Sunday, March 21, 2010

“If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. It’s the hard that makes it great.” Tom Hanks in A League of Our Own.*

I’ve always liked the movie . It’s a wonderful story about many things – leadership, reaching for a dream, making a difference, the list goes on – and the quote above is one of my favorites (along with "There’s no crying in baseball.”) Both quotes attest to the challenges the women faced while participating in the All-American Girl’s Professional Baseball League during World War II. I was reminded of this quote today as I thought about the various writers who when talking about the life of a writer say they much prefer having written to the actual work of writing. But the concept applies to many aspects of our lives, doesn’t it?

I think most people know leadership can be hard work. Does that mean we shouldn’t be leaders? I think some people are surprised to find out that creative work can be difficult – it’s not just talent that makes a great writer, painter, artist or creative leader. Does that mean we shouldn’t try to be creative in our life – at work and elsewhere? Of course it doesn’t. I think that we often deny ourselves opportunities because we don’t think we can do it, we don’t think we have the time or we don’t want to put forth the extra effort. The psychiatrist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, has studied the concept of optimal experience, more familiarly known as flow. He has found that if the skills required by an activity are too simple for our abilities we become bored. There is much more to the idea, but for today’s essay this one part of his work is enough – it is the challenge that makes the act worth doing. It is why the answer to the question ‘why climb Mt. Everest?’ really is not ‘because it was there.’ The answer really is ‘because it was a challenge.’

So the next time someone asks you to try something that is a challenge, or the next time you find yourself saying, ‘but that will take too long,’ or ‘I don’t know how to do it', or any other version of ‘it’s going to be difficult,’ stop yourself and remember that "there is no crying in baseball" and give it a try. And when you succeed, then you can help remind the rest of us that "it’s the hard that makes it great."

Take care,


*I do know that movie titles are italicized, but I can't make the title italicize....

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