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Hard, Harder, Hardest Times

Today I want to analyze a fascinating quote I encountered on Instagram a few weeks ago. I don’t remember who posted it, but these words have been ringing in my ears ever since.  

Hard times create strong men. Strong men create good times. Good times create weak men. And, weak men create hard times.

This quote comes from G. Michael Hopf, the author of the novel, Those Who Remain, which is about a post-apocalyptic world that once was normal. (I haven’t read the book, but now I want to). Hopf came from a military/scuba diving/bodyguard background before ending up as a full-time writer, and I’m assuming that horrific, action pact, and difficult (to say the least) circumstances from the past still leave an impact on his perspective about life.

There are several aspects of this quote that make me pause.

First, the quote strikes at an intriguing aspect of human nature. It’s hard to learn a lesson, much less teach it to the next generation who hasn’t learned it from first-hand experience. I think of parents teaching their children good values: if they don’t decide to accept it, they’re choosing to figure it out themselves, which is oftentimes much more painful. How often do we get in a cycle of peaks of success and valleys of growth throughout life?

Second, the quote implies that it’s not possible to become fully perfect (in this lifetime, at least). We are constantly learning and growing and digressing. However, why could this discourage us from improving? There’s a principle of rewards that result from running after virtuous goals and not letting good get in the way of great.

Additionally, this quote suggests that only the resilient achieve real success. While unfortunately human nature sways according to the good or bad times we end up in, the person who remains attentive towards growing from their weaknesses shows the true strength.

Lastly, our choices partly determine what situations we enter. Life becomes a domino effect of circumstances impacting decisions that determine the next circumstances we step towards. It’s like a web, where every option spans out into a new network of decisions. Depending on the situation, we may be partially responsible for what problems we find ourselves in. How does it grow us? Learning to face what problems got us there and leaning into the values that get us out.

This quote shouldn’t become a self-help pep talk (those almost never work). Instead, I view it as a starting point to analyze the dangers we tend to lean towards by nature. It’s also fascinating, too!

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