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What Doing Things the Hard Way Will Get You

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doing things the hard way

We live in a country where, instead of doing things the hard way, we are often encouraged to do things in the easiest and most efficient of ways.  Now, I don’t have anything against efficiency.  In fact, as a homeschooling mom of four kids, I’m constantly looking for ways to get things done quicker and easier.  But it occurred to me the other day that this isn’t always the best route.  Here’s what happened to make me appreciate the value of doing things the hard way:

Our son, a fairly novice reader, asked me to listen to him read his Curious George book for his reading portion of his schoolwork.  I was finishing up some blog work, and told him I’d be with him in a minute. 

When I got back to him, he had a different, easier book in hand. 

“What happened to Curious George?” I asked. 

“I don’t want to do that one,” he answered, “it’s too hard”. 

Immediately I went into drill sergeant mode.

“Umm, yeah; you’re reading Curious George.” I replied.

“Okay,” he answered, with a tone of resignation in his voice.

The reason I took such a serious stance with him on this subject is that there is an inherent danger that comes with always taking the easy route.  Not doing things the hard way can lead to several attitudes that will most certainly cause trouble later on down the road:

Doing Things the Hard Way Stems From an Unwillingness to Challenge Yourself

When we make things too easy, either for ourselves or for those around us, we can usher in an attitude of complacency.  We can start to reason that a challenge, of any sort, that makes life different or uncomfortable is a bad thing, when in fact, doing things the hard way helps us to grow into better, stronger people.

Inability to Follow Through With a Tough Job

When I think of this danger, I think of our current “tough job” of getting out of a massive amount of debt.  For years we just muddled along in our massive drainage ditch of debt, simply because the thought of making a journey out of debt seemed too difficult.  I’m not going to lie to you: it is difficult to plan and follow through with a debt payoff plan, especially if you’re in a tight situation like we are.  However, if we are willing to follow through with the tough job, there is a huge reward at the end of the journey: financial peace.  Practice preparing yourself to be able to get through bigger tough jobs by not always taking the easy way out when facing smaller tough jobs.

Decreased Confidence

I have seen the tragic result of making things too easy on your kids in many, many families.  Kids, and adults who are not challenged to do hard things slowly get more and more unsure of themselves and their ability to be able to do anything new at all.  There’s something about taking the easy route too much that slowly convinces us that we don’t have the ability to accomplish new or difficult tasks.  We often think that by giving our kids or ourselves an easier life, we are giving them “better than what we had,” but often, we are simply making life harder in the long run.

Doing things the hard way can seem counterproductive at first glance, but if you look deeper, you’ll find that, when picking the right jobs to do the hard way, it really can give you a great sense of accomplishment and teach you a lot about navigating through life.

What could you be doing the hard way that could add value and instill character in yourself or those around you?

Photo courtesy of: Brian Cribb

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Laurie is a wife, mother to 4, and homesteader who blogs about personal finance, self-sufficiency and life in general over at The Frugal Farmer. Part witty, part introspective and part silly, her goal in blogging is to help others find their way to financial freedom, and to a simpler, more peaceful life.

38 Comments

  • I couldn’t agree with you more Laurie. I think we forge our character in the fires of hard work and struggle. I worked two jobs, sometimes three, to pay my own way through university. It was hard work. But having been through that, I feel confident in my ability to deliver high quality work in short periods of time – a skill that has served me well in my career. Good on you for instilling that value into your son!

    • That’s a perfect example, Jack, about you working two and three jobs to pay your own way through university. It would’ve been easier to not work and take out extra student loans, but you’d have been hurting your future self. Instead, you now have perfected a quality that makes you a valuable worker – excellent job. 🙂

  • Great post Laurie. I definitely can see this in my own life now that you mention it. I’d say the biggest one is writing code at work. It takes a ton of work to write clean, optimal code, and takes me even longer because I’m an accountant not a programmer. But if I did things “the hard way” and spent the time making sure all the code is clean I would learn a lot in the process and have a better finished product. The easy way is always tempting, though 😉

  • First, you’re a great parent. Second, I couldn’t agree with you more. Hard work will get you resistance, motivation, and a bench mark. You never know what you’re capable of until you climb your mountain.

    • Thanks, Michelle. 🙂 I love that you said “You never know what you’re capable of until you climb your mountain”. How very true. And then, when you look back down from the view of the top, your confidence increases, and you know that yes, you are strong!

  • The decreased confidence is a great point. If you are never challenging yourself, you will never know what you are capable of. When a challenge does present itself, you are going to doubt yourself right from the start. That’s just setting you up to fail.

  • I agree! Sometimes the easy path leads to a more treacherous one down the road.

    • Great point, Michael. We found that when we used credit cards to fund our wants instead of saving to pay with cash. Now we’re climbing the even more difficult road of paying those balances back – with interest!

  • Grayson Bell says:

    Great post Laurie! Now, I am all for efficiency as that is what I do for my job and that is what I love. The issue is that there is a big difference between being efficient and taking the easy way out. I think your post is awesome and a very important lesson.

  • Kathy says:

    When my son played baseball in little league, many of his teammates complained that they “couldn’t hit fast pitches”. My husband worked with our son throwing thousands of balls at him to hit. My husband never took it easy on our son, in fact, probably made it harder than he needed to for that level of play. But my son became so good at hitting that he was always their go-to guy for a strategic hit or even home run. I think in the pros he’d be their designated hitter or clean up hitter or something like that. Anyway, the lesson he learned was that not everyone could hit fast pitches, but with a little hard work, he could!

