Whatever Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger - True or False?

By Leo Gura - April 29, 2014 | 9 Comments

A closer look at this popular saying from Friedrich Nietzsche.

Video Transcript

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Hey, this is Leo for Actualized.org and in this video I want to talk about a classic adage which goes, “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. Now is that true or is that false?

All right, so let’s talk about that. Is it true or is it false that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? Before we look into that, just to let you know I’m standing here in the center of Toronto, downtown Toronto. I’ve got the CN Tower behind me but in front of it I’ve got this giant locomotive which is part of this railroad museum that they have right in the downtown area. Kind of cool, so I thought I’d shoot a video here.

Fuel For The Road

I’ve been thinking lately about this issue of whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I want to believe that and I tend to tell that to people as advice when they’re going through something difficult. I just tend to say, “Use it as fuel for the road. Use it as fuel to keep you moving, keep you going. Even if something bad happens to you, there’s always a silver-lining to it”, etcetera, etcetera.

Here in Toronto I’ve been going through a pretty bad legal trial and it’s been triggering me emotionally quite a bit. More so than I’ve been triggered in a long, long, long time. In fact just the other day I can say I had one of the most brutal days in my life spending eight hours in the courtroom. Going through that and some of the emotions that came up for me I really started to think about this.

Is this situation going to make me stronger or is it actually going to make me weaker? Is it possible to have a situation that’s so bad that you still live through it, but in the end you come out crippled? Maybe not physically crippled, but I’m talking about emotionally crippled. And what about that, is it possible for situations to emotionally cripple you?

And if it is, and it’s possible to actually get yourself involved in a mess that will leave you worse off in life than you were before you got into it, then does that mean we should be more conservative with the kinds of decisions that we make in life? The kind of things that we undertake? The kind of projects that we start? The kind of businesses maybe we get ourselves involved with? Or the kind of relationships that we go into or anything else like that?

My Take

So here’s my opinion on this. I think in the short term, you can definitely get yourself involved in a pickle and you can definitely paint yourself into a corner and maybe it’s with a business or with a relationship that turns into a marriage or something else. You can do something so stupid with your life or with your finances that it’s going to take you a long time to recover from it.

So this could be a very catastrophic mistake and yet even in the short run and even in the medium run if that mistake is very bad it will certainly hinder your performance and it might get you to start doubting yourself, it might make you fearful, it might make you cowardly, it might make you retreat into your shell so you don’t go out there and you don’t live life to the fullest the way that you wanted to. So in that sense you’ve got to be careful about some of the stuff you get yourself involved with because it can really cripple your life.

On the other hand, it also comes to mind all these scenarios where people have made really, really stupid decisions, have really fucked up their lives, whether through drugs or getting themselves involved in a marriage that then breaks up and then they lose a large chunk of their money, or getting scammed in some sort of Ponzi scheme, or maybe getting frauded out of some money because of some business transaction that didn’t go their way, or just some bad luck. Maybe a death in the family, a death of someone that’s really close to you, a child a spouse, a loved one, a parent… Those really tough cases.

Is It A Curse?

What’s going to happen is that basically in the short and medium term, they’re going to feel very, very bad, they’re going to feel very painful and you’re going to have to give yourself some breathing room to grieve through it, work your way through it, have the fears come out and play that whole game. So that’s going to have to happen and in that time as that’s happening to you, it’s starting to snow here, is as that’s happening to you, you are going to feel like this is something that’s very miserable and you’re going to feel like this is something that should not be in your life and that you are cursed with misfortune for having this.

That’s certainly how I felt the last few days about this trial, is I felt like I would give anything to undo it. I would give anything to just pull myself out so I don’t have to deal with it. I wish this never happened. I wish I would have made some different decisions in the past so I wouldn’t have gotten into this trial in the first place. Ok, fair enough, but even today I’m feeling… I’m feeling much better about it. I think that it’s still tough. You might make the case and be like, “What about a rape? What about a near death experience? What if someone kidnaps you and starts torturing you?”

A Source Of Motivation

In that kind of a scenario, is it better for that to not have happened? Isn’t that better? Doesn’t that make sense? Wouldn’t it be nicer to just cut out all that traumatic shit? Or if you lose someone close to you isn’t it better that you didn’t lose that person?

I don’t know. I think ultimately actually, there is a deep core truth and I think that Friedrich Nietzsche said this, “Whatever doesn’t kill you, truly makes you stronger”. Now, that doesn’t mean that it’s going to feel good in the moment, it doesn’t mean it’s going to feel good a week or a month afterwards, but ultimately what it does is it builds a certain psychological resilience within you and especially during those really trying times.

Those can be times that really define your character. Those can be times that then create new sources of motivation that you can use to go out there and take on big projects that you wouldn’t have otherwise done. Those can be…those really powerful, life-shaping events and those kind of catastrophic failures, whether you lose a business or a loved one or something like that, it makes you so much more… so much more appreciative of what you have, so much more appreciative of what you had and then in the future when you go out and you still become successful, you still going to take action and do new things and find new to people to love and get into relationships and have new marriages.

