TED Conversations

Scott Seigel


This conversation is closed.

How has enduring some extreme hardship profoundly impacted your life?

Twenty years ago, the death of my best friend allowed me to cry after the Army had "trained" it out of me. Recently marital separation has caused me to evaluate and refocus my life on deeper, more valuable things than pleasure, power, status and wealth. Voluntarily living to serve and care for others transcends logic and selfishness. It's benefits far surpass self-serving forms of love. Whether you are "paying it forward," "doing as you'd want others to do for you," or "creating good karma," personally making the world a better place probably benefits the doer most of all. Furthermore, the more you're willing to endure and suffer, the better the result.


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • May 6 2012: Scott, for me hardships and suffering have made me a better person, that is, once I embraced the hardship.

    This is a great subject, because the underlying topic starts to get at the heart of where I believe a society goes wrong and destroys itself.

    Innately we want to reduce suffering, first and foremost our own. Secondly we reduce the suffering of our kids and family members, then we move on to reducing the suffering of strangers. This creates a society where policies are implemented and charities are created under the pretense of alleviating suffering. However, in many cases they ultimately only postpone or extend suffering and create a dependency that is destructive to the human spirit.

    You nailed it when you said, "Furthermore, the more you're willing to endure and suffer, the better the result." This is why I believe we must be careful how we help others, because we can easily deny them the opportunity to experience the euphoria of overcoming their own obstacles; though I do believe in helping GUIDE people through their difficulties.

    It seems to be much easier to just do it for them (Of which I think is very selfish.) instead of taking the time to teach them how. (Which requires more energy and dedication.)

    Thanks for the topic,

    W.P. Baldwin
    • thumb
      May 7 2012: As an educator, yours is the perspective I hope mature high school graduates and many college graduates will develop. What I see around me in the way of laziness, entitlement thinking and a short-cut mentality supports your points poignantly. I'm presently teaching more math than anything else, and I notice a general trend toward "good enough to pass," and "so what if I don't understand" mentalities. Even the threat of repeating a class doesn't motivate attitudinal change. The idea that the hardships that do not destroy us make us stronger is valuable and provocative. The idea that "everyone deserves...[fill in the blank with something of value / cost]" is socially, economically, and practically untenable. When help truly is required, the highest goal of the helper must not be to totally meet the need, but to assist the recipient to overcome the need and move toward greater independence. If we give everyone a fish, we only have fewer and more exhausted fishermen. If we teach everyone to fish, everyone can eat and rest (until the fish start to run out). Interestingly, building on the fishery depletion idea and a bit of market theory, crowds manage resources more wisely than individual or elite groups. Also, large, relatively poor populations lack the capital investiture and infrastructure needed to effectively over-fish. This raises interesting questions for me.
      1) Can governmental, academic and business "wisdom" outperform market wisdom?
      2) Do society and the environment benefit most when the means of production are most widely and evenly apportioned?
      3) How do we encourage a broad social move TOWARD embracing hardships, facing challenges and intentionally doing hard things?
      Here's MY challenge to everyone reading this: one or more of you pick up some of these questions, make them your own, throw back a few starfish and start changing lives!
      • May 7 2012: Scott, you make a good point.

        When a sector of the economy becomes more industrialized the authority to manage that sector falls into the hands of a select and, or ambitious few, along with the money of course. This power gives them access to the world stage in which they can jump from one country to another as resources run out. Therefore, going off of your fish idea, they are more liable to overuse and abuse.

        This industrialization concept parallels the topic of helping people. They have industrialized compassion. Now people do not have to directly help their fellow man, they only have to give money to a charity and, or pay their taxes to help people; basically the people do not have to get their hands dirty anymore. This creates a disconnect between the giver (payer) and the recipient (or taker) and any amount of accountability on both sides. I believe industrializing compassion has distorted the real meaning of what compassion is.

        1) I do not believe government can have wisdom. The power they can achieve intoxicates even the strongest of individuals, ultimately corrupting the system. Market forces can have a greater wisdom, but there are many variables; like the type of government that is in place.

        2) In most cases, property owners are going to take better care of their property than if the property is collectively owned.

        3) This is the most difficult. To encourage people to embrace hardships goes against human nature. In most cases, people will do what comes easiest. The people will have to be immersed in the difficulty through a natural order of events; an event where they realize that they had been their own worst enemy all along.

        Thank you,

        W.P. Baldwin

        P.S. I was born at Ennis and lived at Melrose until I was eight.
    • thumb
      May 8 2012: BTW, Here's a coincidence for WPB: I was born in Atlanta!

      "It's a small world...but I wouldn't want to paint it." ~Steven Wright
      • May 8 2012: Scott, isn't that something. What are the odds of that.

        And I am sorry that I didn't have a good answer to number 3. I have been contemplating that very problem for a number of years. In a democracy the people will not vote themselves into an environment that would require more sacrifice from themselves, only from others.

        Anyway, I wish you well and thanks for the back and forth,

        W.P. Baldwin

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.