The Nature of Doing What is Hard


In a world brimming with heated blankets, self-starting cars, temperature-controlled showers, life-shortening snack-providing vending machines, endless Netflix marathon opportunities, 80 inch screen TV’s, infinite-scroll social-media feeds, high rise elevators, and 1-minute microwave dinners you would think we’d be in a constant state of amazement at the modern conveniences we’re surrounded by.

Yet this isn’t the case. We complain more than ever.

There’s a peculiar phenomenon at play: the more modern luxuries we have at our disposal, the more opportunities we have for something to misfire. Thus, more opportunities to complain.

Something as simple as the WiFi not working for a few minutes is often more than enough to put us in a miserable mood.

What a disaster, we think. What have I done to deserve this great misfortune?

Or when the television remote stops working and we have a near mental breakdown. Or when the dishwasher malfunctions and we have to wash our plates by hand for two days before it’s fixed – not that we go through the hassle of fixing it, there’s someone to conveniently call for that.

We’re weak.

We’re soft. We hate discomfort. We lose our temper and curse the world the moment something goes wrong in our comfy temperature-controlled lives. We don’t even like physical movement. We have machines move us from place to place for most of the day.

We hate the cold.

We hate the heat.

We’re pathetic. Like newborns we cry at essentially nothing. In our big insulated world full of modern luxuries we very rarely have to do what is hard.

And for this reason alone, if you regularly do what is hard you automatically beat 80% of the population at whatever you aim to pursue. Most people don’t read on a regular basis. Most people don’t workout, set up a savings plan, or have any type of voluntary discipline established in their life. Most people just drift from day to day. But they don’t do the drifting themselves, there’s machines for that.

By no means am I opposed to technology. Of course I’d rather move from place to place in a Honda Civic instead of a horse-drawn carriage. I would much prefer to write using a laptop as opposed to ink and quill.

The technological advancements we’ve witnessed over the last century have been amazing. But equally amazing is the level of laziness the average human has reached. Particularly in the financial space. Our willingness to do hard work, voluntarily delay gratification, and develop discipline to save money has never been more abysmal.

A major reason for the laziness and complacency most people dwell in on a daily basis is the rise of consumerism.

Consumerism is the default setting in humans. We naturally crave instant gratification. We want what’s shiny. But while our desire for immediate gratification is the backbone of consumerism, comparison is the gene that drives this behavior to a new level.

Buying new stuff is fun, but only if the things we buy are better than the things our peers buy. This is the nature of comparison, and never in history has it been easier to compare our lives to those around us due to social media.

To lead a life of constant consumption is easy. But to lead a life based on intentional living and thoughtful spending is hard. At least initially.

See, the thing about minimalism, frugality, and intentional living is that the more you embrace it, the easier and more natural it becomes. What appears to be a hard way of living is actually easy.

When you decide to track your expenses, start a side hustle, or pursue financial freedom it can be hard. Shifting your focus from consumerism to intentional living feels unnatural at first. But over time, what was initially hard becomes easier and easier. 

Conversely, doing what is easy – spending, spending, spending actually makes life quite hard. Debt and financial chaos are the sneaky best friends of consumerism. Unhappiness typically tags along as well.

Doing what is easy makes for a life that is hard. Doing what is hard makes for a life that is easy.

But I’ll go one step further: Doing what is hard makes for a life filled with freedom.

If you want more freedom, you must do what is hard. But don’t fret. It won’t be hard for long.

I strongly suggest using free financial tools like Personal Capital to track your net worth, spending habits, and cash flow to help keep an eye on your money. The more you track your finances, the better you get at growing your wealth!

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16 Replies to “The Nature of Doing What is Hard”

  1. Wow, you nailed it! When I gave up the car people were shocked that I would walk, ride my bike or take the light rail. When we decided on an accelerated retirement timeline and became even more frugal, people said we were depriving ourselves.
    Great post.

    1. Great points! It’s funny, when you make the decision to act in a manner that goes against the norm, especially voluntarily, people have a really difficult time understanding why you would ever do what you do, but usually they don’t understand the early retirement mindset behind the actions. Congrats on finding alternative modes of transportation to your car! Life is a little more adventurous when you do what is hard 🙂

  2. I couldn’t fall asleep last night and I was thinking about this very phenomenon. I was trying to lull myself to sleep by concentrating on the softness of the bed sheets. I worked out last night for the first time in weeks and I wasn’t used to *actually* moving. It was such a strange feeling to not be a soft little blob all day!

    In many ways I think our love of convenience has gone too far. We don’t have to work nearly as hard for food, shelter, etc. In many ways I do think I’ve become softer, and I’m trying to work on this. We can all save money and harden ourselves by removing barriers to convenience. This includes cooking your own food from scratch, doing your own lawn work, using your car less, etc.

  3. That’s the best part about living well with less. It might seem tough at first, but in the end you are living better and not depriving yourself at all.

    Great read! I love your writing style 🙂

  4. I love this post! As ‘animals’, we did not evolve for comfort. Animals in captivity start showing signs of psychosis, and well, we are animals. We live inside a series of boxes: wake up in a box, get in our driving box, go to our cube box, then our gym box, then the big box grocery store. We live in a state of constant temps, but also constant stress. Like you pointed out… no wonder we are unhappy!

    Along these lines, I have a hard time getting inspired by SMART goals, so I came up with DUMB goals for myself: Daring, Uncomfortable, Meaningful, Balanced.

  5. I am sure people see this everyday but in my business it is CONSTANT. When flying, people expect to get on the plane and go where they intended. They leave little to know room for error yet it happens ALL THE TIME. Weather, mechanicals, medicals, diversions…those are the bad ones. However, people can barely distinguish from those and normal everyday issues like the wifi not working or not having a drink they want seems to be the worst case scenario for these people – seriously? Get a grip!

    Indeed people are soft and whiny these days with the ugly face of entitlement that often creeps in. When I catch myself falling victim to my own insanity I remind myself how lucky I am to have won the ovarian lottery by being born here in the states to a mother like mine. The rest is all icing… 🙂

    1. Yes, yes , yes to everything you mentioned here. It’s so easy to take for granted how blessed we are and how much excess we’re actually surrounded by on a daily basis. I can imagine in your line of work you encounter people nonstop who let tiny, unimportant interruptions completely ruin their day. Cheers to you for having the patience to deal with it haha! Thanks for the feedback 🙂

  6. I like the idea of being better than 80% of people just by doing something that is difficult, but not impossible. Most of the things that are “hard” are just things we haven’t learned yet. Cooking and finances are great examples of this.
    Great post, thanks for doing the “hard” work of writing it and putting it out here ?

    1. What a great quote: “most of the things that are hard are just things we haven’t learned yet.” This hits the nail on the head. Once we stop being fearful of the unknown we open ourselves up to a world of new skills and knowledge to acquire 🙂

  7. “If you want an easy life, do the hard things. If you want a hard life, do the easy things.”

    Started to read your blog after repeated recommendations by Thomas (BullyTheBear) and I have been enjoying it alot since.

    All the best in your writing and FIRE journey. I think you are on the cusp of an explosion in traffic and readership!

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