Conquering the work we most despise may be difficult, but provides the opportunity for fulfilling rewards.
My younger son, Dane, is struggling in his Algebra class. He is a hell of a math student, but hates it with a passion. Last night in the car, he said, “Dad, when I sit down to do my algebra work, I have a hard time breathing and my skin gets hot.”
Ouch. This cut me to the core, mainly because I know the feeling. It breaks my heart that he’s experiencing that. I wish I could remove that pain for him or tell him that he can drop algebra, but, of course, I cannot. Instead, I broke it down like this. “Deuce, that’s part of life. We often have to do shit we hate doing. In the end, it’s these tasks that provide the greatest compensation.”
This lesson doesn’t stop in middle school. We are constantly tasked with learning, adjusting or mastering new material. Because our worlds are ever-changing, we must stay flexible and adapt. I often feel this way when I’m playing with a new device like a smartphone or introducing a new application. It’s painful for me as I learn how to use the fresh technology efficiently. Trial and error can be a bitch. From theemotionmachine.com:
In many ways, trial-and-error is the only form of learning we really have. When we make an error, or fail at something, we give ourselves an opportunity to analyze that failure, make a change, and then try again. This process repeated over time is the only real, effective way we have to learn more about our world and solve problems in our life. It’s the engine of science. And it’s also the engine of self-improvement.
It’s more than a scientific approach, though. It’s really the willingness to create systems to manage the things we hate working on the most. As we tackle more challenges, we learn our own personal styles. I have to break these tasks up into tiny pieces.
Writing falls into this area for me. While I love to write, the process does not come easily. Sometimes I reach into my pockets for something to write about and pull out lint. When I finally decide on a topic, I often have poorly flowing thoughts. At that point, I try to get something, anything down. Even if it’s just a sentence or two, I have taken the first step. Then, I stroll away from my computer and come back an hour or so later to take a peek. I may have to do this several times before my flow is trustworthy, but I know I’ll eventually have a piece I’m proud of. I’ve seen this process take days, but when all words fit comfortably and the product is complete, I feel full. It was worth the hot flashes. I overcame the anguish and produced a noble essay or document.
Like the muscle we build under a bar in a squat rack, the mental strength we develop through completing our most challenging work is dependable in future endeavors. From German philosopher Albert Schweitzer:
One who gains strength by overcoming obstacles possesses the only strength which can overcome adversity.
And just as there is always heavier weight to lift to test our newly acquired power, there will always be a more challenging task to work on.
Ain’t life great?