Pushing Through The Pain

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I have no idea what I did to my back… but it’s bad. Really bad.

When I used to do a whole bunch of close quarters combative training and coaching with Tony Blauer, I would often think about the notion of pain and what it means. Have you ever stubbed your toe? Your initial reaction is to scream out in pain, but is it really all that painful? Here’s an exercise I used to do: I would take moments like stubbing my toe, getting a paper cut and other instances of personal abuse and, before yelping out in pain, I would ask myself, "does this really hurt?" I mean really, really hurt? More often than not, I found that my attitude would change. I’d no longer scream out in pain, but rather acknowledge that I had done some kind of minor/stupid physical damage to myself, try to rate the pain and then realize that my flinch response would have been to scream or react, but the reality was that the pain wasn’t all that bad. In the end, I wound up not screaming or being upset over every little ache, pain, bump or scratch.

That was not the case last Friday night. 

I had been experiencing some back pain and I thought that it was just me sleeping the wrong way. Then, while lifting something heavy out of my car on Friday night, I must have tweaked it even more. It was blinding pain. The kind of pain that gives you both the sweats and nausea at the time. I didn’t know what to do with myself or where to put myself. I have no idea how I made it into the house, but I could not move for days. Literally… stuck in the same place and every little movement hurt. Thanks to the wonders of modern medicine, an amazing doctor and more, I’m on the road to recovery.

Did you notice my pain on social media?

I kept to my usual schedule of blogging (six days a week) and podcasting (every Sunday). I’m not looking for a cookie or a pat on the head for sticking to my editorial calendar. Those moments made me realize something: whether your pain is physical, mental or both, only you can choose what you will do during that time. Sometimes pushing through the pain is the worst thing that you can do (I probably would not have made it through a session at the gym in that condition), but sometimes pushing through the pain is the smartest thing that you can do. Seth Godin wrote an amazing book on figuring out when to stop (it’s called The Dip, and everyone should read it). Like most things he publishes, Seth is spot on. You have to know when to keep going, mostly because the best of what we have to offer mostly comes in the moments when we are pushing through the pain.

How often does a brand push through the pain?

This analogy works magically well, when I think about brands and their digital marketing. The truth, as we have often discussed here on this blog, is that digital marketing looks and feels nothing like traditional advertising. To this day, I often hear brands complaining that Facebook advertising doesn’t work or that Google‘s AdWords aren’t converting as efficiently as they once did. More often than not, it’s the brand that is failing on the platform, and not the other way around. I’ve seen brands test something new (like Pinterest) and drop it quickly because they didn’t see any kind of bump right away. It’s regretful, because the brand attitude is that whatever else they had been working on (and refined over time) is better than this new thing right out of the gate.

Doing something new is painful… but push through the pain.

There are too many instances when the power of digital marketing is marginalized because one test… one pinkie toe into the ocean… didn’t satiate the entire body. Changes are painful. Brands need to not only embody this newly realized culture of change that we’re living in, but how to push through it and get to a point where the decision to keep going (or to stop) is happening because the initial pain was pushed through. Look, I’m just like you. I don’t like change… I don’t like pain. It’s a lot harder to stare at a blank screen with pain ripping through your back, than it is to stare at the same screen while sitting in a Starbucks sipping on a cafe latte. Still, we push on. I wonder what online marketing would look like, if every brand was accepting of the pain and enabling their teams to push through it, and then figure out what the true value and merit was of the exercise?

I’m going to push through this pain to keep on creating work. Brands shouldn’t give up, just because they stubbed their toe on something new.