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

The War Within: Here’s The Mindset Shift To Improve Any Aspect Of Your Life And Business


It’s 5:00 in the morning. My alarm goes off and I drowsily open one eye just long enough to turn off the alarm and go back to sleep.

I’d wanted to get up in the morning to jog but I’m sleepy and I can hear a cold winter wind outside. So I stay in my bed and sleep longer.

It’s not that I needed the sleep. Rather, it’s that that the comparison between the effort and cold of a winter morning jog compared to the comfort and warmth of my bed is a battle that is hard to win.

Actually, that’s not the real battle happening.

There’s a war going on inside my mind every morning.

… and every moment of the day.

Oh, and it’s happening in your mind, too, as well as the minds of every other person at each moment of each person’s day. In any and every area of your life and business, this is happening… in your health, your financial situation, your relationships, your hobbies, your professional life, your education, and in everything else as well.

The War Within

Let’s skip the really violent imagery and say that’s a tug-of-war. In my mind and yours. Every millisecond of the day.

It’s a tug of war between two people: On the one side is the person you were and on the other side is the person you want to be.

  • The person you were—this person represents stagnation and remaining idle in your comfort zone. This person fears change. This person believes that self preservation is the key to enjoying life, and they’re convinced that you can get by simply by doing things the way they’ve always been done.
  • The person you want to be—this person represents growth and challenge, which occurs outside of your comfort zone. This person acknowledges that growth can mean risk. This person believes that the key to enjoying life is to stretch yourself farther than you’ve gone in the past, and they’re convinced that only the strong survive.

These two people battle back and forth. Sometimes one wins; sometimes the other wins. In some aspects of your life, one is stronger; in other aspects of your life, the other is stronger.

In my own life, I have no problem working out at 4:30 in the afternoon each day, and it’s the challenge-accepting person that I want to be who dominates to get me off the chair and into my workout gear. But at 5:00 in the morning when the wind is howling outside and I’m tired, the person I was is stronger than the person I want to be, pulling that tug-of-war rope over to the side of comfort.

Think about the things in your life that you want to change. How successful is your change? If you are struggling, the person you were is winning. If you are succeeding at making the change, the person you want to be is winning.

There’s One More Person In This Scenario

There’s a third person in this scenario, too: it’s you, right now at this very moment. And the “right-now-you” is watching this tug-of-war happen between who you were and who you want to be. You’re watching… but you’re also participating, jumping in to help one or the other pull that rope.

You-right-now are deciding whether you want comfort or challenge, stasis or transformation, and you are aiding the person you were or the person you want to be to win in that moment.

And look, not every moment of every day can be devoted to growth. That’s going to be exhausting and difficult on you mentally and physically. And you’re not going to grow in every area at an accelerated pace. And maybe there are areas where you are happy and don’t see a need to grow.

… all fine. But the tug-of-war happens anyway. In every moment; in every area of life.

Here’s How You Can Win

Assuming that you want to grow, and recognizing that it’s not always easy to leap out of bed at 5:00 in the morning when the winter wind is howling, here’s what you can do to step up and lend a hand in the tug-of-war to the person you want to be… to help the person you want to be and to hinder the person you were.