    • Kathy, your husband gave your son a very valuable gift: the gift of knowing that when an obstacle comes, it’s often better to work to overcome it than to walk away from it. What a precious gift! Thanks for sharing an important lesson, Kathy.

  • I think there’s a balance between challenging yourself and also understanding the times when it’s more efficient and possibly smarter to take the easier approach.

  • Great post, Laurie! We definitely don’t want our kids to learn that they can always take the easy way out. Forcing them to challenge themselves will mold their work ethic for the better.

  • I’m half and half on this thought process. If you could do something to make your life easier ad more efficient I’m all for it, but I also agree you shouldn’t quit just because something is hard. I’m actually working on a video project now which I’m drudging through. I get a greater sense of accomplishment when I finish these than other projects. 🙂

    • Yes, there is definitely a time, as I talked about early in the post, when it’s smart to take full advantage of the efficiency of today’s technology, and you’re right – it’s important to know the diff. 🙂

  • Wonderful post Laurie! I’m all for being efficient and working smarter not harder. But too many people won’t take on a tough task and challenge themselves. Taking the easy route has it’s downfalls too. Great point about confidence. I know when I take on a tough task and I accomplish it, I feel like I can do anything and take on other challenges. I wouldn’t want to deprive myself of that feeling.

  • Take the easy way or challenge yourself with the hard way? It’s always a fine line to walk. If we had unlimited time and energy, it’d be an easy choice. Since that’s not the case, my belief is that you need to challenge yourself in areas that are important to you and take the easy way in ones that are not. Even when challenging yourself, you can still look for ways to increase efficiency. Efficiency doesn’t mean being lazy or shortchanging yourself.

  • I take the same approach with my son Laurie! There are going to be many difficult paths and challenges that our children will have to face through life, and the only way to deal with them is to have the ability to work hard and challenge yourself. It is a skill, and if you make things “easy,” you don’t allow your children to hone this skill.

  • Totally agree Laurie. Too many times it seems people want to take the easy way out- work, school, finance, and just life in general. Challenging opportunities are learning experiences, and while not always easy, it seems to me that all the hard things I’ve had to go through provided an even greater reward and return on investment, so to speak. But I’m all for working smarter and not harder, too.

    • Exactly, Ryan. It really is a balance, all about taking the time to figure out how to work smarter not harder, but to not avoid challenges either. Creating passive income is a perfect example of this. People work on creating passive income streams so that they can work smarter but not harder, but getting those passive income streams to start coming through often means working through lots of challenges to get those income streams up and running.

  • You’re such a good mama Laurie! Great post!

  • That’s such a great lesson. Nicely done. What was it that Helen Keller said? Let’s see how well I can paraphrase:

    Security is a superstition. There’s nothing natural about it. Man was made to grow…

  • That’s great parenting! Great job 🙂
    I remember when I was learning how to tell time in kindergarten and I thought it was the haaardest thing to learn. My dad didn’t waver – we sat down every night after dinner and went through every single minute of that clock until I got it down. It made such an impression on me because he didn’t let me quit and most of all, he did it right alongside me. To this day, I live with that memory. (And I did eventually learn to tell time LoL)
    Pushing through the hard things to get to the other side is such an invaluable lesson. I’m so glad my Dad pushed me to do it in Kindergarten.
    Your son has a bright future ahead of him 🙂

    • Anneli, how awesome that your dad took the time to push you through that difficult task. Your story reminds me of the time my parents signed me up for ballet classes when I was 3 or 4. I was such a shy kid; super scared, and I’d cry and say I didn’t want to go, so they let me quite after a couple of times, and I often wish they wouldn’t of, but at the same time, as a mom, I might have done the same thing. It’s tough to see your kid cry and want to give up when something is so hard for them, but as your story shows, often times pushing them through that tough stuff is the best thing for them. Thanks for sharing a great story!

  • My daughter does that same thing, and I have to constantly remind her that reading 5 easy books in 10 minutes is not better than reading a chapter of a challenging book!

    I have this issue all the time with my patients. It would be very easy to just give one option in most cases, but I almost always find myself going through every possible outcome of various choices for treatments or lenses. Some people just want you to choose for them, and I think that’s OK, after I’ve done my explaining. My thought has always been that if I did a halfway job, eventually they would find someone who did much better and realize that I wasn’t very good. It sometimes gets tiring, but I sleep better at night.

    • Kim, I just love that analogy about how you work things with your patients. As an eye care consumer, you taking the time to explain all of the options would be a huge notch on the “keeper” mark. Great work!

  • Brit says:

    Great post. I see a lot of this behavior when I worked from younger generation. You gave them a job and expectation and because they wanted the easy and fastest way instead of doing it the right way the job will be done wrong. Bu what amazed me was their behavior after being told the job was done incorrect and to do it again. They will get angry and/or upset and I basically had to go over and explain the job again because they were afraid to do it again. All because they wanted to get the job done quick.

    • This doesn’t surprise me, Brit. Rick deals with this at his job all the time too, and he just has to shake his head. We certainly haven’t done our younger generations any favors by making things so easy for them, have we? 🙁

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