On Doing Hard Things

Difficulty is what wakes up the genius.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Antifragile

A task is difficult when given the status quo, the task requires a level of skills that is higher than what one’s currently is capable of. To complete the task, we need to build the makeshift ladder that will shift us from point A to point B.

However, as Cal Newport, the author of Deep Work, calls attention to, there is a difference between hard work and hard to do work. Doing hard work is doing things that are above our current level of competence and make us grow. Conversely, hard to do work is work that is hard but does not make you grow. The frontier between the two is debatable but nonetheless provides a useful dichotomy to classify work. An example could be working on a project with your smartphone distracting you (hard to do work) versus thinking intensely without distraction (hard work).

Embracing hard work daily makes you grow. But sometimes the discomfort that arises from hard work makes you procrastinate. A method that I’ve stumbled upon in a mentoring I was doing helped me internalize moving towards hard work. The method is cold showers. Except Wim Hof, cold showers make most people cringe. Why do cold showers when we have the luxury of comfortable warm showers? The benefits of cold showers are plenty, such as an energy boost, builds your mental toughness, and improves circulation.

Cold showers are hard work. The process is difficult and it makes you grow. By doing them daily, I noticed that I was more willing to take on hard work and challenge myself. Understanding the value of hard work is one thing, the other one is to actually do it every day.

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