Why doing the hard things matter


I can still remember the day my oldest daughter asked me why she should take calculus in high school. When she said she wasn’t going to need it in college or for her job, I didn’t have a good answer. Sure, I used high school calculus to get my engineering degree, but that’s the last time I remember doing a derivative, integral, or derivative matrix.

Since I didn’t have a good answer, she ended up skipping math her senior year. I couldn’t come up with a good answer for my other kids as they went through high school either, although they ended up taking math through their senior year. I suppose they gave in to peer pressure.

To be honest, I’ve always wondered why I was required (i.e forced) to take certain classes in high school and college. Why does an electrical engineer need to know Chemistry, Thermodynamics, and Materials Science?

It wasn’t until I came across this post by Nat Eliason, Proof You Can Do Hard Things, that the answer became obvious. It’s too bad I hadn’t realized it years ago.

Nat’s entire post is short, concise, and worth the read. His point is that the reason you take calculus, or push yourself in any endeavor, is to prove you can do hard things. These are just a few of the highlights from the post.

The more hard things you push yourself to do, the more competent you will see yourself to be

Doing hard things is like building momentum in a flywheel. It’s hard to get started, but the results compound. Once you push yourself and realize that you can do something hard, it becomes easier to tackle other challenges. You also learn how to recognize when you’re stuck, how to get unstuck, and how to workaround or overcome obstacles.

The proof you can do hard things is one of the most powerful gifts you can give yourself.

We spend too much time doing things to impress others, whether it’s our teachers, parents, peers, or bosses. By pushing yourself to succeed at something hard, you give yourself the confidence that you can take on other challenges. Self-confidence is one of the most powerful gifts we can give ourselves.

Build a habit, learn a skill, create something, whatever it is that turns your default stance on challenges from ‘that seems hard” to “I can figure it out.”

I like Nat’s point that doing something hard does not need to revolve around complex math. It can be learning how to bake bread, play music, roast coffee beans, start a business, make a quilt, play golf, surf, etc., etc., etc.

The point is to challenge yourself. Push yourself to learn and grow. Stretch your limits. And while your doing it, make sure to enjoy the journey, which is the real reward.

h/t to Rohan’s blog for another inspirational post

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