Genghis Khan, born in the the heart of Asia during the 12th century, would go on to become the most feared warrior of his age, command an almost undefeatable army and forge the single largest land empire the world had ever seen. Whilst utterly ruthless and guilty of causing untold suffering he was also responsible for many positive innovations such as religious freedom, the abolishment of torture, international postal systems and the early promotion of global commerce. Whether viewed as a barbaric leader or founding pillar of the modern world neither looked likely when Genghis took his first few breaths.
Temujin (as he was then known) was born to humble beginnings in a violent and unpredictable society of nomadic tribes occupying the central Asian steppe. He survived the early death of his father, outcasting of his family, near starvation, freezing winters, fraternal feuds, enslavement, the kidnapping of his wife and brutal tribal warfare all before he had even begun to forge the empire which would make him famous centuries after his death.
Recognising how the struggles of his youth helped forge him as a person he applauded hard-won strength above all else. He awarded positions of authority to those whose blood, sweat and tears had sculpted the right character and skills, not those who simply descended from the right bloodline. In Genghis Khan’s world struggle led to growth.
Fast forward almost 900 years and the world of Genghis Khan is a distant memory. Many of the struggles which helped mold our ancestors are now crumbling in the face of new technology.
- We can communicate with anyone in the world anytime, anywhere
- We can cross the planet and eat indefinitely with zero physical effort
- We can live for 365 days a year completely sheltered from the elements
- We can access the worlds information at the click of a button
Whichever way you look the path of least resistance grows broader. Sounds great right? Yes, it is pretty cool and I for one am happy to be living in 2015 and not on the Asian steppe in 1162, but there is one big drawback…
As Genghis Khan recognised, struggle helps us grow.
In his book, The Art Of Learning, Josh Waitzkin sums this up elegantly with the statement growth comes at the point of resistance.
Obviously I hope no one who reads this ever has to endure the hardships of a young Genghis but there are plenty of situations in the modern world where choosing to bypass convenience and comfort can lead to positive development.
Staying strong and healthy is one such example. It is easy to miss a workout. It is easy to buy junk food. It is easy to stay on the sofa. It is easy to drive the car. It is easy to take the lift. Staying in great shape is a constant struggle against the ease of modern culture.
It is also a struggle well worth fighting.