Perseverance in Life
Over lunch a few weeks ago a new friend, a landlord and older gent told me about the properties he’d bought and managed over the years.
He was talking about the maintenance work that he had to do on the flats. It was hard work he said and then casually added ‘but making money is hard work.’
That small piece of advice, so casually stated, froze me in my tracks.
Yes, it is, of course, it is and let’s extend that. Making anything is hard work.
Suddenly I wondered if I was so busy searching for an easier way sometimes that I was falling behind in the actual doing part of achieving my goals.
Is the opportunity cost of searching for the easy path the actualisation of the thing you’re looking for?
I was reading another methodology on productivity the other day and mentioned a particular facet of the article to my boyfriend who stated, in a firm but kindly voice. ‘Sounds like there’s more reading about productivity going on over there than actual productivity.’
Damn, he was right, and though the article was by a guru, I’d read too many.
Why do I spend so much time messing about when I’ve got things to do? Real, exciting, pushing on over the mountain things to do.
Why? Because spending money is easy, earning it is hard.
Reading about productivity is easy, implementing it hard.
The Value of Easy
It’s an inbuilt assumption that easy is desirable, and on the flip side of this, it means that its opposite, difficulty is terrible and should be avoided.
We search for automation tools that make our life easy and there’s logic to that. There is unnecessary waste in the wrong kind of struggle.
Easy is set up as a goal in life. At work and in our leisure time.
But in the search for easy are we forgetting the value of developing a problem-solving mindset? Are we forgetting the value that lies behind pushing through difficulty?
I’d argue that the value we get from overcoming a challenge is higher than the one we get from convenience.
We chase the,
Easy come, easy go
Have you seen the episode The Walking Dead, Season 7 where Daryl is being held by the arch villain Negan and forced to listen to the song Easy Street by The Collapsable Hearts Club? Over and over again the lyrics play;
We’re on easy street.
And it feels so sweet.
’Cause the world is ‘bout a treat.
When you’re on easy street
The dramatic irony happening in this dissociative torture method is similar to what we experience when the world is feeding us up the line
‘life should be easy.’
Easy is the when the law of diminishing returns has set in.
Something is easy because everyone knows how to do it; something is easy because it’s simplified.
It’s easy because you’ve done it a thousand times before.
It’s easy to read another article like this, but the difficulty is in the doing.
Simple vs Easy
Let’s not mix up simplicity either. Simplicity is the product of hours of arduous work and labour to come up with something that is the purest essence of itself.
Take storytelling, for instance. The best stories are the most simple tales of human struggle and endeavour, but for every perfectly woven book or film are hours of thought labour and agonising and self-doubt.
The Truth About Difficulty
We’re battling against a negative narrative with difficulty. You will spend more money on someone else’s product if you think it’s easier.
Hey, I will do. I’d love to press an easy button to get things moving, but it doesn’t exist.
Real achievement comes from pushing through difficulty and the big secret about difficult is that often it doesn’t hurt. You’ve just got to stick with it.
The first half of my life was full of walking away at the thought of something difficult, and it’s an internal narrative I’ve learned to push back on.
I was driven to a BMX track as a kid, but I turned away because it looked difficult. A teacher pushed me to take up drama classes. It was the first and last time during school that an adult invested any hope in my achievement.
It was too difficult; staying at home watching the Flintstones was easier. So that’s what I did.
It wasn’t until my early thirties that I felt the tug of challenge present itself. I finally had a problem that I had to think through, and there was no walking away from. It was my second year at Open University, and I can’t remember which module it was, but I hit a wall and felt like I couldn’t finish the essay.
But I couldn’t back down either. I’d risk failing the essay, and that failure sensation can linger. I knew it was now or never to start sticking with a problem.
Wind on a few years and many essays later I’ve learned that the feeling of difficulty with something is an indicator that I’m on the right track because if I’m learning, then the product is going to be stronger. I’m going to reach a better place. The bigger the difficulty, the higher the reward.
When you’re marching up a mountain and hit the fog, you can’t see what’s on the other side. Your options are to climb back down and waste all of that energy that you’ve spent getting up there or to just take that next step and see where you end up.
When I’m there, at that place where what I’m doing feels impossible that ‘I can’t do this’ voice is crystal clear. It wants me to stop, and years ago, I would have, but now I know it is a voice full of potential.
These little moments of achievement have a cumulative effect on your life. Without finishing my degree and pushing on through the tougher assignments, there’s no way I could’ve written my first play or subsequent stories or this blog.
And on blogging or content creation in general. If I don’t get that sensation of ‘it’s too difficult’ then I know I’m not pushing myself to create something unique.
If it’s too easy, then it has no real value because easy has no currency.
It’s the call to action on the adventure of life, which must, given our human nature include difficulties. Education changed me for the better, readied me for getting into a mindset that pushed through frustration.
And not just writing — cycling, walking, diving knowing that beyond difficulty lay a new land and not to turn back.
On The Other Side Of Difficulty lives:
Energy for the next inconquerable task to propel you further ahead in your mission.
The satisfaction of being someone who didn’t give up; the hero of the day.
Empowerment and pride in knowing you can do difficult things
Andrzej Bargiel, the Polish mountaineer who was the first ever to make a descent from K2 on skis in 2018, talks about the risk and reward of his historic feat in an interview with Red Bull.
On the other side of difficulty lies a new world, and there is no different access route.
Because behind each difficult step is a treasure, a reward beyond the reward of persevering.
So next time there’s a temptation to give something up because it’s too complicated, be sure to weigh up the pros and cons of walking away.
There are a billion good reasons to stop doing something, but maybe difficulty isn’t one of them. The world conspires to keep us mediocre. Mediocre people buy things and shop, they watch rather than participate, and they accept the world as it is rather than how it could be.
But give it a go because if you can reframe the word difficult to be a challenge, rich with the possibilities of a reward and not a turnback point you could start to achieve a lot more in your life.
On the other side of difficulty lies a gateway.