Making the Hard Choice Between Pain and Persistence

by Alli Polin on January 9, 2018

Alone on the enormous beach, it was as if we had discovered a secret paradise. The crystal clear water barely had a ripple, the sun was hot with the perfect cool breeze, and we took a collective deep breath as we looked out on the deep blue expanse in front of us. 

“Come on! Let’s go!” shouted one friend to the next. 

Someone grabbed a ball for skimming and playing. 

The girls carved out their own space to catch up after a long absence. 

Everyone was smiling and laughing.

“What was that?”

“Something got me!”


One by one. 

“It got my chest!”

“My leg!”

“My hand!”

One by one they got out of the water to admire the welts left by the stingers; the small jellyfish that were impossible to see until it was too late.

Tears dried and we moved on to sandcastles and relaxing. Soon, there was a game of cricket going too. After a while, hot and happy, we turned back to the water.

“Come on, it will be fine,” said our friend to the children.

“Let’s go,” said the friends to each other only this time slightly wary that paradise wasn’t exactly perfect. 

My son decided to wait it out with me on the shore. Too afraid to go back in he told them he needed a drink for a minute. He’d be there soon… even though I knew he wouldn’t. 

The girls decided they could catch on the beach as easily as in the water. “We’ll go in later,” they shouted in unison. 

Five brave people unwilling to give up on the fun thanks to a little pain waded back into the water. 

I closed my eyes, relaxed, and then the shouting began. 

“Take off your shorts, mate! Get them off!”

A stinger had floated into the youngest child’s bathing suit and was having a party on his skin. 

Soon after, we all left the beach and made our way back to the house. 

The next day, we woke up to clear skies and the ocean inviting us to return. 

My son said, “Let’s do something else. Out of the water.”

My daughter said, “We can’t avoid the water forever. We’re here for the beach. Why let one sting stop us?”

At work, I’ll bet you’ve waded into situations that looked like they’d be ideal and felt the shocking sting of the unexpected. I know I have. 

You have three choices…

1) Get out of the water… or the project or company or team. 

2) Persist… there aren’t stingers everywhere.

3) Stay on the shore… begin to play on the edges and let others go in deep


Who are you?

When you get stung, are you so afraid to go back into the water that you’re willing to give up all of the other parts that are amazing? 

When you see other people get stung, do you get out before it happens to you?

When you know that what could happen isn’t guaranteed to happen, do you give it another go because it’s worth it, or do you let your fear lead the way?

How many times are you willing to feel the sting before moving on? Once, twice, ten times?

How do you decide when something’s worth it?

How do you know that things haven’t changed and the danger that you’re dreading is no longer present until you get in and start to swim again?

Will you watch others doing what you wish you could do? 


Today we’re taking a break from the beach, but I know we’re going back tomorrow. Looking at the water, feeling the call and instead diving into our fear teaches our children that fear wins. I’m not suggesting that we go in ten days in a row and get stung day after day but one day, one try, one dip, does not tell enough of a story. 

Life is full of unknowns and danger at every turn. To live your best, fullest and most fulfilling life, you can’t worry about when and where the next sting will come. Incredible things are available to you when you go all-in not without fear, but despite it.

How are you letting your stings stop you from where you want to go?

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™ January 9, 2018 at 8:18 am

Very deep questions in this post Alli. That line between pain and persistence is a conundrum people face with silent debates in the mind. Even then external circumstances can change the decision each makes and then it can change again.

Wonderful coaching post for every person to ponder!



Alli Polin January 9, 2018 at 7:02 pm

I agree, Kate. How much can I take? Should I give up or is it worth it to keep going? Hard questions without answers that are one size fits all.

Thanks for your support and insight!



Jon Mertz January 9, 2018 at 10:00 am

Indeed. The choices we cannot avoid and the consequences — intended or not — that happen. It is what makes life unexpected, joyful, challenging, and rewarding!


Alli Polin January 9, 2018 at 7:02 pm

Well said, Jon! With you 100%!



Chery Gegelman January 10, 2018 at 10:57 am

I love the point you make with this story Ali. Jellyfish are so painful! And those risks to step outside of our comfort zones, and be vulnerable and risk for joy and\or the good of others can be so terrifying AND SO REWARDING!

Thanks for sharing!


Alli Polin January 10, 2018 at 7:47 pm

Risk for joy. Has me thinking. What am I willing to risk for joy and the good of self and others? Powerful questions worth pondering. Instinctively I know that I would risk a billion stings for the people I love.

Many thanks for your addition!



Cynthia Bazin January 10, 2018 at 2:39 pm

Wow great post Alli! How many times do we get stung? Lots of great questions coming out of this. But as you indicated, you can’t give up because of the challenges that come in at you. I know I am not alone, there are consistent challenges for sure! Definitely sharing out this article. Beautifully written!


Alli Polin January 10, 2018 at 7:55 pm

Right on! We’ll always have challenges that are difficult but some things and some people and some experiences are worth it.

Thanks a ton!



Terri Klass January 12, 2018 at 11:45 am

Wonderful questions and post Alli! Getting stung often prevents us from trying new things or facing our fears. Years ago I presented a program to a very angry group of participants. I was stung by their arrogance and lack of respect for what I was trying to help them with. I could of just taken that experience and blamed myself for everything or understand what was really making them upset. I did the latter and learned to clarify why a learning solution was being suggested.

Thanks Alli and will share! Love your beach story!!


Alli Polin January 12, 2018 at 6:12 pm

Thanks for sharing your story, Terri. It can be easy to blame yourself and internalize the experience. It would have made many hesitant about future opportunities too. You learned from it instead! One of the many reasons you’re a sought-after leadership trainer and speaker.



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