Catching Up

Is Struggle Porn Necessary To Succeed? 5 M'sian Entrepreneurs Tell Us The Dirty Truth.

If you’ve been a constant user of social media especially Facebook, I’m pretty sure you’ve come across so-called inspirational videos where they talk about personal and business success and failure made by influential figures like Prince Ea, Simon Sinek, and Gary Vaynerchuk.

GaryVee—as he often styles himself—recently hit the spotlight again, though perhaps for the wrong reasons, thanks to an article posted on Medium titled ‘No More “Struggle Porn”’.

Screenshot of the piece.

GaryVee’s videos and branding in general are structured around entrepreneurship and working hard to achieve your goals, which isn’t wrong.

However, as pointed out by the Medium article, an underlying message his content broadcasts is that struggling is good. Here’s a glimpse at what his videos are usually about. (PSA, it’s full of vulgarity).

The author of the article dubs this as “struggle porn”: a masochistic obsession with pushing yourself harder, listening to people tell you to work harder, and broadcasting how hard you’re working.

To put it simply, struggle porn has normalised sustained failure, it makes it cool to keep failing and trying to make a business successful when in reality you’re going nowhere.

We wanted to find out if “struggle porn” was a real thing and if Malaysian entrepreneurs agree with the idealogy behind it. If they believed in it, we also wanted to find out how they deal with it too.

1) “Struggles play a role in shaping our character, philosophy, and approach to running a business.”

Kenneth Ho of BEAM has had his fair share with struggling during his entrepreneurial journey, ranging from people management, capital and also customers.

He agrees to a certain degree that it is necessary to struggle to succeed as he believes that we generally learn more from our failures than our successes.

However, he has seen people attain success through minimal struggle and believes that one doesn’t need to struggle to make it to the top. “Sometimes it’s luck, sometimes it’s timing and capitalising on an opportunity while it’s hot.”

As for how he knows when to quit, he advises entrepreneurs to have a financial roadmap and a timeline for results. “Sustainability is key in a business and if you fail to achieve it for a sustained period, it’s a clear indicator of a struggle that’s becoming an eventual failure.”

2) “What if you spend 10 years, heck, even 10 months is too long honing a skill that you’re just not gonna be good at?”

As an entrepreneur who has been into 7 businesses over the span of 15 years, Maverick Foo is happy that 4 are still surviving. One of his pet projects now is Authority Institute.

He has been through the struggles of cash flow, partnerships, finding the right product-market fit, all these struggles have brought him down to times where he could only afford to eat bread and water.

For Maverick, he likes to look at struggle from two points of view—character and skill. Where in skill it’s necessary to struggle to hone the trait, but most entrepreneurs fail to set an expiry date to that “honing”.

As for character it’s more of a life long thing as you have to work on it daily. He gives an example as if someone is being constantly being late, they need to learn to respect time, to plan their schedule better, and to be more mindful of the clock.

“That is a good struggle, because it molds persistence.”

Maverick echoed what Kenneth said for knowing when to quit. “It’s best to set an expiry date to things, or at least milestones. Also, try not to be too emotional over the business. Be passionate about the mission, be committed to the vision, but the path has to be flexible.”

3) “Struggle porn is real.”

Born and raised from a lower-middle-class background, Inbaraj Suppiah the founder of JomHack and The Launchpad agrees that anything and everything requires struggle.

He mentioned that it isn’t necessary to struggle to succeed. From his experience, most successful people actually come from privileged backgrounds and success is handed to them.

“It’s just that we tend to focus more on the rags-to-riches stories because they have a feel good factor. Even trust fund kids make up their own rags-to-riches stories once they become successful… right?”

He added that you will only need to struggle when you don’t have the necessary resources, but struggle and hardship helps to build character.

4) “I think it’s a sign of wisdom to know when to address certain issues and be able to move on.”

Hui Mathews is no stranger to struggles and entrepreneurship, she had to pivot her business, ash be nimble, after 4 years as the business model wasn’t fundamentally correct.

To her, it’s necessary to work hard as there will always be difficult aspects in a business. However she doesn’t agree that you will need to struggle to succeed as it’s very subjective and depends on an individuals definition of success as well. Some are just content with earning a side income while some would want to maximise their profits.

She believes that when we glorify struggle, sometimes it stops people from addressing it properly.

“For example a lot entrepreneurs are stuck with their own businesses and are like in depression, they just are not happy and cant enjoy themselves but feel like they’re trapped in it because they feel that they have no other option.”

5) “I believe that no worthy achievement ever come easy. Tough people last, they won’t call it struggling, they call it fighting rounds.”

Heislyc is a well-known figure among the startup community, as founder of both Devs Asia and StartupMamak. He stated that although he had to go through a steep learning curve in his entrepreneurial journey, he wouldn’t consider it a struggle.

“I try to observe and learn, ask when I am not sure. Struggling will drain energy and isn’t productive. It helps to tell myself that many others have been through what I am going through, and I’m not alone.”

He mentioned that instead of struggling and then failing there is a need to adapt to put efforts into making the struggle into succeeding, be comfortable with getting out of the comfort zone and it should be empowering and rewarding, not the other way around.

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After hearing what entrepreneurs had to say, it’s clear that they believe in knowing when to stop trying and when to call it a day, rather than keep working on something and not going anywhere. So just heed their advice and you should be on the right track.

Although it’s nice to watch Gary’s videos as they’re inspirational and makes you feel good, you should always take it with a pinch of salt. Everyone has a different journey and different struggles.

As Kenneth of BEAM summarised Gary’s content, “In a crowded world, it’s crucial to differentiate oneself to cut through the noise. His approach, although controversial, garners high viewership through sensationalised, hyperbole content.”

Feature Image Credit: Unsplash/ Francisco Moreno

 

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