The Fantastic Life

Suffering Pleasurably

I love writing about Type 2 Fun – the type of fun that is challenging in the moment but rewarding in retrospect. I normalized this type of fun over 30 years ago when I started running marathons/ultra-marathons while I was working 70+ hours a week.

This is not a brag session, just an observation — I KNOW Type 2 fun. So when I saw the article below by Robert Vera, I had to write a LIFEies.

I know Robert and he is the real deal. I wanted you to read this because he eloquently writes about Type 2 fun and calls it suffering pleasurably. I love his lessons, his reasoning, and how he writes.

Here are three key takeaways:

1. Learn something new each time you are suffering.

2. The difference between struggling, suffering, and pain. Struggling is a contest, an action against an opposing force. Pain is an adverse condition associated with struggling. Suffering is a state of being.  And the choice we get to make.

3. Expand suffering pleasurably into all parts of our lives.  

Learning to suffer pleasurably has been a great accomplishment in my life.


The Fantastic Life Rule #9:
Recognize There Are Two Types of Pain

Just as there are two types of fun, there are also two types of pain: the pain of discipline and the pain of regret.  The pain of discipline and Type 2 fun go hand-in-hand – teaching us to overcome challenges in the moment in order to reap rewards down the line.



Suffering Pleasurably and Other Leadership Lessons

By: Robert Vera, MBA | Published on July 18, 2022

The route is near fifty miles round trip, the total elevation gain is greater than climbing Mt. Everest the world’s highest peak. In this exquisite place, I have experienced temperatures so hot that the soles of my shoes have melted. When it’s this burning hot the air stings my face, but on the same day, and in this same place, I have been so cold that it was hard to form words because my face was frozen numb. It’s common to experience more than a thirty-degree temperature change within hours.

129 degrees at Indian Gardens, South Rim, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA


If it were a mountain, it would be the deadliest one on the planet, as each year an average of twelve people perish here, but it’s not — it’s an inverted mountain — a canyon — the Grand Canyon to be precise. Every year for the past twenty, I’ve traversed it from South Rim to North Rim and then back to the South Rim. There is nothing physically or mentally that compares to the distance, elevation, and heat of the canyon. I’ve completed multiple Ironman triathlons and have climbed to the 14,411-foot summit of Mt. Rainier a half dozen times. Climbing the icy, glacier cover Rainier, and swimming 2.4 miles, riding my bike 112, then running a 26.2-mile marathon to complete an Ironman are both child’s play compared to a single day Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim crossing.

Most times I traverse the canyon non-stop — touch the top and turn around, occasionally I stay over on the north side and return the next day. Each time the canyon teaches me something new about myself, about my hiking companions, about life, and I learn something new about her.

She has forged profound lessons into me — like scars, I wear them in the deep vertical squint lines on my face. The endless miles of training has caused the veins in my legs to bulge hard against my skin. She has educated me on how to suffer pleasurably, and this has been one of my most valuable lessons. There is a difference between struggling, suffering, and pain. Struggling is a contest, an action against an opposing force. Pain is an adverse condition associated with struggling. Suffering is a state of being. Once this triad is set in motion, we have the option to freely choose our state of being. Thus, my response is to suffer pleasurably, and the benefits have been countless. My response to struggling and pain is my own choice. Nobody, but I has the authority to say how I should respond to my own personal struggles and pain. The Grand Canyon has taught me this.

I’m paranoid, the Grand Canyon has a long history of murdering adrenaline-filled fools and novice adventure seekers who underestimate her distance, ruthless heat, and ceaseless inclines. I humbly prepare for the journey like a professional athlete so not to be one of her many victims. Most days I train by hiking up steep hills against gravity, other days I struggle to push my 6,000-pound truck around an empty parking lot. The weight of the truck causes lactic acid to build up in my legs to the point of intense pain. After training my legs are rock hard, they are filled with blood and acid. This lactic acid build-up is a trigger for my body to secrete Human Growth Hormone. This hormone is naturally produced by the pituitary gland. It’s critical for muscle growth, cell regeneration, and reproduction, it’s also what many medical professionals refer to as the fountain of youth. I’m fatigued and sore for several days after truck pushes, I can feel my body changing — growing, repairing.

During my intense intervals, time stops, and I feel ageless. I don’t feel the physical difference between the 55-year-old me, and the 25, 35, or 45-year-old me. I’ve been able to maintain or increase my same pace year after year. When I’m training, my mind is entirely engaged in the moment, there is no past, no future, there is only now, and I move forward. I’m suspended in the moment, I can feel my heart pounding in my chest and hear it in my ears, my lungs burn, and a faint metallic taste fills my mouth. Hemoglobin molecules bind to iron, some of this hemoglobin leaks from the red blood cells in my lungs and is transported through the bronchi to my mouth. Once in my mouth, iron molecules come in contact with receptors that are sensitive to iron, thus, the metallic taste. I offer no command for my legs to move, it’s visceral. I feel alive, electric, beautifully connected to the world.

I enjoy my uphill training hikes and truck pushes. I look forward to doing them alone, and the pain, and pleasure they deliver. My competition is me, the younger me, the me of yesterday, and the me of the week before. My mission is to become faster, stronger, defy age, and my own limits. I’ve been doing it for so long that this all feels comfortable and normal to me. Over the years, others who have trained with me don’t feel this same way.

The benefits of embracing the uncomfortable and to suffering pleasurably have carried over into other parts of my life. Writing books and earning a master’s degree seem easy compared to my canyon adventures. My canyon experience makes everything else feel doable, not easy, but doable. I joyfully engage in work and community activities that most people reject either because of fear, dislike, or they believe that these efforts are too big, or too much work. There are others who categorized these activities as too trivial and beneath them. Both are dangerous classifications — the first betrays a lack of self-confidence, and the second reveals excessive ego. I blissfully carry out these uncomfortable tasks, which at times gives others the “permission” to do the same. I have come to learn that giving others permission to work hard foments self-worth and is the incubator of leadership.

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