Nothing in life is hard. Hard is meaningless

Dropping the word was a subtle change, but unbelievably powerful.

I’ve decided the word “hard” when applied to tasks, goals, and so on is always a cop-out. It’s verbal shorthand that lets people dodge the real issues at hand and is the cause of miscommunication. I have forced myself to drop it from my speech entirely.

Sometimes we’re just uncertain or uncomfortable

Sometimes we use the word “hard” to really mean “an uncertain amount of effort, but lots, and I don’t know if it would work”. The problem is that the person hearing the word doesn’t know how much effort, how uncertain the result is, or why. When I hear this am I hearing a real problem or just a lack of confidence in the speaker? Am I even talking to the right person?

I can do it. I think. What are we talking about again?

The effort to value is terrible

Sometimes “hard” is meant to signal that the effort it takes to achieve something is too high for the value it provides. But rather than just say something is hard, it’s clear that a discussion around effort and value is necessary. Is there a shortcut? Is the value really bad? How are we measuring that anyway? Avoiding this conversation is always a bad idea, and I’ve found that when this conversation has been had, people don’t use the word “hard” anymore. They just say: “We don’t think it’s worth it”. And that’s a very different thing.

Things aren’t “hard”, you just don’t have the skills

Let’s take an example: drawing a photo-realistic portrait. Is this hard? Yes, in that for the majority of people reading this and myself, they would fail. Which is to say it’s not actually hard at all: it’s actually impossible for you to do. But for trained artists who specialize in this work, it’s not hard either. Instead, it’s some number of hours of labor, stacked on top of the immense time and energy they put into gaining those skills.

Is the practice needed to gain skills hard? Not really. It’s very time to consume though. It might take years. It might FEEL draining, but that’s not really a property of the task, it’s a property of ourselves. And for many artists, the act of gaining these skills was a JOY. Is gaining skills hard, or we’re too exhausted or distracted to put in the work every day for years? “I tried drawing but it was too hard” is BS. Truth is: “I tried drawing, didn’t enjoy it, found it frustratingly slow, and then didn’t practice or get training. As a result, it’s impossible for me to draw photo realistic portraits”.

See how the word “hard” is just a dodge? It’s an out we allow ourselves and others to use to avoid talking about the real reasons something is or isn’t the case. Hard is a description of the journey, not the task. And unless you are training to be a Navy Seal or something, the journey isn’t really that tough either. You just didn’t take it. And that’s 100% ok.

Someone not working hard at all drawing a great little kitty.

Is it just complicated?

We also like to use “hard” to mean complicated. Here again it just leads to miscommunication. Hard can mean time-consuming, it can mean it’s risky, or it can just be complicated. Those can all be true at the same time, but saying something is “hard” doesn’t communicate much. I’d rather know if it’s time consuming, risky, complex, or all of the above. And those things do NOT always come together. Some things can be quick, risky, and complicated, and that’s a lot more important information than just saying things are hard. More importantly, what do I need to do to help? If something is just “hard” there is no action to take.

The hardest thing ever.

Sometimes it’s sales BS to butter someone up

Whenever someone in sales tells me something is hard, I get suspicious. It’s their way of leading to some crazy price for what needs to be done. “Oh, it’s very hard, you know, very difficult to do this”. And since it’s so hard, they want me to pay tons for this very special difficult thing they do. Except, again, that’s meaningless. Either they can do the job or they can’t. If they can, it’s at worst time consuming or complex or risky. If they can’t, this is a waste. If they don’t know if they can or not, then being “hard” is them pretending they can do the job to win a bid, but quoting me a huge price for me to pay them to figure it out. None of these are great options. Whenever someone in sales says something is hard, I’m inclined to immediately pass and find someone who can give me a more straightforward answer.

It’s going going gone! Whatever it is! Act now or lose out on whatever this thing is!

It’s almost always a warped perspective

In all of these cases, purposefully or not when people use the word hard they are providing a warped perspective to themselves and others. And we all put up with it because we’re busy doing the same thing ourselves. This does none of us a favor, except give us a pass on looking at the uncomfortable truths that make us say something is hard and sweep the details under a rug.

Stop using it

When I realized the meaninglessness of the word I forced myself to pay attention and stop using it. And when I heard other people use the word, I refused to give it a pass and would dive in. I do the same with synonyms like “difficult” and antonyms like “easy”. None of them communicate much and for all the same reasons. How many times have you seen an “easy” project go spinning out of control? Exactly.

Drop these words from your life and watch it change. You will experience a clarity of thought and communication that you’ve never had before. And when you drill into the use of these words by others, you’ll discover a wealth of critical information you’ve been passing by for years.

Nothing is hard. Hard is meaningless.

This story is published in The Startup, Medium’s largest entrepreneurship publication followed by + 376,592 people.

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