Is it hard, or is it scary?

It seems like every article and marketing email coming into my in-box these days is playing some variant of the “it’s so hard” song.

Whether they’re harping on how hard it is to do some specific thing, or how hard it is to focus on doing anything at all, it seems like “it’s hard” is the current Hot Marketing Trend.

I don’t buy it.

Of course some things take skill, practice, time, and effort.  But there’s a difference between effort and hard.

That feeling of “hard” comes from three things.

  1. You don’t really want to do it.
  2. You very deeply want to do it … and it’s scaring you half to death.
  3. Or you just don’t know how to do it.  (As I said, some things take skill and practice, meaning knowhow and ability.)

The solutions that the people playing the “it’s so hard” tune are selling only solve the “how to do it” question.  But “how to do it” is the smallest piece of this puzzle, and the easiest one to solve.

In my experience, “it’s hard” usually means “I really, really want to do this, and I’m scared to death to put myself out there in such a big, vulnerable way with my work.”

What we’re really here to do is big, and that tends to feel vulnerable.  Standing fully in the knowledge and power of what we do best means being different, unique, and completely ourselves.

Yet being different is something our culture teaches us not to do.

Our parents themselves are often afraid of the consequences of being different, and teach their children well (out of love as well as fear).  Our teachers tend to want all the kids in class to conform to a norm so they can manage – and score well on tests.  As for our peers:  high school – need I say more?   Then when we finally reach the work environment, we’re held to a standard dictated by our job descriptions and the HR staff, who generally have a mandate to score everyone on a so-called level playing field.

And moving into self-employment hits all the fear buttons.  Paradoxically, of course, it’s when we’re most completely ourselves that we succeed, but the need to get clients and make enough to pay the bills can make it seem impossibly risky to deviate from “normal.”

So we look at those people who have been different – Steve Jobs is an obvious example, of course, but there are many public figures in everything from business to entertainment to politics – and we think they must be special.  We think they must have talents, abilities, or advantages that we don’t have.

It never occurs to us that, for whatever reason, they were able to lean into the fear of being different, let go of the thought “it’s so hard,” and put in the effort required to learn what they needed to know that made it possible for them to do what they are here to do.

There’s nothing wrong with fear – if we recognize it and acknowledge it.  There’s not even anything wrong with letting fear stop us in our tracks – if we recognize and acknowledge that this is what’s happening.

It’s only in the recognition of the fear we feel that we can begin to see the possibilities that lie beyond it.