  • Create a reason to push yourself. You might want to make a change in your life but you can’t seem to make it stick. When that happens, think about why you are making the change. Sometimes a change or improvement seems arbitrary, and that makes it a hard habit to stick to. But if the change has a stronger, more meaningful reason then it’s easier to stick to.
  • Get rid of temptations. I’m not much of a snacker but if you are, and if you want to snack less, then you need to get rid of the snacks in your house. All of them. Even the ones you buy for someone else.
  • Turn your change into a habit. Remember earlier I said that I had no problem working out at 4:30 in the afternoon? That wasn’t always the case. It was a struggle. I slowly made it a habit. Now it’s an expected part of my day and it’s locked into my schedule and I actually look forward to it… and feel like I’ve missed something important if I don’t workout one day.
  • Become curious. Curiosity is a powerful and often overlooked tool when it comes to change. Rather than saying, “I’m going to try to do this in my business” (which is a statement), get curious about it and ask yourself, “What will happen when I do this in my business?” When you’re overwhelmed with a big challenge, curiosity helps you to explore that challenge and break it down into a smaller one.
  • Make it fun. Our brains are wired to hate risk. Risk is scary. It’s the fearful step out of the warm and safe cave into the scary unknown. But have you ever lost yourself in a fun activity, only to discover that you’ve far exceeded your comfort zone? Let’s say you want to exercise a bit more but you abhor the thought of going to the gym to run on the treadmill. Well what if you and a few friends just started playing soccer in the evening? You’ll get the workout and barely notice it.
  • Turn it into a short-term challenge. This one is an effective strategy for me. Whenever I’m faced with an out-side-of-my-comfort-zone opportunity to grow, that I cannot seem to consistently complete on my own (such as the winter jog!) then I turn it into a short-term challenge. For example, instead of declaring that I’m going to jog every day, I say that I’m going to jog for 30 days straight and that’s it. By the end of the 30 days, it’s a habit that I love and I can more easily continue doing it but the fact that it’s a challenge makes it more enjoyable in that habit-forming period.

Summary

At any given moment there’s a tug-of-war raging in your mind between the comfort-zone person you were and the risk-tolerant person you want to be. And you right now? You’re in the middle watching it happen and deciding on the fly who you want to help win in that moment.

Stay the same or grow. It’s your choice in this very moment.

Most People Start Businesses This “Backwards” Way (Here’s What To Do Instead)

When it comes to starting a business, there’s the simple, straightforward way that is more likely to succeed… and then there’s the way that most people do it.

Aaron Hoos

When I was a kid, I wanted to start a business. I thought about it constantly!

And my thoughts always started in the same place: what should I sell?

When my mind drew a blank I thought I was destined for a 9-5 job!

Problem is, that’s the backwards way to think about it. Yet, that’s how many aspiring entrepreneurs (not just me!) start their thought process. They think about what they should sell first. They try to come up with a product or service. They try to invent a product or innovate a new way of doing something.

This doesn’t work because it’s so wide open. It’s too hazy of a starting point and could go in any direction (often the wrong direction!)

It wasn’t until I was well into my career as a freelancer — having already started and failed once as a freelance writer, then picked myself up and started again — that I realized the better way to start a business…

Here’s How To Start A Business — The Better Way…

Start with an audience. Find a group of people that you are familiar with, or have a network around, or who you can connect with.

Get to know them. Really well. Find out everything you can about them. (If you pick the right group of people, this will go fast because you already know them well.

Identify a problem they have. Everyone has problems, challenges, obstacles, unfulfilled goals. Find the biggest burning problems they have.

Solve that problem. Figure out how to solve their problem. Maybe through a skill you have, maybe through a product you can make or import, maybe through a connection you have in your network or a relationship you can go out to build.

That’s it.

What? Were you looking for something more complicated than that? It’s not more complicated than that but most people make it more complicated than that.

Just find a problem that you can solve, and solve it. Period. Build a sales funnel around that solution and boom! You have a business.

If you do that for your network of people, and then expand it out to serve other similar clients, you can build up a solid business that gives you a comfortable life… or even more!

And this method works because it ensures that people will more likely pay for your solution (compared to the alternative of you identifying something to sell but not finding anyone to pay for it).

Of course you’ll want to use your skills and other advantages to solve the problem. If you identify an audience with a problem that you can’t solve, either find someone else to solve it or find a different problem or even a different audience. There needs to be alignment between what your audience needs and what you can do. But the key here is to start with the problem and work backwards toward yourself.

For The Naysayers

Some of you will point out something like, “well my cousin’s friend’s uncle started with a product and he’s doing really well.”

Great. Good for him. There’s always an exception to the rule. But chances are, the product that he brought to market did already solve a problem for a specific audience, he just lucked out by not identifying the audience and their problem explicitly first.

I found the same thing in my first foray into freelance writing: I still made money; I still had clients. But I struggled (and ultimately failed) because I didn’t solve one audience’s problem. And then the second time I started freelancing, I lucked into an audience that needed my services. Only later did I realize that I should start with the audience and their problem… and as soon as I focused on that, my business shifted dramatically.

