It is a daunting task writing this blog. The three of us have remarked several times that there are a number of challenges we each struggle with. First, it is hard to follow the other co-authors, because the writing is good and the concepts are ones we wish we’d thought of. Truthfully, it is why we love hanging out together. We each bring a unique perspective and, in sharing it, we push each other further. If you get nothing else out of any of our writings, be sure to find 2-3 people you respect and get along with that you can say anything with. The British refer to it as Chatham House Rules, but the ability to say anything openly without it being held against you is priceless. The other big problems in writing this blog are just as difficult, though. It is hard to find inspiration sometimes, and it is hard to write for you, as I know there are at least two aspiring writers whose abilities at this craft far exceed our own, and, of those of you readers I know, you are all bright, insightful people in your own right. So, the balance between sharing something meaningful, thought-provoking, insightful and entertaining is a very difficult one to maintain.
So, now that I have that out of my system, I’ll try to circle around to the point of my post today, which is the importance of doing the hard work. Currently, I am sitting in a discussion with four former heads of the National Security Agency and, to a man, they all emphasized the point that if we are going to solve a strategic-level problem, we have to stop admiring the problem, stand up and start doing the hard work of changing cultures, hearts and minds. I liked their acknowledgement that it is very hard, will take a long time and will have setbacks, but their bottom line was, it has to be done so lets get started.
That mindset and approach has served me well over the course of my life. Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I readily acknowledge that I am a procrastinator, I don’t like doing things just to mark time, and I am a tad obsessive. I am also a little lazy. I like relaxing, playing games, sleeping, and eating. Having said that, however, I also am very mission focused and, as noted above, obsessive, which is why the concept of doing the hard work has rung true to me.
Doing the hard work isn’t fun. It can be painful, slow, and a drudgery. Gartner introduced a concept called the hype cycle of research and development as appled to technology. It starts with a technology trigger, hits a peak of inflated expectations very quickly, and then enters what is called the “trough of disillusionment”. This is the time where expectations are shattered, the hype is gone, and the realization strikes that a lot more work has to be done and it won’t be easy sets in. This is also the point where every individual’s commitment is challenged and a lot of people give up. Some projects never recover and fail, but the most successful projects have those people who roll up their sleeves and daily put one foot in front of the other, step after step after step, until they make it through to the other side, where people start getting excited and joining in again. The key, though, is that the difference between success and failure is the commitment to and execution of the hard work when everyone is telling you why you can’t, that it is too hard, and that you are a fool for not just walking away.
That is not to say there are not times to walk away, but that is a topic for a future post. The main point today is that if you want to succeed, you can’t avoid doing the hard work. If you want to lose weight, y0u have to burn more calories than you consume. If you want to finish a marathon, you have to get through the first 26 miles, and if you want to write a post you have to type the first word. So, the next time you look at the project you have been wanting to do for months (years?), stop admiring the problem, roll up your sleeves and do the first step of the hard work. Then take another step, then another, and another. Sure, there will be difficulties, days where it is hard to get motivated, and days where you get derailed, but if you commit to doing the hard work and take it step by step, you’ll get there, and it’ll be worth it.