In defense of hard work

Try this recipe. It’s so easy! Throw it in the crockpot. It’s so simple! Pinterest headlines make it seem that everything in life can be had with zero effort. From finances (stupid easy budgeting!) to exercise (5 minute abs!) the prevailing message is that we can have everything we want in life—without working for it.

Effort is bad. Ease is good. The quicker the better.

I’ve subscribed to this same mentality, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve told people, “Try it yourself. It’s super easy.”

I used to proclaim 5-ingredient recipes to all my acquaintances. The same goes for exercise, because I’ve long been a fan of the 7 minute workout.

In the midst of racing around and doing everything in the fastest, most convenient way possible, I’ve begun to question just which destination I’m running towards.

I’ve started to wonder whether, in pursuing ease, I’m sacrificing quality. What is being gained aside from a couple minutes?

When I took the time to list some of the most important accomplishments in my life, I realized the common denominator was this: they didn’t come easy. Climbing a 14,000 foot mountain, having children, maintaining a loving marriage—these things all took and continue to take tremendous effort.

Inspired by this revelation, I began trying to do certain things “the hard way.” Rather than buy herbs pre-grown, I grew my own this summer and dehydrated the extra basil, tarragon and oregano for winter. And instead of buying a bag of pumpkin seeds, I hand-picked the seeds out of our Halloween pumpkins so I could clean and roast them for a healthy evening snack. It was slimy. It took time. But the end result, toasted in sea salt and coconut oil? Heavenly.

What does this mean, aside from the fact that I have gotten really into cooking and gardening lately? My point is this: sometimes hard stuff is good. For instance: I have a good job. I’m a coach who gets to invest in leaders across the country. But this job is also hard. It doesn’t come naturally to me. I must read books and pursue continual learning to do my best.

And you know what I’ve discovered? I love the struggle. I’m thankful that it’s hard. The challenge of being a better coach stretches me and allows me to discover new potential in myself I never knew I had.

Ease is a fact of life. We live in an abundant society where we don’t have to grind our own flour to make bread from scratch every day. And thank goodness for that!

Here’s what I’m learning, though. Ease isn’t an end in and of itself.  The fact that I had to put effort into something and really work up a sweat can make the end product sweeter. Even more than that, working hard cultivates my character.

My labors teach me that not every urge ought to be instantaneously gratified. I learn patience. I grow to appreciate the work that goes into life’s conveniences, remembering the farmers and the factory workers involved in getting the delicious Cashew Cookie Larabar snack into my shopping cart. In short, a thankful attitude and increased self-control both blossom out of a commitment to hard work.

I leave you with this challenge: do something hard today. Pull weeds. Split wood. Call someone who isn’t easy to talk to and ask how they’re doing. When we do hard things on a regular basis, we become resilient people, better equipped to navigate the inevitable hardships of life, and better able to flexibly navigate rapidly evolving workplaces.

This isn’t a quick fix (do 5 hard things and transform your life!) But it’s a real fix, a slow-but-true fix that can transform not just individuals but all of society into sturdy and hardworking people.

Finally, I want to mention special thanks to Ben Sasse whose new book The Vanishing American Adult no doubt inspired much of this post!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top