Charlie Munger’s No. 1 tip for dealing with hardship: Cry, but don’t quit

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When your life hits a rough patch, there’s nothing wrong with shedding a few tears, but “you have to soldier through it,” according to late billionaire Charlie Munger.

“You can cry, all right. But you can’t quit,” Munger told CNBC’s Becky Quick last month, shortly before his death at age 99. Amid sharing his tips for success and longevity, Munger said that challenging times are inevitable in everyone’s life.

What matters is how you cope and then move on, he said: “Somehow you soldier through. If you have to walk through the streets, crying for a few hours a day as part of the soldiering, go ahead and cry away. But … you can’t quit.”

On the surface, Munger’s life may have appeared idyllic. He was a successful lawyer and investor, extremely wealthy and he lived a long, seemingly happy life. But his struggles and sadness were intense: a divorce in his 20s, blindness in one eye as a result of a failed cataract surgery and — just two years after his divorce — the death of his 9-year-old son Teddy, who had leukemia.

“I cried all the time when my first child died,” said Munger. “But I knew I couldn’t change [anything]. In those days, the fatality with childhood leukemia was 100%.”

Your ability to recover from struggles or disappointments, whether in your personal life or career, is essential for your success and happiness in the long run, experts say. “I don’t think there’s any skill more critical for success than resilience,” Wharton organizational psychologist and bestselling author Adam Grant told CNBC Make It in 2017.

Often, that can mean properly grieving or processing your disappointment before moving forward. As Munger noted, crying can be a healthy way of doing that: It literally helps you let go of emotional distress through the release of endorphins, research shows.

In contrast, repressing those emotions can exacerbate a variety of mental and physical health issues.

“The iron rule of life is: Everybody struggles,” Munger said. People who can summon the strength to carry on — sometimes, learning a valuable lesson in the process — are more likely to live happy, successful lives.

“It’s your only option. You can’t bring back the dead, you can’t cure the dying child. You can’t do all kinds of things,” said Munger. “You have to soldier through it.”

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