This Too Shall Pass, or Embracing the Suck

In my career, I’ve had some times that weren’t fun: Layoffs. Bad co-workers. Poor working conditions. Indifferent bosses. Many times, all I’ve been able to do is hang on and wait for things to change.

Some inspiration for enduring came a few years ago from television. My husband used to watch a documentary that followed Navy Seal candidates through their qualifying courses. These men had do to some incredibly strenuous and stressful things, including carrying – as a team – a zodiac boat filled with gear and seawater for 8 miles. All this was done when they’d already been awake for 48+ hours straight.

As you might expect, completing the task was difficult. And miserable. For some teams, it became impossible physically but mostly mentally.

As we watched the teams struggle with exhaustion, weakness and doubt, the cameraman asked the drill sergeant what advice he’d give the teams, if he only were allowed to do so.

The sergeant said this: “I’d tell them to embrace the suck. It sucks and it’s going to suck until it stops sucking, so they might as well lean into it and embrace it and make it their own.”


Not long after watching that documentary, I found myself in the midst of a bad situation that wasn’t going to get better any time soon. I was stuck and feeling sorry for myself when a dear friend stopped by my office to check on me.

“How are you doing?” he asked.

I related the story about the Seal Team tryouts philosophy. “I guess I’m just trying to embrace the suck…and not doing a very good job of it,” I told him.

“Hang in there,” he had said. And then he left, telling me things were bound to get better.A couple of weeks later, he stopped back by. “I’ve gotta run,” he said, as he pressed a small envelope into my hand, “but I wanted to leave this with you.” He leaned in toward my ear. “You might want to open this when you’re alone.”

I thanked him, went into my office and closed the door. I opened the envelope and found these two patches.

motivation patches

All I could do was just laugh and tuck the patches back into their envelope. I’ve carried them with me over the years, opening the envelope occasionally to remind myself that when things get bad, I need to lean in and embrace the suck.

So if you’re having a bit of a moment, just remember: This too shall pass.

Happy Monday.

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