Choose the short pain

Well done is quickly done.
Augustus Caesar
63 B.C. – A.D. 14

Some time ago, I was at a business conference where the chairman of a hundred million dollar company was explaining a business principle. It’s a very valid concept and applies not only to business but to our everyday lives.

To illustrate the point, he told a story about himself. One of his top executives had been groomed to be the next CEO of the company. The chairman had agonized over the decision and had finally come to the conclusion that this particular man was not the best person for the job. The CEO made this decision in May of that year. He then agonized for another four months about how and when to break the news to the executive. Not a day went by that he didn’t think about the best way to approach the man.

The CEO took great pride in his team of employees and was concerned that the decision not to promote this man might create real problems. He knew that this executive was expecting to be promoted. The CEO feared the executive’s reaction might spill over to other employees and have a negative impact on the entire organization.

By the month of September, the chairman could no longer put off the unpleasant task. He finally worked up the courage to have the discussion with the executive. As it turned out, the executive wasn’t the least bit upset. In fact, he was somewhat relieved: the executive had been thinking about it and had come to the conclusion that he wasn’t right for the job.

The chairman had negatively impacted the better part of five months with constant anxiety about what he considered a painful task: to discuss an unpleasant situation with one of his employees.

Life is full of unpleasant tasks. We often have problems that we need to discuss with others in our business or personal lives. Rather than face the discomfort, most people choose to delay the inevitable pain.

But there will always be pain in life. We will always be faced with uncomfortable choices and decisions. We can choose the long pain or the short pain: we can choose to delay, thus prolonging the pain, or we can, as the expression goes, bite the bullet and choose the short pain.

If you’re going to have to face the pain eventually, choose the short pain. The chairman in this case created more emotional stress by projecting his own beliefs about what would happen and ruminating on them rather than acting. If you’re bearing bad news, delaying it doesn’t make it easier to bear. Why add to the pain by prolonging it?

Always choose the short pain; face your discomfort and move forward. Delaying the pain only delays your progress.

Do me the favor to deny me at once.
Ben Franklin
1706 – 1790

Copyright © 2017 John Chancellor


Choose the short pain — 2 Comments

  1. Terrific lesson and example! Every time I’ve chosen the long pain, I’ve later realized it was a mistake. And in retrospect that mistake seems so obvious!