What it’s going to do is it’s going to make you much more grounded and stable. That’s my feeling right now because I went through this brutal trial the other day and now I feel like everything else is so easy, it’s so easy! I was bitching and moaning about having to come out here and shoot and it is really cold out here so my fingers are really numb. In fact, a video I was just shooting here on the seashore here in Toronto, it got so cold I was literally worried that I would have frostbite because I was shooting a video and my fingers were… I couldn’t feel my fingers because I was out there so long in the cold to get the right shot and it feels like this is heaven. This is heaven compared to what I went through yesterday so to me this is so nice. This is so nice!

You Toughen Up

It makes everything else so much easier and I think that that’s literally what is going on here, is that your psychology becomes more robust. It’s kind of like skin. When you’ve got sensitive skin and you keep puncturing it and you keep putting wear and tear on it what happens is it starts to build up a callus and the skin starts to harden up and toughen up extra layers of skin grow and it builds up a callus so that in the future when you’re poking and prodding at that skin it doesn’t bleed. It doesn’t rip quite as easily. It’s very resilient. And that’s what’s literally also happening with your psychology when you’re going through life and experiencing tough events.

If your life is just all smooth sailing and you have good luck and money just comes your way and you happen to get into awesome relationships and everything just happens to be working out in your business. If that’s your life, wow! First of all, congratulations, you’re extremely lucky. You’re very rare to have that. But also you better pray every single day that that luck continues because you know what? If one day it runs out, you’re going to be in a world of world of pain because that skin, you have such a thin layer of skin that anything can puncture it and basically what you have to be literally doing is praying for good luck so that nothing comes along and punctures it, because if it does it’s going to rip apart very easily and you’re going to basically bleed out.

On the other hand, if you’re facing the kind of life where you have horrible luck: bad relationships, you get involved with the wrong people, bad business, you’re losing money everywhere… Just all this stuff keeps happening to you, yes that’s tough and sure, I would not want to trade places with you, but on the other hand you’re building up a lot of psychological resilience here, tough skin. You’ve got calluses building up in your mind and that’s actually making you very, very resourceful, making you very powerful.

From that place you can actually accomplish many things. Many people, many celebrities, many politicians, many big movers and shakers in life, entrepreneurs, people that have really influenced society in a positive way, they’ve come from exactly these kinds of places and the reason that is, is because once they go through that trauma, once they go through all the trials and tribulations they come out with a very thick skin, very robust mentality, a psychology that will let them handle the worst of what the world can throw at you.

And sometimes the world will throw a really hard punch and if you’re not ready for it, if you’ve never been hit by a hard punch in your life then that’s going to really sting you and a lot of times it will totally derail you, no pun intended, it will derail you off your tracks and off your course in life. Whereas if you’re suffering a little bit here and there, that’s actually good, that’s actually how it should be.

So ultimately I think that you have to just push through, push through, push through, stay on your track, stay on course, and yes, you’re going to have tough times, you’re going to have times when you think you have to quit, you’re going to have times tough times that you think you wouldn’t have ever wanted on yourself and that you just wish could have been taken back.

Give It Time

But let some time pass. Don’t be too quick to judge. If it’s a really traumatic event, let a couple of months pass, let a couple of years pass and see what happened to you. Maybe you can analyze your past and see, you’ve probably had a couple of traumatic events you can already analyze. What you’re going to see is that actually you’re probably going to be very grateful for the fact that you have that experience and now that is a foundation on which you can build your life, you can build your grand castle.

All right, that’s it. That’s what I have to say about whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Ultimately I think it’s a very, very true statement. Maybe I would make an exception for very extreme circumstances like if you were kidnapped and tortured or raped, but I think that there’s even a case to be made that even in those situations there’s still a silver lining and you can actually use those situations to create a very powerful kind of life. So don’t get discouraged if you’re going through something like that. I just went through a traumatic event just the other day with my courtroom trial, but now I’m feeling all right. I’m not too worried right now even if I don’t know the results of it so we’ll see, but here I’m going to go right now and check out the CN Tower if they’ll let me up there and get a whole view of the city of Toronto. That’ll be cool because I’m flying out of here tomorrow morning.

Wrap Up

All right, this is Leo signing off. Go ahead post your comments down below. Please like this, please share it and of course come check out Actualized.org, sign up to our newsletter. I’m releasing new videos, new articles, other goodies for you every single week about how to self-actualize, how to master your own psychology so that you can create and extraordinary sort of life, a lot of tips, a lot of tricks, a lot of strategies…the big picture understanding of how to do that.

