The difference between hard things and impossible things
I’ve recently been talking to a number of people about ideas for the future. I’ve been surprised by how strong an inclination there is to shy away from hard things, ie schlep blindness.
A hard thing is difficult to do. Most hard tasks are actually a collection of sequential easy tasks: the challenge is knowing what those tasks are, in what order to do them, and then having the endurance to do them all.
People stay away from hard things because they are lazy and fearful. Hard tasks take a lot of work and there is not a guarantee that you will correctly decipher and accomplish the chain of easy tasks. But they are possible.
An impossible thing, on the other hand, is a task where you can’t chart the path. This doesn’t mean you should stay away from impossible things necessarily: it will just require a breakthrough that isn’t possible to chart.
One good thing about both hard things and impossible things is that they will both keep others away: most people are scared of them. But hard tasks aren’t an insurmountable advantage. Unlikely as it is, there might be a team just as dedicated and as smart as you working on the same problem, especially when you’ve shown that success is possible.
An impossible task, like a scientific breakthrough, is a much stronger advantage. But it too is surmountable. This usually happens when the impossible thing creates an axis of differentiation that becomes irrelevant, and a hard (or even easy) thing wins at the new game.
But hard things and impossible things are both worth doing, especially because sometimes it is the only way. And sometimes no one else will.