A couple years ago I picked up the habit of “doing the hard thing”, a practice where, basically, if you’re too tired, lazy, or think something is too difficult to do you do it anyway. From there, about a year ago (you can see the post in the archives), I decided it would be a good time to start doing the “scary things”. They may seem the same but they’re very different though hard and scary often overlap. The scary things are things you want to do but are afraid to for one reason or another. So how did all that work out? I can’t say the system was a total success but there was definitely a good amount of growth that came from it.
The hard things – a post-mortem
The hard things have become second nature to me now. There was a time, a few years ago, when the thought of a difficult task was enough to make me not even want to try. Those days are long gone. There’s nothing I won’t try to succeed at, for better and for worse at times. The hard things are often the small things you don’t realize make a big difference. One of my hard things was making a commitment to work out 3 times a week (I’d go more often but my schedule honestly doesn’t allow for it). Still going strong on that one. Since a began I haven’t missed more than 5 sessions in the past year. I can’t tell you how many days it’s too nice out or way too cold or rainy out or that I’ve just had a bad day or I’m not feeling well and I think of canceling my personal training session. The vast majority of the times those thoughts cross my mind I just remember, “do the hard things” and I just go anyway. Doing the hard things is a lot like being in a Nike commercial and any time you don’t want to do something someone comes up and says ‘Just Do It’. I have definitely succeeded in doing the hard things going into my third year of it.
The scary things – a post-mortem
Shortly after my commitment to the hard things had started I made a new commitment to do the scary things. The scary things are those things you’d like to do but are afraid to try because of fear of failure or the unknown. It’s important to do the scary things as well as the hard things and include those scary things in your commitment because sometimes a hard thing will masquerade as a scary thing so you’re cheating when you say “yeah, I’ve done all the hard things, I’m on a streak”. I started strong with the scary things, then things dropped off a bit during the late summer and now I’m back on board again. Another tricky thing about the scary things is that they can be hard to identify. With the hard things you realize what they are immediately because you have this intense urge to avoid them. With the scary things you’re really not avoiding anything. Instead you’re, just not pursuing something. For example, I may not want to work out after work and think about canceling my personal training session. That’s a hard thing, that was easy. But what if I know I’m worth much more than I’m paid but don’t ask for a raise. The thought “I should be paid more” may cross my mind but the thought of actually taking an action doesn’t immediately come up. It’s easy to ignore a fleeting thought like that when there’s no action attached to it. One way I’ve been able to identify the scary things is by making a conscious effort to mentally list out my wants at least once a week. For each want I decide upon an appropriate action I can take to make it a reality. People don’t realize it but their desires are attainable if they just made even the smallest efforts over time to obtain them. Here’s another example – a better one. For three years I’ve been running my own web development company, Clever Web Design. I started out charging a measly $600 per website ($300 down and $300 on completion). I was uncomfortable charging people what I thought was “so much” money (“so much” only because I realized the people I had found didn’t understand the value of a website). It wasn’t long before I realized I wouldn’t make any money that way and was seriously undercharging. Over the course of six months I raised my prices until the new standard became $1,000 then $1,200 and until very recently a bare minimum price of $1,300 for the same site I used to charge $600 for. At this point in my career my skills and experience have increased exponentially and its time for another upgrade. I’ve got a bare minimum price now of $2,000 (bare minimum – it only starts at 2 grand). Recently I’ve been talking to a client who needs a complex web application built. During casual conversation I told him it sounded like a $15,000 job. This was a large number for me and I was uncomfortable quoting it but I knew it was worth it. When I sat down to write the proposal, contract, and final budget the price came out to almost $22,000. I wasn’t price gouging or taking advantage here. I made a conscious effort to make sure I got what I wanted. I had been afraid to charge what I was really worth for a long time and even my first estimate was off by $5,000. When it came time to meet with the client I very confidently laid out the $20,000+ price and the client responded well to it. What I was missing in this scary thing was that if I wanted to get paid what I was worth then I would have to charge what I was worth. This was a hard thing but the scary part was that I knew that quoting such a high price might scare the client away. It was a chance I had to take and in the end it worked out well.
The scary things don’t always work out well but when they do, it feels great. The point in all this isn’t to succeed at everything. The point is to make an honest attempt at doing all those things you want or are afraid to do for reasons that you will often come to find are quite silly after you’ve gone through with whatever hard or scary thing you’re doing.
So did I take my own advice, stick to my commitment and continue to do the hard and scary things all year long? Mostly. The hard things are in the bag and now its time to start making the challenges bigger and harder. I must admit that I need to work on the scary things. They’re kind of hit or miss with me. Doing the scary things is a hard thing itself now so I will be seeking out every opportunity to do the scary thing immediately without giving myself a chance to think about all the reasons I may be afraid to do them.