You don’t want to miss that stuff out. Sign up, follow along, because I’m releasing new material all the time and I find it takes a while for your brain to catch on to this stuff. One video is nice, you can use it, right off the bat I hope you can get some valuable insight from it, but ultimately sign up and follow along because that’s what’s really going to transform your life. So sign up right now.

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Ninos says:

This is a tuff topic that you have brought up. I went thru a 6 yr ordeal that I am still paying for. When economy was going up I bought a vacant lot in glendale heights illinois for the purpose of building a shopping center and child day care center. It was my first commercial project and I had done lots of residential. I got a architect and we presented the plans to the village and they didn’t say no but didn’t say yes either. They simply had questions and changes to th drawings. Every meeting date was three months a

Ninos says:

I accidentally hit a wrong button. So these meetings with the village dragged on and on. I had a mortgage of $4500 per month. I worked as a plumber and real estate so I struggled to make payments and architects and engineers with no answer. They where trying to where me down financial without saying no to the project because they had no reason to say no. They wanted a big development to come and and build the entire block and my project could hinder the future development. That not fair, but there was nothing I could do. So we decided to not wast anymore time with more drawings and asked for a yes or no. They unanimously said no for both buildings, the strip center and the daycare center.
So we took them to court to get some justice. That took about a year and half and we lost. My attorney suggested the judge was over worked and didn’t follow the case good enough that we should take them to appealt court. That is what we did and that took another year and half and we lost again. At this point I am bleeding money. I am taking loans on my properties and credit card. There was nothing we could do. They didn’t even let us pave it and do a used car lot. I had no move, to make matters worst my dad had put himself on the loan so I can quilfy. My dad has excelant credit and refuses to stop paying. He kept saying just wait it out something will happen. Economy started to get worst and worst i couldn’t sell it, build it. I kept bleeding $4500 every month for over 6 years. My loss was above half million in cash. I was born in Baghdad Iraq, we’re sadam hussian was a dectator and extremely evil. But we knew that, we would never go against him. So we escaped and came to America where you can get justice and if you put your problem to the justice system you can get justice. How wrong that was. The judges the lawyers and village was in relation with each other. Even if I won the case took so long and I lost so much money it wasn’t even worth the fight. Even if I win they set the law up so you can never get damages from the village. Wow!! That is so evil makes sadam hussian look like a saint.
I eventually lost the land and messed up my dad’s credit. I am in bankruptcy. I tried to alert newspapers and other media outlets to the injustice. They wanted nothing to do with it. They are all in bed with each other. The media,the village, the attorneys, judges. They even made statements like we don’t want to see little maw and paw shopping centers. We want national retailers, my attorney said they can legally discrimante against financial reasons.

Only thing I learned that there is a lot of evil in the world and there is nothing you can do about it. Evil is hiding behind a cloak of civil servants and judges. Justice will never be served when all theses politicians and judges are in bed together. I want to make something good come out of this and bring my story out, but no one cares. I had a lot of psychological trama while paying this money every month. I am trying to build scar tissue and move past what could of been and what is. I will be ok, just very bitter towards the legal system.

Max Gron says:

That’s the truest thing anyone’s said on this organisation, there really is a lot of evil in the world and there’s an evil legal system, evil in the cloak of those civilians, it’s awful and all you can do is drink some alcoholic wine worried about life.

feenix says:

Thanks for sharing Leo.

From my own experiences I can say that you have this spot on for me.

What has helped me through the tough times we inevitably experience in our life journeys is that;
-everything is temporary so this to will come to pass
-you can understand how to interpret each situation from a positive perspective, it truly is your choice, the tougher the experience the tougher it can be, but the biggest gains and benefits are to be had here
-the real challenge is being able to see and focus on this as we live through these experiences, Victor Frankls ‘man’s meaning of life’ has been my own personal inspiration here and would recommend this to anyone who needs similar inspiration through the tough times, for if someone who experienced the terrors of nazi war camps can do so positively and come out the other side, against what turned out to be insurmountable odds for many, then there’s always hope for me and my life’s challenges.

Thanks again, great topic!

Jennifer says:

This is a good look for you What ever happened with this case?

Lyn C says:

Dear Leo,
I am new to your website and I truly cannot thank you enough for the very much needed Food for the Soul ! I decided to finally make some serious changes to my life, and your videos are giving me much needed strength and encouragement. I only wish I found them before.

Again many thanks !
Lyn C

Natasha says:

Trials make you either bitter or better. Always choose the path towards better.

Setareh says:

I love that you shot this topic in the dead winter of Toronto. Thanks for all the insight throughout your webpage, it’s seriously changing my life and thanks for repping Canada!!

Max Gron says:

What doesn’t kill me only makes me stronger, to the point that I can’t take the heat and get mad at a guy and want to point fingers, get upset and frustrated, hate life and drink alcoholic wine, the fact that Nietzsche made that stupid saying doesn’t say anything about a more pessimistic man who hates life, I think that saying’s false.

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