I was on a coaching call with a client. We were reviewing his target market, business model and strategy. At about halfway through the call, his voice got choked with emotion.
"I have just put so much effort and energy into this and am not seeing the results I expected. I know I am meant to do this work. I love it. Why does it have to be so hard?"
My first reaction was to comfort him, and to search for a quick solution that would start the flow of clients his way in just the manner he desired.
Then I thought, who said anything is wrong with things being hard?
I have come to the realization that we cause ourselves a lot of stress by believing that if we just choose the right business, or quit our loathsome job, or find the perfect internet marketing system, or get that book deal that things will become easy.
Why is easy desirable?
Anything I have done that I consider worthwhile in my life: building a martial arts organization, finding the man I truly love, mentoring youth, writing a book, creating a remote coaching business and having children have all been extremely difficult at times.
I think it is the difficulty that makes the success juicy sweet.
In technology-fueled modern business, we are addicted to immediate results. We jump at anything that will take something complex and make it appear simple. We believe the hype when internet marketers promise instant six figures a year when you sign up for their limited-time 4-figure program (at least you know they will hit six figures this year!).
There are some tricks to setting up an efficient business with minimal effort. And there are some really great people out there who have good information to share that will be worth the investment.
But you will only get the return on your investment when you really work the process. In my own experience, I have invested in classes that had a very poor return not because the information wasn’t valuable, but because I didn’t take the time to do the homework. And I have absolutely killed results when I applied myself and took the content in other classes seriously.
The process of hard work vs. quick tricks makes me think of my initial reaction to a few stories in Four Hour Workweek
. I really like and admire Tim Ferriss
, and think he has fantastic advice in his book. But as a former serious martial artist, what bothered me about his story of technically winning a martial art championship by interpreting rules instead of studying for years is that I felt he missed the discipline, stamina and growth that comes from doing thousands of push ups and sit ups, training when you would rather stay home on the couch, and getting your face smashed on the floor hundreds of times. This, in my own experience, is what deepened my understanding of and love for the art.
I don’t think that Tim meant to say that scrapping together a victory on the dance floor or martial art ring was his end game. He has demonstrated with his incredibly detailed blog posts and rigorous speaking schedule that he believes at working hard at the right things.
And the right things are different for each of us.
Here is my take on "bad hard" vs. "good hard":
- Trying as hard as you can to appear smart, professional and accomplished in a field you secretly loathe
- Trying to force someone to love you, who doesn’t
- Spending twelve hours on an administrative task that is complex, boring and not your strength when someone smart could do it in 30 minutes for fifty bucks
- Doing lots of standard processes manually (like sending 6 emails back and forth to set up a meeting instead of using an online scheduling tool)
- Working with people over an extended period of time who are not your ideal clients
- Scattering your efforts over multiple projects so that you don’t have the proper time and attention any one of them deserves
- Trying as hard as you can to get a business you love off the ground, running into unforeseen snags and getting different results than you expected
- Spending days, weeks and months and sometimes years figuring out your ideal customer and working like a dog to serve them great stuff
- Taking on big challenges that push against emotional, mental and physical boundaries
- Sharing your project, or idea or product with people you admire when you don’t feel it is quite ready for prime time in order to get feedback that will make it useful and effective
- Meeting unexpected life challenges with both pragmatism and optimism. As Jim Collins shared so eloquently in Good to Great, illustrating what he calls the Stockdale Paradox: "You must maintain unwavering faith that you can and will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulty, AND at the same time, have the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they may be."
What I am going to tell my client next time if he says "This is hard!" is "EXCELLENT! When you are doing the right things, leading your tribe, tackling tough problems and creating truly useful products and services, it shouldn’t be easy."
But it sure will be good.