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Doing It The Hard Way

Paul Heagen Purposeful Leadership & Living Leave a Comment

There is no substitute for hard work.
Thomas A. Edison


I started the P90X video fitness program a couple of weeks ago. I’ve a long way to go, if my observations of my initial baseline fitness results are any indication:

Pushups:  Gravity must be stronger closer to the ground.

Jumping Jacks:  Are my arms supposed to move in sync with my legs?

Chin-ups:  Which chin?

I suffer no illusions that I will look like anyone on that video, but I wanted to do something that was more than just an incremental step toward getting in shape. Over the next few days, I was strangely drawn to the sheer strain and exhaustion of the program. Whatever it may benefit me physically at some point, there was a sharpening of senses, a satisfaction in knowing I had worked hard just for the exhilaration of knowing I had pushed beyond the routine, the ordinary, the comfortable. It’s the same reason why I ride my motorcycle to my office on many days when the wind chill is in the 20s or below. It hardens you, and not just in a a skin-deep way.

Crazy? Maybe. Maybe not.

We live in a world saturated with technology and processes that seduce us into a quest for ease, convenient and efficiency. Certainly, once we can unearth patterns, it makes sense to pack them into routines and processes. However, we can satisfy ourselves that our level of control and efficiency reflects our capacity to learn.

Except it’s not true.

Learning comes at the margins of comfort and turmoil, of security and peril. We can learn because we want to, but the more enduring learning comes when we have to. To turn a platitude on its head, anything worth doing is worth doing the hard way. Knowledge is fleeting; wisdom endures, and wisdom only comes the hard way.

We laud a well-run organization and business flow. Sometimes, though, our pursuit of fast, cheap and toil-free creeps into our leadership. Sometimes some intentional disruption is good. Hurling ourselves at a challenge that seems daunting can mine our latent reserves of resolve and stretch our self-view in a way that the day-to-day never can. If there is no tension in our leadership, we are not pulling enough.

We are almost always more capable that we think we are.

If we try.  Hard.


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