Hard vs. Easy

Somehow we think that we have to do it the hard way. That it builds character. It’s become a cultural myth. Yes, many of us had ancestors who “got through the hard times”. I certainly do. One side of my family lived the Dust Bowl experience of the 1930’s and were literally Okies, leaving the farm in Oklahoma and heading west. My grandmother used to say that every time my grandfather got $100 together he’d buy a dirt farm somewhere.

The other side came by wagon train from Iowa to Wyoming in 1882. They built a log house and then spent 20 years hauling rock off the mountains in winter to build the permanent house in 1900. The house is still in the family. Persistent, hard working folks with a vision.

So we all learned about the hard work. We were taught that it was important to work hard. It was even somehow “moral”. Nobody “gave” us anything; we had to work for it. Those rich folks just aren’t as neighborly as we are. Or so we learned.

And we keep that model going in our heads. Hard Work is good and desirable. If something comes too easy, it’s not as good. That’s just how it is. And yet, is it?

I contend that that success, or survival if you will, wasn’t only about “hard” it was about talent. What brought people through then, and what continues to bring people through life, is to be effective. And frankly, we are all more effective at doing something well if we have an affinity for it.

There is a concept in “coach land” about how people collapse two things together, things that don’t belong together. We think that they do belong together because they happened at the same time. They seem to be dependent on one another. Yet that conclusion is more likely a result of our natural proclivity as humans to make patterns and associate things. If it feels like every time I worked really hard that I had a success, then I decide that it was the hard work that created the success.

I’m not saying that the “hardness” of the work didn’t contribute. I’m just wondering what else was working for us that we are now not acknowledging?

Think of it this way. I could work really, really, really hard to become a nuclear scientist. If I did that, the best I could hope for is being a mediocre scientist. I have little talent for it. Maybe I could eventually become competent. Maybe not. I’d rather do something I could be stellar at.

So when we work at something we have no basic talent, strength or aptitude for, the best we can hope for is to go from being crappy to adequate. If we already have a proclivity for something, we can go from good to stellar. So let’s do that. Let’s go for stellar.

In order to do that, we have to stop trying to climb the steep hill the hard way. Remember Sisyphus? The guy trying to push the big rock up the hill? Not only is this a really hard thing to do, but if you drop your vigilance for just a moment, the damn rock rolls all the way down the hill and you have to start over. I know, I have pushed a bunch of those rocks myself. No fun. And certainly not efficient.

What if our grandparents had looked deeper to see what other attributes they brought to their goals, in addition to the hard work? How might things be different for them? And if we ourselves do some deeper introspection, how might things be different for us?

Should we abandon our natural talents and instead work all the harder? Should the violin virtuoso become a computer programmer because the violin is too easy? Or could it be that “easy” might be both effective and good? I like the idea of easy. After all, easy implies ease, and ease is about flow and freedom. It’s somehow about being in a natural state. Flowing down the river with the current, instead of

pushing the big rock up the hill. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t obstacles in the river. It doesn’t mean there aren’t rocks and rapids. There are things to get over, around and through. But it’s not that way every moment of the trip.

And just so I don’t lose you entirely, let’s talk a bit about this and money. Many people feel that if something is easy for them to do, then they shouldn’t charge for it. I contend that that’s exactly what we should charge for. We should charge, and get paid for, those things that use our natural talents. Those things that we are good at. Those things that are easier for us than they are for others. And we should then pay others to do the things we aren’t good at. I actually think that’s part of the Plan. The big master plan, that is. We are all unique.

What if I do what I’m good at and you do what you are good at? If we both do that, then we get the best results all around. So I pay you to do your thing, and you pay me to do mine. The money represents that exchange.

Bottom line, if something is easy for me, I can choose to bless and embrace it, use it, revel in it, and even get paid for it. It’s a gift I was given to use. Somehow doing this, and doing it well, is much more affirming than doing things that are arduous and doing them poorly.