imagine you’re walking in your bedroom at night and smash your toe on the bedpost. You didn’t know it was there in the dark, but the pain of you finding it is the lesson coming to light. It’s a silly example, but we learn lessons this way all of the time, in business and in life.
Who wants to learn anything new if it has to hurt? Even a little? Turns out not everybody. Yeah, surprising I know, but not everyone wants to feel the pain of knowledge rushing in. Some of us can tolerate it better than others. Some of us are willing to put ourselves out there to find those bedposts. On purpose. This is good news. It means a willingness to learn is a rare superpower. A willingness to stub our toes is a gift.
Seinfeld said just like in strength training, you’ve got to tear muscle to build it back stronger. In comedy or any professional pursuit, it’s no different. You have to push and push to be constantly “hitting the wall,” or finding your limits to get stronger and go farther. That’s not a lot of repeat toe smashing for the record. It is a lot of feeling around in the dark though.
When you build the skill of getting comfortable with discomfort, then “You’re Columbus with a compass” he says. You know where to go. You know how to explore. And, you know if you’re not challenging yourself, you’re stagnating.
If pain is knowledge rushing in to fill a void, we’d better figure out a way to up our pain tolerance. Once we do, we can earn “Columbus with a compass” status and come back to help others on their way. Not everybody is willing to push the boundaries, but the leaders are. It might as well be us.
Hear Seinfeld explore this and more on The Tim Ferriss Show Episode #485.