I see this happening all the time with entrepreneurs: the ones who start with the product will struggle and may or may not (probably not) succeed; meanwhile, the ones who start with the audience and their problem dramatically increase the likelihood of success.

Summary

If you want to start a new business or grow an existing one, I’m convinced that the fastest, simplest, and most profitable way to do it is to go backwards from the way everyone else is doing it. Start with an audience and their problem, and solve it.

 


Aaron Hoos, writerAaron Hoos is a writer, strategist, and investor who builds and optimizes profitable sales funnels. He’s the author of several books, including The Sales Funnel Bible.

Here’s The Simple Way To Create A Competitive Advantage For A Promotion, New Job, Or To Start A Business

Aaron Hoos

Last year I was speaking to a group of people about how to get a competitive advantage. It was a mixed audience of professionals and college students, so I wanted to give them some practical ways that they could create a competitive advantage for themselves.

I ended up telling them this, off the cuff, near the end of the presentation and it was well-received and several people asked me to write it out and send it to them. So I did.

I’m including a version of that same information here. And the truth is, I give this same information to A LOT of people (not just those in that one presentation), and I use it for myself. It always pays off. I encourage you to use it.

This applies to anyone who has a job and wants a promotion, for anyone who wants to get a new job, and for anyone who wants to start a business or grow their business.

The Simple Way To Get A Competitive Advantage

Hey everyone,

For those who are graduating, entering a new educational program, or who aspire to a better job in a few years from now, here is a very effective strategy to give you a competitive advantage no matter what you want to do…

1. Start a blog. You can get them for free from blogging platforms like blogspot.com or wordpress.com (there are others places but those are the best two.) You can also pay for a blogging platform but it’s not necessary for what I’m suggesting.

2. Blog regularly about the job you WANT to have. For example, write about something you learned that could apply to the future job; ask a question and seek out the answer; share some reading you’ve done and research you’ve encountered; etc. If you’re bold, shoot the occasional video, post it on YouTube, and embed it into your blog. If you’re REALLY bold, find the experts in your field and interview them. There’s a lot more you could, too, but let’s keep it simple.

3. Keep at it! :) Keep at it for a couple of years. Plan for 5 years but you may start seeing some benefits from this even sooner. You don’t have to do a ton of work; 20-30 minutes a week is probably enough. (Of course you can do more but you also don’t want to burn out.) There will be times when you won’t want to blog but this strategy really only works when you persist. During this time, amazing things will happen: you’ll accelerate past your peers in your knowledge, you’ll build a small following of people who read your work and respect what you have to say, and you’ll grow a large body of work that may or may not apply to the job you’re doing now… but will most importantly, it will make you an expert for the job you want to have.

Note: you might wonder how you could possibly blog about a topic that you’re not already an expert in, or why others would even read that. But think of it this way: you don’t have to be an expert to start; you’re blogging about your journey of knowledge acquisition… and that’s exactly what other people want to read!

4. Publish. A few months before you start applying for your ideal job, gather together your best blog posts and turn those blog posts into chapters of a book. Then go to CreateSpace.com and publish your book. It doesn’t cost anything. The book will be sold on Amazon (and elsewhere).

5a. Apply for that promotion or job! Now start applying for that job. You will go into your job interview with an unparalleled depth of knowledge about your field, you’ll also have a following of people who view you as an expert, you’ll maybe have interviewed some industry experts too, and you’re the author of a book ABOUT the very topic of the job you’re applying for. Compared to the other applicants, you will be a rock star.

5b. Start that business. You’ll have a body of work already established, proof that you know what you’re talking about. You’ll be a subject matter expert simply by the fact that you’ve spent that long talking about it and exploring what others are saying. You’ll probably have an audience by this point. And, of course, you’ll have your first product — a book.

BONUS: Leverage. Although this is a long-term view and (at times) you will forget why you’re doing it or you will have trouble sticking with it, remember that this gives you many options. You can go into your interview as an expert and demand a potentially higher wage, in some situations you can pick up work on the side before you even get this new position, you’ll have a network of blog followers who you can reach out to when you want to get a job because they may know of an open position, you’ll make a bit of money off of your book, or you may even choose to branch out on your own and start your business in some situations. In short: this will give you a ton of options.

