ISSUE-125

We learn our most valuable lessons in life from struggling with our limitations rather than from enjoying our successes.


Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim. In developing and supporting your position, be sure to address the most compelling reasons and/or examples that could be used to challenge your position.


Our life is filled with successes, failures, and constant struggles in between. From what do we learn our most valuable lessons in life? Although some may proclaim that it is the success that teaches us the most valuable lessons, I strongly feel that the struggle with our limitations give rise to the best lessons in life.


To begin with, one may disagree with my point of view and argue that the success can boost our confidence. As a result, the excitement and enjoyment of success can reinforce and provide positive feedback to our good behaviors and make us more likely to succeed in the future. For example, it is commonly considered a success to earn a prestigious scholarship for a student, which will earn him fame and monetary support. By rewarding him or her the scholarship, the student learns that hard work and diligence pays off. This is certainly a valuable lesson. That said, the view above over-exaggerates how much we can learn from one’s success. More often than not, we learn an awful more from the struggles with our limitations than from our successes. The reasons are at least two-fold. First, human beings are far more sensitive to pains and struggles than to joys. This, some argue, is rooted in our DNA because from an evolutionary perspective it is almost a requirement for ancient humans to pay extra attention to negative experiences. After all, in a harsh environment, the likelihood of survival depends on one’s ability to perceive and avoid danger. In other words, our ancestors were forced to develop an heightened sense of negativity. The consequence of this evolutionary pathway is that modern humans pay more attention to their struggles and failures than to success. Hence, the most valuable lessons are more likely to originate from such struggles because of the additional attention they receive.


Moreover, it is questionable what one can really learn from successes. While it is true that achievements can boost one’s confidence, what remains unclear is why those achievements are made possible in the first place. This is because we are living in a complex world and any success is the combination of a wide range of factors. The success, therefore, may or may not be reproducible. For instance, the success of Internet giants like Microsoft is built upon the not only the talents and commitment of Bill Gates and all the engineers but also the government vision of building a digital highway for the 21st century. Only looking at its success one can hardly identify what the most crucial factor is. On the contrary, from struggles and failures we are more likely to find out what goes wrong and this is precisely the valuable lesson we need to learn. The disaster of space shuttle Challenger taught us the fragility of polymers and it is through this hard-learned lesson that the future safety of space programs can be improved. Similar examples abound in our society today where innovators constant try and fail. Through those struggles with our limitations, we—not only as individuals but also as a collective group—learn most valuable lessons.


To sum up, although in some cases success brings a positive experience that is valuable, the most valuable lessons most of the time come from struggles and failures because we naturally pay more attention to them and the very reason of our struggles can be a valuable lesson.


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