The Hard Way

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“Too many parents make life hard for their children by trying too zealously to make it easy for them.”  Goethe.

Snowplow parents that clear the way make for emotionally weak people, that are unable to develop their resiliency and learn to love the challenge and overcoming obstacles.  The opposite of the Championship Mindset.

Hard is not bad, because it makes you better.

Learning to stick with it when things get difficult is the key to success, whether it is sports, business, or relationships.  Too many people just quit when it is no longer easy, when the honeymoon phase of a relationship (be it with a person or Gym or work) has passed and the flaws are seen and effort is required to keep moving forward.  Having everything easy in life means this capability is never developed.

“We choose to do these things not because they ah easy, but because they ah hahd!” President John F Kennedy, discussing why we needed to go to the moon by the end of the decade.  The hard things, the scientific advancements, have made life better for most of the planet.

That conversation with your kid that is screwing up and making poor choices?  Have the difficult discussion with them, or else things could get much worse.  This talk will be easier than having a grandchild way too early or bailing them out of jail or checking them into rehab or picking up their body from the morgue.  The talk won’t be easy but it will be worth it.

The new hire?  Better to have tough (and clearly communicated) standards then to allow them to flounder, to be a teenager with few rules.  Better to have the default be “no”, and empower them to earn privileges.  The office and the individuals will be better for it.

Yourself.  Do you coddle yourself?  Or do you ruthlessly accept the Stockdale Paradox (embrace the bitter truth, but never give up hope) and be tough enough on yourself when you don’t have to (like getting up and working out, or the occasional cold shower, or pushing yourself to learn something new) so that when the tough times inevitably occur you are better prepared and don’t break?

Sweat more in practice, bleed less in battle as the old Chinese saying goes.  Because life is filled with battles that we don’t choose but must fight.

The side effect of technological advancement is ease.  It is easy to work from home now, and easy to keep on pajama bottoms because no one will see.  But YOU will know.  It is easy to access fifty billion entertainment options online, more difficult to opt to invest an hour a day in deep learning when you can just GTS (Google That Sh!t) or to figure it out yourself instead of using an online calculator.  It is easy to get fast food that is dirt cheap and gives you that quick hit of glee, but is it worth it long term?

Easy is the anathema of excellence.

This does not mean live a Spartan existence, but instead remember the Buddhist principle that life is suffering, and we get to choose the way we suffer.  We can opt to do the hard things each day that give a better life long-range.  Becoming an expert in anything is not easy, and mastery is a whole higher level of required sacrifice.  But as Mohamad Ali stated: I hated every minute of training, but I said “Don’t quit.  Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”

Easy never made anyone a champion.  Nor does the easy path lead to the rich life, but rather an inability to overcome obstacles and anxiety over not being able to solve your own problems.  The harder path leads to freedom from worries because as Ryan Holiday said: the Obstacle is the Way.  Make your own way, blaze your own trail, and the rough road will lead to the rewards of freedom.

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