I actually gave similar advice on my blog a couple of times: Want To Start A Business Someday But Not Ready To Quit Your Job? Here’s What To Do, and, Here’s What You Should Do If You Want To Start A Business But Are Stuck In A Job.

So, think about what you want to be doing in 5 years from now, and start the easy, fun task of becoming a thought-leader today! Good luck!

5 Years??? Why So Long?

So, most people who hear this love the idea. It makes sense. It’s painless. It costs nothing but time. There’s a ton of upside and very little downside except for lost time.

But some people will read this and think: “Yikes! Five years is a long time. I want a competitive advantage right now.” Okay, fair enough. I get that. Well, I blog a lot about competitiveness and competitive advantage so just click here and read some of those blog posts.

But my opinion is: Things often take longer than we want them to. A lot of people in jobs may hope to advance by promotion to a better position in 2-3 years but in reality it takes them 3-4, for example. So 5 years might seem like a long time for you to benefit but it will go by in a flash and I think it’s fairly accurate in terms of how long things really take in life.

Fortunately, this plan is laid out in approximately 5 years but I think it can happen sooner — much sooner. I think you’ll start seeing traction in 1-2 years. Even in your immediate job you’ll start seeing things happen as you rise above your coworkers with your expertise. That will likely accelerate your schedule of growth.

Here’s The Sticking Point…

The hardest part will be sticking with it for that long. Five years is a long time. And there will be weeks when you don’t feel like writing. But trust me, your 5-years-from-now self will thank you for it. It will be challenging but you’ll be glad you did.

Here’s How To Take It To The Next Level

Maybe you’re not sure what you want to do in five years. Well, here’s a plan: Pick 2-5 topics and create a blog about each one. Is it more work? Yes. A lot more. But you’ll get the following benefits:

Summary

Five years seems like a long way off. But it will be here in a shot. So roll up your sleeves and get to work on developing your competitive advantage so that, when the future arrives, you’ll be perfectly positioned to benefit.

 


Aaron Hoos, writerAaron Hoos is a writer, strategist, and investor who builds and optimizes profitable sales funnels. He’s the author of several books, including The Sales Funnel Bible.

“You become as small as your controlling desire, as great as your dominant aspiration”

James Allen said that. Allen was the author if the inspirational essay/book As A Man Thinketh.

This quotation is powerful and meaningful to me so it’s one that I review every day.

It reminds me that there are two opposing forces at work in our lives everyday: There’s the “me” who doesn’t want to change, who is lazy and cautious and prefers the status quo; and there’s the “me” who takes fearless risks to reach higher than my own aspirations.

These two forces play tug-of-war in my mind every moment of every day.

The first “me” has controlling desires that want to keep things as they are so it thinks about small things, meaningless things, and is full of self-doubt and anxiety. “Just get through the day unscathed” it says and it seeks out short-term pointless pleasures. The first me skips workouts, eats a ton of salty food, and sleeps all day. Those are the controlling desires that keep me small.

The second “me” aspires for more. It realizes that where I am right now is not where I want to be. “Work hard and enjoy yourself but make sacrifices now because better things are just around the corner,” it says. The second me pushes through workouts, eats healthily, and gets up at 5:00 to improve productivity. Those are the dominant aspirations that help me reach for greatness.

These forces play tug-of-war in my mind everyday. Sometimes the first me wins and my controlling desires keep me small. Sometimes the second me wins and my dominant aspirations help me be great.

I need to figure out who to reduce that first me and increase the second me.

As I think about this further (since I’m only now articulating what I’ve long thought unconsciously)…

Perhaps one way to think about this is to consider what specifically my controlling desires are, tear them down, and build bigger and better controlling desires. Rather than trying to avoid those controlling desires (which I believe are innate), maybe I can reconfigure them so that bigger, better controlling desires aren’t that small. If I’m only as small as my controlling desires then maybe I can create great controlling desires.

And I also need to consider what my dominant aspirations are. I love measuring and testing new things in my business but it’s easy to fall prey to measuring and testing things that don’t contribute to my overall goals. If I can align those then the measuring and testing contributes to my dominant aspirations rather than distracts.