April 14, 2013

“I Never Said it Would Be Easy. I Only Said it Would Be Worth It.”

I’ve seen the above attributed to everyone from Mae West to Jesus.

Wherever it came from, it’s a good reminder.

We have this idea sometimes that what we want is for everything to be easy. We want smooth sailing and everything falling into place. Sometimes it does. Sometimes we are rewarded with serendipity and synchronicity and it feels amazing.

But more often, the falling into place is preceded by something we shy away from: Hard work.

The myth is that things being easy is what make us happy. Sometimes (most times) the things that are the most rewarding are the things that require the most of us. In the midst of it, it can be painful. We’ll want to give up—at least once. Sometimes once a day. I look at those stories of people who wrote their first book and it was an overnight best seller. We latch on to stories like that or singers being discovered while singing karaoke, 50 year marriages preceded by love at first sight in high school.

The reality is that for most of us, there is a gap between where we are and where we hope our dreams will take us. This isn’t pessimism. This isn’t a bad thing. It’s a reminder that the climb isn’t something to be feared; it’s what makes us who we are.

A good friend reminded me the other day as I was complaining about how hard everything felt:


Some days the climb is hard, and we just want everything to be cupcakes and unicorns. We get tired of it. We want to wish on stars and have all of our heart’s desires magically appear.

The truth is—easy doesn’t make us happy.

I read an article from Harvard Business Review by Rosabeth Moss Kanter the other day that captured this perfectly. I was immediately intrigued by the title: The Happiest People Pursue the Most Difficult Problems. And here I thought I was of a small, masochistic clan that was bent on doing things the hard way, time after time! It’s true though. Kanter gives examples across many disciplines of people who chose goals that cost them, that required everything. Over and over she demonstrated that which many of us already know to be true:

“People can be inspired to meet stretch goals and tackle impossible challenges if they care about the outcome.”

We don’t mind that the climb is difficult, because we know what comes of it. We know that the top will be worth it. We know that the strength that we gain along the way is part of our success.

For those of us who are driven, who have a dream, who take steps every day towards what we want, the view from the top is what makes us keep working.

What drives us to create, to build buildings, to write books, to love recklessly, to turn over tables and change our lives isn’t money. It isn’t even fame or prestige.

We are driven by an inner sense of purpose:

We are the music makers and we are the dreamers of dreams. Most days it won’t be easy. Keep climbing; it will be worth it.


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