Sacrificing or Suffering? [Petriglieri]

If you’ve been following this publication for a while, you should know by now that I love distinctions.

Our lives our nuanced and subtle, but we often seek to make generalizations and abstractions that help us reduce the complexity and see the bigger picture better. However, sometimes going the other way and adding back that nuance helps just as much. Which is why I love distinctions.

And Gianpiero Petriglieri introduces us to a very powerful distinction in:

Are You Sacrificing for Your Work, or Just Suffering for It?

The core distinction is captured in the following paragraph (emphasis mine):

Not all pain and suffering, however, amount to sacrifice. The difference is not just philosophical. It is practical. Sacrifice might be hurtful and exhausting, but it is a conscious choice. Suffering is the result of feeling that we cannot slow down or else we will be shamed and lose control. Sacrifice makes us who we are. Suffering keeps us captive. When putting our bodies through hell at work, at least for a while, is worth the rewards we get and the contribution we make, it is sacrifice. But if you can come up with many reasons for hurting at work, but see little purpose in it, then it is not.

Petriglieri argues that suffering is more pervasive than sacrifice in the business realm, and hypothesizes the causes for it by contrasting the dynamic in it and those in the realm that’s often cited as having mastered sacrifice — elite athletes:

  1. Lack of discipline in seeking of and working on our limits
  2. Insufficient respect for the criticality of pace
  3. Underinvestment in seeking out the help and support needed to improve

This ponderous note is a good place to pause and reflect…

Sacrificing or Suffering? [Petriglieri]

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