Do Hard Things


Don’t you hate it when you burst into tears on your morning walk?

Me too.

Last week, on Sunday a gorgeous 75-degree southern California morning, I was taking my routine walk to get my morning fix of caffeine at my local Starbucks when I stumbled upon the LA Marathon that runs right through my neighborhood at around the 22 mile mark.

It was early so the athletes who were on the route were those in the wheelchair division.   These very fit, highly trained athletes were giving their best on streets that were not yet populated with the crush of on-lookers that make their way out later in the day.

So I did what any logical person would do, I began to sob.

I’d like to blame it on hormones or stress or general emotionality, and truthfully, those are all likely culprits.  But that wasn’t it.

It also wasn’t because I felt sorry for these people who lost mobility.  While sad, even tragic, my tears were not those of pity.

It also wasn’t because there were so few people there to cheer on these marathoners.  They seemed focused on their task at hand, and I doubt they were concerned about cheerleaders.

And finally, it wasn’t because the marathon route blocked my entrance to Starbucks.  Sure that might have justified weeping, but it was all clear and my latte was just steps away.

So why did I cry?

I cried because I was completely and totally inspired by witnessing people doing hard things.

Do hard things.  It’s the piece of advice that separates those who succeed versus those who languish in mediocrity.

Do hard things.  It’s the aspiration that challenges us to become the best version of ourselves.

Do hard things.  It’s the statement that describes taking action toward something that will neither be easy nor pleasant but will yield a result that made the challenge worthwhile.

Do hard things.  It’s the characteristic that drives continuous improvement.

Do hard things leads to some pretty awesome results.

So why so often do I avoid doing what is hard?

Well because it’s hard of course!  It’s uncomfortable.  It takes time.  It takes energy.  It takes discipline.  It takes putting myself in a situation where I might be out of my comfort zone or skill set, a situation in which I could fail.

There I said it: fail.

I am afraid to fail.

I protect myself from failure.  And too often I seek to protect my kids from it as well.  In doing so, I rob everyone of the benefit of doing hard things.

Now this is the part of the blog where I should announce my intention to train for a marathon.

Yeah, that’s not happening.

But, as I walked back toward home sipping my latte, I was thinking about the hard things I want to do, the fears that are preventing me from doing them and the self-doubts that dampen my intentions.

Ironically (or perhaps serendipitously) on my walk I was listening to John Acuff’s book Start:  Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average, Do Work That Matters.  In the book Acuff points out that fear has two parts that while seemingly opposite from one another, work together to make us paralyzed.  On one hand, fear tells us that we are not able to reach our goal and on the other, it tells us that we must tackle the whole goal at once.

“You cannot lose weight.”  and “You need to lose 40 pounds in three months!” is the fear of losing weight.

“You cannot be a writer.” and “You need to write a book, maybe even a series of books, this year.” is the fear of writing a book.

“You cannot clean out the garage.” and “The garage needs to be cleaned and organized perfectly.” paralyzes us from doing anything.

How do we answer this issue of fear?  Start.  As Acoff points out, “Regardless of what you want to do or who you are, fear will always see you as wholly unqualified for anything you ever dream or attempt.”

So like the old joke “How do you eat an elephant?” the answer lies in beginning or “One bite at a time.”

When a person decides to do the hard thing of running a marathon, the first thing they do is neither to not train at all nor to think that they must be prepared to run 26 miles.  Instead, they begin by buying the requisite equipment and taking short walk/jog.

Want to lose weight?  Drink more water and take a 20-minute walk.

Want to write a book?  Commit to writing 20 minutes a day.

Want to clean out the garage?  Commit to 5 minutes a day for a week.

And so I did.   I took a walk.  I drank two huge bottles of water.  I wrote this blog post, and I spent 5 minutes putting Christmas decorations (yes, thank you, I understand that it is March) in order that were scattered across the garage.

Sure, I am not a perfectly fit, successful author who lives in perfect order.  At least not yet.

No, I didn’t complete the marathon, but I did begin the race.

What is keeping you from doing hard things?  What can you do to take the first bite of the elephant?