Strength Rejoices in the Challenge

Y esterday, we watched the Hilllsdale Chargers men’s basketball team battle conference leader and #16 Finlay in a well played and entertaining game. During halftime, a number of commercials aired which demonstrated various aspects of the College and its mission. One commercial focused on Hillsdale Athletics and the College motto: Virtus Tentamine Gaudet – Strength Rejoices in the Challenge.


Whenever I visit Hillsdale’s arena, I pause to read the words of the motto in large print when entering the bleachers.  They are powerfully brief and compelling. In the commercial referenced above, the viewer sees a number of athletes training for their respective sport. Each scene shows a solo athlete, in a dark gym, on a dark field, or on a lonely road sweating as he or she prepares for competition. None of the images show anyone in an actual contest. The message is clear: the best are willing to pay the price to be their best.

I often think of the expression during days when challenges abound. With my team, I talk about “the worthy challenges” before us. A worthy challenge is something that helps us become our best. Do we seek them? Not directly. Let’s face it, challenges aren’t always fun. Often, they are traumatic.  But the challenges are what push us to become better.

The reality is that we often seek to avoid challenges. We prefer to exist in a steady state. It is natural to seek a state of equilibrium, after all, it appears more comfortable. The two primary problems with aiming for a steady-state of existence is that 1) we aren’t improving and 2) what we think of as maintaining the status quo is typically an illusion. The reality is that we are either moving forward or sliding backward – there is no steady state. Ultimately, change is necessary, whether we want it or not.

To rejoice in the challenge is to recognize how we become better. It is to understand that the status quo will not lead us to the best version of our self. Here, we embrace challenges, and change, as a vehicle to experience life more fully. It doesn’t mean we go looking for problems or that we enjoy pain. To celebrate these moments is to understand them for what they are: inflection points past which we become more. Yes, rejoicing is done after we’ve survived the challenge. At no point during the Hillsdale video are the athletes jumping for joy because of their grueling workouts. The celebration comes later.

Still fresh into 2018, now is a good time to add Hillsdale’s motto to your collection of rallying cries. Know that challenges are ahead: relational, professional, financial, political, spiritual, and on and on. Push toward your best self knowing that these challenges will help you evolve and become better in the experience. Make the investments every day to test yourself and continue to learn how to improve. Celebrate the hard won successes and recognize the part the challenges played in attaining them. In that place, you will find reason to rejoice.


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