Work Worth Doing is Hard

by | Nov 15, 2019

It’s nice to be reminded that it’s been hard for other people when they were getting things done that you admired, because it maybe gives you that extra little bit of determination or patience to persevere a little more.” — Edward Norton
This was from a podcast he did with Tim Ferris recently, and it’s one of those quotes that hits you hard because the basic idea has been floating in your head for months but never articulated. It rings so true to the experience of doing anything. There’s always someone you admire in every field and you wonder how they got there, how they could be so flawless. Then you look at your daily struggles, where you go wrong and are discouraged.
The reality is everyone struggles, no one builds flawless operations or flawless products. Good work that makes a difference is hard, no matter who you are or where you came from. The problem is we only ever see the end result, the fruition of a long and difficult growth process fraught with absolutely mind-numbing peril. We see the super hero without the origin story, when what we need are human stories of vulnerability and failure.
The Bill Gates documentary on Netflix was incredible in this sense. We think of Bill Gates as this technology sage that now works selflessly benefiting the planet. Incalculably smart, well read, one of the best minds in history.
But you see in episode two that young Bill Gates was kind of a dick. He was actually known for the phrase “that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard”. He was rash, actively belittled and micromanaged people. That is not the behavior of someone that grows a large company and dedicates his wealth to eradicating polio. But you see how he’s grown up, he’s not that guy anymore.
I used to throw my mouse and yell at my monitor when something wasn’t loading. It was worse when I lost a client, for any reason. I used to think anger meant passion, showed that I care. I see now emotion control is the real sign of maturity and the only way you’ll survive the hard times, of which there will be many no matter how old or experienced you get.
You’re going to have hard days. You’re going to do things wrong. That’s how you know you’re doing consequential work. And how you get through those days is knowing those are the experiences that make you better than the person you are now, the person others will look up to and admire.

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