The Manifesto of Hard

It’s too difficult… I don’t think I can.

Those are words frequently spoken moments before a breakthrough happens and a transformative event takes place. Those words are uttered just before the person saying them achieves a new level in life, business, or whatever.

Things Are Hard

Things are hard. Every time we turn around, we’re faced with some difficulty or challenge — a seemingly insurmountable conundrum that threatens to push us backwards.

I’m talking here of everything in life. From the moment we enter the world until the moment we leave it, we’re faced with difficulties:

As babies, life should be simple because they really only do a couple of things (eat, sleep, and other less-adorable things) but those are hard for babies because they don’t always get the things they want and can’t easily communicate the problem. So there’s lots of crying.

As toddlers, life continues to be difficult. We’re learning to walk and eat and share and don’t reach over and smack someone else. Each of these things is achieved with a great degree of difficulty. (Have you ever seen a kid learning to walk? Yes, they’re proud of themselves when they finally get it but I’ve seen drunk people with better balance).

As children, we continue to face hardship. Going to school was hard. Making friends was hard, and so was losing those friends. Being bullied was hard. Learning to ride a bike was hard. All of those things are hard.

As teens, life doesn’t get easier. The challenges of life get even more difficult when you mix in puberty, romance, learning to drive, going to high school, preparing for college.

As adults, life continues to be hard. We’ve got bills to pay, kids to feed, managers to appease, aging parents to think about, and our own retirement that constantly marches toward us.

… And these are just the hardships we face when things are going fine. Mix in health problems, emergencies, job changes, social and economic uncertainty, and suddenly the hard things just got harder.

Yes, we do find joy in these times but there are many difficult things we face in life. It’s like a pendulum, with each extreme side of the pendulum as some kind of hardship while the center point of the pendulum is the brief period of respite when we can exhale for a moment of peace before things turn chaotic again.

The Problem With Hard Things

As kids, we had little choice; we had to face those hardships because we wanted to grow up. So we suffered the incredible challenges of learning to walk or going to school or learning to ride a bike or learning to drive.

But as adults, when we finally gain control of our lives (as much as is possible), we try to keep that pendulum from swinging too far to either extreme. We do whatever we can to keep the pendulum close to the center — close to the easiness.

This sounds good, doesn’t it? At the end of a very long day, when the kids have finally gone to bed, there is nothing easier than flaking out in front of the TV for a few minutes with a bag of chips, just to lose yourself in the story of whatever happens to be on. You’ve got an hour or two of this before you have to get up again tomorrow and do it all over again.

I think this is a problem.

I assert that hard is good, and the more challenge we accept in life, the better we are because of it. I also assert that there is a grave danger in trying to keep the pendulum from swinging too far from the center.

Too often we try to keep ourselves in that comfort zone, trying to strike a delicate balance between daily hardships.

I’m not just talking about kicking back in front of the TV. I’m talking about taking fewer chances with anything in life.

I frequently meet people who are dissatisfied in their jobs and want to quit; however, their desire for the default “ease” of a predictable life far outweighs their desire to leave their job, so the end up accepting the small daily hardship of their job instead of the hardship that comes with leaving.

I see it in business, too: People want to take the fast-track; the easy route. They want the reward without the hard work.

The most successful people in any endeavor are the ones who learn to accept, anticipate, and embrace the hardship required.

Why Things Should Be Hard

Things should be hard.

  1. Hard things are a filter that keeps most people out and lets only a few people through.
  2. Hard things are our “tuition” to a priceless education.
  3. Hard things are the price we pay for the rewards.
  4. Hard things define us.

Hard things are a filter that keeps most people out and lets only a few people through.

Hard things are our “tuition” to a priceless education.

Hard things are the price we pay for the rewards.

Hard things define us.

One more reason why things should be hard …

Hard Things Are A Guide

Hard things are a guide for us showing us the road less traveled… the road that may lead to greater success simply because too many other people took the easier path.

For that reason, we should think about running toward hardship… toward the hard challenges… toward difficulty… and embrace the struggle of challenging effort to sharpen us.

Hard things are a beacon, beckoning us away from the path of least resistance and tempting the right people (not everyone, just a few) to reach for more and to grasp it.

How To Embrace The Hard Work

  1. Prepare
  2. Don’t prepare
  3. Learn
  4. Embrace change
  5. Embrace calculated risk
  6. Break it down into the simplest possible controllable actions
  7. Get inspired
  8. Work tirelessly
  9. Become the person who rises to the challenge
  10. Lean on others
  11. Accept the challenge
  12. Sacrifice
  13. Love finding problems (and solutions)
  14. Make it easier
  15. Make it harder
  16. Get creative
  17. Don’t ever stop
  18. Recognize difficulty
  19. Perseverance
  20. Take risks
  21. Find joy in chaos
  22. Find joy in prevailing
  23. Feel alive
  24. Contingencies
  25. Set big goals
  26. Stretch and break your assumptions
  27. Don’t hold back
  28. Push yourself
  29. Double down
  30. Celebrate and then move on
  31. Chase down hardship

What’s Hard For You?

I love the saying, “If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.” As a business owner who works with other business owners, I see that saying proved true again and again and again.

Lately it’s made me rethink my work and leisure time, to redefine what I find enjoyable, and to intentionally choose hard things that challenge me.

A few examples from my life and business just in the past year:

  • Expanding my real estate portfolio outside of my comfort zone
  • Pushing my physical limits in various challenges (like when I rappelled down the side of a 22-storey building or learned to rock climb)
  • I expanded my one-person copywriting business into an almost full-blown agency
  • I raised my prices again… and again… and again
  • I cleared out my client list dramatically
  • I said yes to several opportunities that will stretch me even though I haven’t figured out how to make them happen yet

Chasing and embracing hardship has a decisive factor in pushing me to the next level.

What’s hard for you? Maybe that’s the key to your next level.