Embrace Doing Hard Things

I just finished the 23-mile, 5000-foot Enchantments hike in a single day. 

Not going to lie - it kicked my ass, especially the relentless climb up Aasgard Pass

But boy oh boy, it was beautiful to walk by pristine Alpine lakes. Even more significant and long-lasting was the exhilaration of being able to do something so difficult after being non-athletic and flatfooted most of my life.

And that made me think...

🕊 The ability to do and enjoy hard things sets you free. 

When I was deciding whether to do the hike, one of my friends jokingly said, "Worst case is you will be miserable!"

The default human nature is to pursue the path of least resistance and immediate gratification to the local maxima. When you pursue comfort and stability, life has a way of slapping you back into harsh reality. Because stability is an illusion. Life is entropic and always changing. 

On the other hand, if you aren't deterred by hard things - things that are high risk and hard to figure out, require a lot of consistent and crushing hard work, and take a long time to bear fruit - you can pursue whatever your heart desires. 

You aren’t afraid. You are okay with change, failure, and struggle. You don’t settle. You keep living. 

Seek not calm waters, but the skill to sail. And calm waters never make skilled sailors. 

💪 Many rewarding experiences are often behind hurdles and require constant growth. 

Want to be healthy and fit? Exercise and eat healthy consistently. 

Want your own rich, smart, or famous? You have to learn, practice your craft, and hustle in uncertainty and obscurity for years. 

Want to have a nice family life? Meet and fall in love with a compatible partner. Then have, raise, and support each other for decades. 

So start practicing doing hard things, because when you get good at it, it's quite rewarding!

🤝 You get more support when you do hard things. 

Doing things is hard, in general. Doing harder things is counter-intuitively easier than doing medium-hard things. Because when you do harder things, more people are excited and support you in many ways. 

Sam Altman explains why through the lens of starting a startup, "I believe that it’s easier to do a hard startup than an easy startup. People want to be part of something exciting and feel that their work matters.

If you are making progress on an important problem, you will have a constant tailwind of people wanting to help you. Let yourself grow more ambitious, and don’t be afraid to work on what you really want to work on.

If everyone else is starting meme companies, and you want to start a gene-editing company, then do that and don’t second guess it."

🥳 There's good news...

Doing hard things gets easier the more you do them. Just like your body toughens with resistance training, your mind does too. 

You learn to be okay with struggle and discomfort. You develop fortitude. You even start to enjoy the challenge (type 2 fun). You become a better problem solver and develop the skill to navigate through the "idea maze"

Developing the superpower of enjoying struggle gives you the freedom to pursue your dreams and remain resilient.

Easy choices, hard life. 
Hard choices, easy life.

[1] This does not mean you have to burn out, not relax, or not do things you enjoy. 

[2] Of course, you can just rise above all this and train yourself to be inherently peaceful and joyful without any pursuit whatsoever. But that is a hard thing as well, so the logic holds ;). 

[3] Why are harder things more rewarding? A lot of our innate sense of meaning and reward derives from what society values. And society values difficult and hard-to-get things because the easy things are abundant. And even individually, our hedonistic brains also quickly get used to the rewards from the easy things so they aren't as enjoyable anymore. Doing hard things unlocks rarer rewards and the process of doing them releases brain chemicals like endorphins which make you feel better.